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Can Takeout Foods Help You Stay Trim?

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  February 13, 2013 11:04 AM

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Source:  Flickr, Nomadic Lass
Takeout could be trimming for your waist if it replaces eating at a sit-down restaurant.  A recent survey of more than 1,000 Americans conducted by Seamless, a leading mobile and online delivery and takeout food service, uncovered that nearly 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women order takeout or delivery at least weekly.  But here’s the interesting result:  The study found that these folks tend to be more health conscious when picking up or having their dinner delivered compared to when they eat out at a restaurant.  

Why?  The survey showed that individuals tend to order an appetizer and consume bread at a sit down restaurant but they don't do so when they order takeout.  (Who among us has not dipped into that basket of hot bread when it comes to the table?)  Diners are also nearly twice as likely to order side dishes and three times more likely to order dessert when lingering at a restaurant as compared to when eating takeout or delivered foods in their own kitchen.  If you don’t think that skipping the dessert can save many calories, think again.  The Chocolate Zuccotto Cake at Maggiano’s Little Italy serves up just over 1,800 calories, which could be more calories than your entire takeout dinner. 

On those harried days when you're lucky if you can find your car keys, let alone the kitchen, try these strategies to help you order your dinner with your health in mind:

Strategy No. 1:  Order the Takeout by Noon

If you know that "it's going to be one of those days", mentally plan what you are going to pick up for dinner after you have eaten breakfast or lunch when you are less hungry and frazzled. Write your order on a "stick-it" note pad and attach it to your wallet. You'll have a better shot at making a healthier choice when your stomach is full, your body is less fatigued, and when you still have some rational brain power left.  If you wait until you get to the take-out restaurant to choose your order, you'll be filling the back seat of the car with enough chow for the neighborhood.

Strategy No. 2:  Buy Only What You Don’t Have Time to Make

To better control the calories, fat, and sodium in your take-home meals, buy just the entree -- the half roasted chicken at the supermarket or at the chicken take-out joint -- and then fortify the meal with quick fixes. If you are in the supermarket picking up the rotisserie bird, hit the salad bar for a veggie feast or tossed salad.  Grab some fresh whole grain bread for a complete meal. Or, keep frozen vegetables in your freezer and a pouch of quick cook brown rice in your cupboards for a quick fix in your microwave.

Strategy No. 3:  Don’t Bring Home More Than You Can Afford to Eat (or Keep)

Buying large amounts of takeout foods so that you have enough for two meals is one thing. Setting up a Chinese smorgasbord in your kitchen is another, especially if you're prone to continue eating until the Styrofoam container bottoms are visible to the naked eye.  Ask for a half portion if you know the restaurant's servings are generous, or even better, portion a meal on your plate and put the containers immediately into the refrigerator for tomorrow night’s stress-free meal.

Do you eat takeout? What tricks do you use to order more healthfully? 

                                           Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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