Looking for healthy takeaway options? We know 'healthy' and 'takeaway' sound like two words that don't necessarily fit together - but it is possible!
We look at some of the best and worst options on the most popular takeaway menus to make sure you make the healthiest possible choice. A healthy takeaway doesn’t have to mean having a salad. Although the words ‘healthy’ and ‘takeaway’ aren’t often heard together – believe it or not, it is possible for them to exist in harmony!
From a box of classic Chinese chow mein noodles to a cheesy Saturday night pizza in front of the telly, the average British person now consumes an average of 12 takeaway dinners a month, with one in five of us having at least one a week – and for the most part, it’s not great news for our waistlines.
Meals that are delivered straight to your door in those tempting cardboard boxes tend to be high in fat, sugar and salt, and usually come with fried side dishes and rich sauces that bump up the calorie count before you can say ‘prawn cracker’.
Don’t despair – it doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of the takeaway experience completely. By making some sneaky tweaks to your usual choices and arming yourself with a little extra knowledge, you really can order a healthy takeaway that won’t throw off your diet plan if you have it as a once-in-a-while treat.
How can we make our takeaways that little bit healthier? An expert shared their verdict:
Niamh Hennessy, Lead Dietician from Bupa Cromwell Hospital Nutrition, said, “We all know takeaways aren’t known for their health benefits, so it can be helpful to choose alternatives to your usual go-to to save on calories and boost the nutritional value your meal. For example:
- Choose a thin-crust pizza over a thick-crust
- Swap white rice for brown, basmati or whole barley rice
- Have rice paper rolls, rather than spring rolls, where possible
- Opt for a grilled chicken salad wrap or something similar instead of a hamburger
- Pick oven baked wedges, or sweet potato wedges over chips
- Have a side salad or a portion of vegetables
So if you’re keen on enjoying a takeaway but are keen to make it that little bit healthier, we’ve looked at items from some of the most popular takeaway meals in the country, including McDonalds burgers, Nandos chicken and Dominos pizza, to highlight the best and worst offerings on their menu, and help you to make an informed, but still delicious choice.
Underneath all of the stats, we’ve also included some nutrition tips on toppings, side dishes and dips, lest you fall prey to a rogue tub of garlic and herb at the final hurdle (well, we’ve all been there, haven’t we?)
Ready to pick up your phone and make that order? Here’s everything you need to know before you call. And who knows, you may even convert the rest of the family to your new healthy dishes too…
Big Mac: 563 calories, 33g fat
Medium fries: 387 calories, 18g fat
Fish O'Filet: 329 calories, 13g fat
Hamburger: 250 calories, 10g fat
Chicken nuggets: 287 calories, 19g fat
Grilled chicken salad: 133 calories, 3.7g fat
Make it healthier: The salad is obviously the most virtuous option, but if you're looking for something in a bun, a hamburger is a lower-calorie choice. You can get carrot sticks as a side to boost your 5-a-day, but if you're really having a craving for McDonalds fries, go for a small serving for 229 calories and 11g fat instead (and avoid those sugary dips - one curry sauce, for instance, contains 11g sugar!)
Battered cod: 444 calories, 28g fat
Battered sausage: 380 calories, 30g fat
Medium chips: 788 calories, 30.9g fat
Small chips: 606 calories, 23.8g fat
Fishcake: 186 calories, 9.3g fat
Mushy peas: 98 calories, 0.4g fat
Make it healthier: Clearly, the chips are the calorie killer here (you're looking at over 900 in a large portion...), so if you can bear to do without them, or are happy to just snaffle a few from other people's plates, we'd suggest doing so. Fish at least has some nutritional value, with lots of protein and vitamin B12, but it's healthier to remove the batter as you eat it, or ask if your local chippy serves a grilled version instead.
Zinger burger: 450 calories, 17.5g fat
Regular fries: 310 calories, 14.6g fat
Regular popcorn chicken: 285 calories, 16g fat
Chicken drumstick: 170 calories, 9.7g fat
Regular coleslaw: 145 calories, 12.3g fat
Regular BBQ beans: 105 calories, 0.7g fat
Make it healthier: When you're eating fried chicken, you don't really need bread on top, so firstly, don't go for anything that's served in a bun. Filling up on protein-rich, low-fat beans is a good way to avoid gorging on fries - team it with a corn cobette (85 calories, 1.4g fat) to get an added serving of vegetables and a boost of fibre. And try not to drown everything in that creamy gravy - even a regular pot has over 100 calories and 6.5g fat.
