Most of us enjoy the quick and tasty offerings from a local takeaway. Many also live mere minutes (or a phone call) away from a wonderful world of cuisine choice.
Some choices, however, are better than others.
The nutritional quality and impact on health from takeaway meals varies. So, in your occasional foray into takeaway eats, consider these few criteria for making a better decision for your brain and body.
- Crowd out with greens and vegetables
Choose options that include a heap of veg – preferably fresh, steamed or lightly stir-fried. The nutrients supplied support energy, are protective and anti-inflammatory, and the fibre will make good food for the bugs of your gut microbiome. A healthy gut influences the health of your entire body, including mood, immune function and weight.
- Choose stir-fried, grilled or baked over deep-fried
Oils turn nasty at the high heat of deep-frying and offer nothing to nourish our body or brain.
- No need for flavour enhancers
A dish should be flavoursome enough from real food without adding artificial flavour enhancers, such as MSG, which can sometimes encourage you to eat more than you need.
- Go easy on the salt (and salty sauces)
Too much can leave you thirsty, bloated and lethargic.
- Limit the sweet stuff
Avoid sticky or sweet sauces and too much refined white flour. An abundance of these will send blood glucose levels soaring, and then crashing; a stressful state for the body that can impact sleep and the way you operate the following day.
On the subject of added sweet stuff, consider the following for each of these go-to takeaway cuisines:
Choose sashimi, salads or grilled meats, and watch out for the super sweet teriyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. Sushi rice can also have sugar added.
Choose dishes with little added sugar, such as dahl or grilled meat, and watch out for sides like chutney. Sweeten naturally at home with some freshly sliced banana.
Thai & Vietnamese
Thai food especially is notorious for sweet sauces. With either cuisine choose soups, rice paper rolls or stir-fries and salads with sauce on the side, or ask to not have sugar added.
Sticky sauces of lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork are loaded with the sweet stuff. Choose stir-fries, a load of steamed greens and veg and go easy on the sauce.
Watch out for sweet sauces and keep in mind the bases are usually comprised of heavily refined white flour, which, like added sugar, won’t fare well for blood glucose levels.
A little added sugar is okay – but say no to sweetened drinks
Perhaps most important of all when ordering out is steering clear of sugary drinks. Whether soft drink, juice, flavoured water or any other sugar-sweetened beverages, these are unnecessary. Choose water.
Finally, remember that a little added sugar is okay for most; work toward limiting intake to 6 teaspoons (25g) a day. If your takeaway meal has some added sugar, don’t feel guilty – enjoy the dish, especially as these are occasional foods, and do what you can to limit the amount of added sugar it contains.
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med)