Wellness Nutrition Eat Well The Healthiest Takeout Orders for Every Type of Cuisine You can give your kitchen the night off and still eat nutritious meals. By Korin Miller Korin Miller Twitter Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, shopping, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Women’s Health, Self, Prevention, Forbes, Daily Beast, and more. health's editorial guidelines Updated on December 12, 2022 Medically reviewed by Ashley Baumohl, MPH Share Tweet Pin Email While the best way to guarantee you know the exact ingredients in your meal is to make your food yourself, everyone needs time off. Maybe takeout options are the most accessible and work best for your lifestyle. No judgment here! Add to that food delivery apps and new restaurants opening all the time; takeout seems easier than ever. According to the nonprofit research institution, the Brookings Institute, over one-third of adults in the U.S. used delivery apps to order from a restaurant or store in 2021. Of course, there's a huge range of options with takeout. "Takeout can be surprisingly healthy, or it can be overloaded with fat, salt, and calories," Nutritionist Karen Ansel, RD, co-author of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life, told Health. "The key is to have a go-to rotation of dishes you know are good for you and delicious rather than just winging it." How Long Does Food Last in the Fridge Without Power? Here's What an Expert Says "Despite its bad reputation, take out can also be a great opportunity to eat more healthy foods that you just don't have the time or the motivation to cook for yourself," said Ansel. While every restaurant and cuisine is different, you generally want to make sure your takeout includes some produce—ideally a few different types—and has minimal dressings and sauces, Sonya Angelone, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Health. Understanding the ingredients in the dressing you choose can significantly boost the healthfulness of your bowl. "Choose protein and vegetable dishes," advised Angelone. Don't feel like analyzing the menu every time you want to order takeout? Nutritionists said these takeout orders could be nutritious and satisfying, no matter your cuisine. Thai Thai food is rich in vegetables and lean meats, so you'll have no problem finding a delicious and nutritious option. Try one of these orders. Summer Rolls Angelone recommended reaching for these instead of spring rolls, since they're steamed—not fried—and are packed with veggies and lean protein. While "Thai style vegetables are usually not high in fat," spring rolls "are higher in calories and fat since they are fried," said Angelone. Chicken Satay Seasoned, skewered, and grilled lean meat is a great option, said Angelone. Plus, it comes on a stick, making it fun to eat. You can ask for the peanut sauce on the side if you're trying to minimize added fat and calories. Green Papaya Salad This salad features julienned papaya, beans, Thai chilis, and peanuts for a deliciously spicy dish. It's "packed with fresh veggies," said Ansel. One perk of eating papaya? Research has found that papaya contains lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can repair cell damage in our bodies. Italian Adobe Stock Italian food gets a bad rap thanks to its plethora of carb-heavy dishes. But, said Ansel, "it's actually one of my favorite takeout options." The key is balance. Carbs aren't evil, and you're allowed to eat pasta! A lot of this involves making substitutions vs. going for one particular dish over another. But keep portion sizes in mind. According to the FDA, a serving size of pizza is equivalent to one-quarter of a medium pizza. As for pasta, a serving size is one-half cup of pasta, while restaurants may serve 3-3.5 cups on a plate. Go for Tomato-based Sauces You're totally fine to enjoy a pasta dish, Ansel said. Marinara or other tomato-style sauces may be lighter on calories if you are working on weight management. "These will be lower in oil and saturated fats," said Angelone. Like papaya, tomatoes are also a good source of lycopene, as well as other phytochemicals and nutrients such as potassium, iron, folate, and vitamin C. Tomatoes provide other antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, and phenolic compounds. Research has found that tomatoes may also help reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Choose Thin-crust Love pizza? No problem. "Choose thin crust pizza to avoid the extra calories of thicker, processed flour crust," said Angelone. You can even add vegetable toppings for extra nutrients. Add Protein to Your Meals If your dish doesn't have protein in it, said Ansel, it's a good idea to add it. That's especially true with pasta, which can leave you feeling hungry not long after you eat it if you have it sans meat. Ansel's suggestion: "Balance it out with some lean protein from grilled shrimp in a pasta fra diavolo or add some grilled chicken to a penne pomodoro." What Eating the Right Amount of Protein Every Day Actually Looks Like Chinese Chinese food offers plenty of options if you're looking to fill up on vegetables, lean meats, and grains. Some of these substitutions or options can help you pick a great meal. Order Brown Rice Over White Rice This is a simple substitute, and it's often one that restaurants are happy to make. Brown rice offers "more fiber and micronutrients" than the white version, making it a better option, said Angelone. Because brown rice is a whole grain, it keeps the original parts, providing more than twice as much ﬁber as white rice. Research has found that brown rice contains relatively higher amounts of dietary fiber, moderate amounts of proteins, micronutrients, and several bioactive compounds. Steamed Dumplings Steamed dumplings are stuffed with veggies and/or protein, like shrimp, making them a great choice, said Angelone. The sauce usually