Mighty Meaty (medium classic crust): 197 calories, 8.7g fat per slice
Hawaiian (medium classic crust): 157 calories, 5g fat per slice
Vegetarian supreme (medium classic crust): 150 calories, 4.7g fat per slice
Cheese and tomato (medium classic crust): 137 calories, 3.3g fat per slice
Garlic pizza bread: 274 calories, 10g fat
Garlic and herb dip: 87 calories, 9.4g fat
Make it healthier: When a dip contains almost as much fat as an entire garlic bread, you know it's one to avoid. Generally with pizzas, the fewer toppings and thinner the crust, the healthier you can make it - and be sure to avoid stuffed crust or Double Decadence bases, which add a scary amount of calories and fat. The lowest calorie sides at Domino's are the chicken kickers (204 calories per serving), the coleslaw (161 calories per serving), and the potato wedges (167 calories per serving), so actually, a meal built around these might be worth ditching the pizza for altogether.
Chicken Royale: 570 calories, 31g fat
Veggie bean burger: 550g, 26g fat
Whopper sandwich: 500 calories, 35g fat
Chicken strips: 410 calories, 19g
Medium fries: 280 calories, 12g fat
Hamburger: 260 calories, 9g fat
Make it healthier: Veggie burgers aren't always the healthiest choice, especially when they're breaded and fried, as this Burger King bap proves. As with McDonalds, a standard hamburger comes out as one of your lowest calorie choices, or if you're a chicken fan, you could go for the 210 calorie crispy chicken salad. On the side, Burger King now also offers apple fries, which contain just 30 calories and give you a bonus serving of fruit.
Grilled chicken burger: 388 calories, 8.3g fat
Regular chips: 380 calories, 14.2 g fat
Supergrain salad: 338 calories, 19.6g fat1/4 chicken breast: 299 calories, 8.6g fat
Regular spicy rice: 227 calories, 5.9g fat
Macho peas: 168 calories, 10.4g fat
Make it healthier: It's actually not to hard to make healthy choices at Nando's - they have lots of nutritious sides, including corn on the cob, sweet potato wedges, and chargrilled veg, as well as a selection of genuinely tasty salads, so it's definitely worth considering ditching the chips. Again, going bunless will cut your calories count, and chicken in itself is actually fairly lean. Provided you restrain yourself from drizzling too much extra sauce on your meal, you could even have a 70 calorie frozen yoghurt for dessert!
Small container of egg fried rice: 679 calories, 17.9g fat
Sweet and sour chicken: 435 calories, 6.1g fat
Crispy duck and three pancakes: 403 calories, 21.8g fat
Crispy chilli beef: 380 calories, 19g fat
Chicken chow mein: 361 calories, 8.3g fat
Prawn toast: 52 calories, 4.4g fat
Make it healthier: Chinese menus tend to have some really tasty vegetable dishes - stir-fried vegetables, broccoli with garlic, seasoned mushrooms - so fill your plate with these rather than anything fried like spring rolls (63 calories and 6g of fat apiece). Prawn crackers are another side that you can get through really quickly without realising, so try to say no to nibbles and go for steamed rice and lean protein like actual prawns to see you through instead.
Lamb rogan josh: 525 calories, 30.5g fat
Chicken korma: 432 calories, 26.8g fat
Chicken jalfrezi: 385 calories, 20g fat
Chicken tikka masala: 384 calories, 24g fat
King prawn balti: 277 calories, 20g fat
Poppadom: 35 calories, 1.5g fat
Make it healthier: These figures are based on half an average takeaway container, but it's clear that tomato sauces will always be healthier than creamy ones, and chicken and fish tend to be preferable over fatty meats like lamb. Avoid pilau rice and go for the boiled option instead - you could even save some money by cooking your own wholegrain rice at home. Be wary of fried side dishes like samosas (144 calories and 7.9g fat each), and ditch the garlic naan (395 calories, 9.6g fat) for a much lighter chapati (129 calories, 2.9g fat).
Medium wrap: 195.4 calories, 3.2g fat
Mexican rice:164 calories, 1.8g fat
Black beans: 99 calories, 1g fat
Chicken filling173.6 calories, 10.4g fat
Cheese: 112.4 calories, 8.4g fat
Guacamole:95.4 calories, 9.4g fat
Based on each individual ingredient, these figures from nationwide burrito company Tortilla appear to be pretty healthy - and they are. Each individual ingredient that makes up a burrito is actually not too bad for you, with pretty low calorie counts. However, you'll need to be wary, as we all usually load up our burritos with a huge heap of toppings, and this is where the extra calories can come from. Rule one out instantly, by opting for a 'naked' burrito, which is simply all the fillings in a bowl, without the wrap.
Tesco Salmon & Tuna Sushi: 1040.8 calories, 5.5g fat
Istu veggie sushi collection:527 calories, 23.7g fat
Asda Chosen by You Sushi selection: 252 calories, 6.7g fat
Yo Sushi Salmon Maki:189 calories, 4.4g fat
Sushi is arguably one of the best takeaways for you, if you're going to get one. It provides a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, due to the fish which is often largely unprocessed. Its also, as shown above, relatively low in calories, as it's not deep-fried, and is made with no added fat. Nutritionally, salmon is one of the best ingredients you can have in sushi, although most other ingredients - such as cucumber, seaweed, and carrot, are all still pretty great for your health.