I’m going to be completely honest here and tell you that I rarely use food delivery apps/takeaways. Genuinely.
I love cooking, and when I don’t I’d rather eat out – I find takeaways just aren’t good value, when I could make often better food in less time and for half the price.
HOWEVER. I’m fully aware that for many people, ordering from Deliveroo / UberEats / JustEat is a regular part of their routine. So, with that in mind, I figured I would offer a few tips to choosing a healthier option when ordering online, (until my own healthy eating service is live and ready for you to choose instead…)
This isn’t about me telling you to order a salad instead of a burger – I’m not going to insult your intelligence or assume that anyone in their right mind is thinking about a nice leafy caesar when they’re ordering from Byron. However, there are a few things you can think about next time you’re placing an order, to help you to make a healthier choice when you simply don’t want to cook.
Tip #1 – Ditch chips. How to choose a healthier side.
Almost every takeaway in the world will have an option to add chips. Now I’m not here to hate on chips, however, in the time it takes between placing your order and it actually arriving you could probably pop a potato in the oven, save yourself £3, and enjoy a healthier baked potato with your meal. If you’re that hungry for potato that is.
If you’re hungry for chips because you love chips, well there’s not much I can say to change your mind. If you’re looking for a healthier side dish when ordering, however, try and pick a vegetable based side dish instead, such as Macho Peas (Nando’s) or Chilli + Almond Broccoli (Carluccio’s). You could even try an alternative potato dish such as Batata Harra (Comptoir Libanais) which is a Lebanese spiced potato dish, or if you’re looking for a better source of carbs most Indian and Chinese restaurants will offer ‘plain’ or ‘boiled’ rice.
Side note: sweet potato fries are still fries. They’re still dropped into a deep fat frier at 180C and cooked in a couple of litres of vegetable oil. If you’re ordering sweet potato fries in a bid to be healthier, you’d be much better off making your own. Nando’s offers Sweet Potato Mash which is a much better alternative.
Tip #2 – Lean Protein.
Choosing a lean protein source over a fatty/processed protein source is a quick way to immediately improve your takeaway options, often significantly reducing both the fat and calorie content.
Choose a chicken breast burger over a double beef burger next time you’re ordering from Byron. Grilled chicken instead of fried chicken in your McDonald’s wrap or Chicken Taouk instead of a Lamb Kofta at Comptoir. Just thinking a little deeper into your food choices can make a big difference in having a healthier dinner.
It doesn’t have to be chicken. Turkey, tofu, steak and fish are great places to start when trying to source a leaner protein for your meal.
Tip #3 – Less Sauces.
Sauces from restaurants are most often not very healthy. They’re made with a lot of fat from oils, butter or cream or contain a lot of salt and sugars that you simply wouldn’t make for yourself at home. As an occasional treat, there’s nothing wrong with a really tasty sauce, especially made fresh from a great restaurant, but if you’re ordering a butter chicken every Friday and sweet and sour pork every Saturday, you could easily switch things up to make your life a little healthier.
Choosing Tandoori options from an Indian restaurant is a great place to start, as these dishes are minimal on sauce and still loaded with flavour. Likewise, dropping just the Peri-naise with your Nando’s would save you roughly 160 calories.
If you love something a little saucier, but want to stay healthy, try Wagamama’s, where you can order a bowlful of Ramen or Pho without settling for a dry, bland dish that doesn’t inspire you.
Thinking back to lean proteins, choosing the Grilled Chicken or Sirloin Steak Ramen would be a better choice than Pork Belly or BBQ Beef Brisket.
Tip #4 – Vegetable Sides.
We’ve touched on this already, but almost EVERY takeaway/restaurant will have some option for a side of vegetables.
I’m not referring to ordering a bag of carrot sticks from McDonald’s, but a portion of seasonal greens, roasted vegetables or even a simple side salad is a great way to add some extra nourishment to a takeaway, so that you don’t feel horrendously stuffed afterwards.
Tip #5 – DIY
Again, as convenient as a takeaway is, the reality is that it takes at least half an hour for most takeaways to arrive these days and more often than not your estimated wait time is going up towards an hour at peak dinner times.
In the time it takes you to order and receive your food, you could have very easily rustled up an entire meal, eaten and done the dishes but I’m fully aware that not everybody finds it as enjoyable or easy to simply cook dinner every night.
However, you could try mix and match – order some elements to your dinner from a takeaway and prepare your sides at home for instance. Think about the money you’d save too!
Imagine, you could have roasted a tray of Mediterranean vegetables, boiled up some peas or even popped a ‘steam in the bag’ portion of vegetables in the microwave and still have had time to run a bath before your food arrived.
I usually only get a takeaway in company, with friends or family, but if I were to order for myself it would always be a combination of what I have in and what I fancied.
I just can’t justify spending £3 on a side of rice (half of which I probably won’t eat and will go to waste) when Uncle Ben is sat in my cupboard at 75p, just 2 minutes away from being on my plate.
If I really fancy some Nando’s chicken, you can buy the marinades and sauces and roast a whole tray of chicken breasts within twenty minutes, plus have enough for lunch and dinner again the next day. Let’s not talk about how much money that would save you too.
Anyway, I’m not here to bash takeaways as I truly understand the importance of convenience in today’s world – but hopefully I’ve helped you to consider a few alternatives when you next order out so that you can enjoy a healthier, more balanced meal.
Chef Jen x