comes on the side with these. "Add a side of steamed broccoli or bok choy" to round things out, Angelone advised. Steamed Chicken and Broccoli "A steamed meat and vegetable entree is a good choice since it limits extra carbs and fat and includes a vegetable," said Angelone. If the dish at your go-to restaurant includes a sauce, just ask for it on the side. Japanese There's a wide range of foods to choose from with Japanese food. Miso Soup Miso soup is basically a bunch of miso-infused broth with some tofu, nori, and onions. "Miso soup is a good way to start the meal so you can reap the benefits of a fermented food," said Angelone. Just keep in mind that these soups can pack a fair amount of sodium. However, one 2017 analysis found that participants, who were exclusively middle-aged Asian men who frequently consumed miso soup, were more likely to have a lower heart rate—and that miso soup was not associated with hypertension. Chicken Teriyaki "When ordering Japanese, think veggies and protein," advised Ansel, who recommended getting chicken teriyaki with vegetables. Conscious of your sodium intake? Order the sauce on the side. Tuna or California rolls Sushi, a collection of rice, vegetables, and cooked or raw fish wrapped in a roll of seaweed, has many healthy elements. But its preparation and seasoning can take away from the overall nutrition. "Rolls dipped in tempura and fried [and] then covered with a creamy sauce will not be the same as those wrapped solely in nori and packed with fish, rice and vegetables," Marisa Moore, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Atlanta, told Health. Tuna or California rolls "are good options since they are flavorful and low in fat," said Angelone. Both contain a fair amount of protein, said Angelone, and tuna rolls can give you a nice dose of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have a range of health benefits. Is Tofu Healthy? Here's What Nutritionists Say Mexican Mexican food has plenty of delicious, healthy options. Choose Whole Beans Instead of Refried Ones Whole beans are boiled in water and cooked "without the typical lard added to refried beans," said Angelone. As a result, they're lower in fat and calories, delivering all the protein power of beans without add-ons. Beans offer a multitude of health benefits. Phytochemicals found in beans improve blood cholesterol levels and glycemic status. They also protect blood vessels and reduce markers of chronic inflammation. Beans are also crucial in supporting healthy gut microorganisms. Limit Cheese and Sour Cream If you can't picture yourself eating your favorite dish without them, just ask for these toppings on the side so you can control portion sizes. And hey, sometimes you just have to go for the cheese! Veggie Burrito Bowl Ansel said this was a personal "go-to" Mexican dish: A veggie burrito bowl with brown rice, sautéed onions and peppers, a double order of beans, guacamole, lettuce, and salsa. "It probably contains a day's worth of produce and it's incredibly filling," said Ansel. Indian Indian food is packed with flavor and vegetables. You may enjoy one of these healthy options. Dal Dal is a lentil-heavy dish loaded with delicious spices like cinnamon and cumin. Some dals are made with coconut milk—Angelone recommended looking for one with a tomato base if you are managing your weight. Cinnamon is not just a delicious spice. It is known by researchers to be an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anticancer, lipid-lowering, and cardiovascular-disease-lowering compound. Chana Masala The main ingredient in chana masala is chickpeas, which offer plenty of protein, said Angelone. A nice perk of this dish: You can enjoy it as-is or over brown rice. People who eat chickpeas have been shown to have higher nutrient intakes of dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and iron. New research suggests that chickpeas and hummus may help with weight management, glucose and insulin regulation, and have a positive impact on some markers of cardiovascular disease. Tandoori Chicken Tandoori chicken is packed with flavor, said Angelone, and it's a good way to get some protein into your meal. If you plan to enjoy yours with rice, "ask if they serve whole grain brown rice instead of white rice for more fiber and micronutrients," said Angelone. Greek Greek food can be part of the Mediterranean diet. Enjoy one of these dishes. Hummus There's plenty to love in hummus, a dish of ground-up chickpeas mixed with tahini. One cup of ready-to-eat chickpeas contains 12 grams of protein and a little over 10 grams of dietary fiber—which is 40% of the minimum daily target. Chickpeas are also packed with antioxidants and several other key nutrients. Hummus provides "a dose of plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fat," said Angelone. Enjoy yours with fresh veggies or a whole wheat pita. Fattoush Salad This yummy salad features bread pieces and tons of greens. Angelone recommended enjoying yours with a vinegar dressing. American Given that America is a "melting pot," this cuisine can be a little vague. But there are a few takeout options that boast nutrition benefits. Broth-Based Soup "Broth-based vegetable soups instead of cream-based soups are healthier options," said Angelone, pointing out that the broth cuts out added fat and calories. Enjoy it with a salad to make it a meal. Veggie Burger While you could have a regular burger, these can be loaded with saturated fat. Instead, Angelone recommended reaching for a veggie burger and topping it off with tomato and lettuce for even more nutrients. Vegetarian Chili "A vegetarian chili can be a satisfying and filling choice," said Angelone. It's lower in fat and higher in fiber thanks to the beans when you compare it to traditional beef chili. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. 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