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Substitute Takeout: Healthy Alternatives To Traditional Choices

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

If you’re part of the working class, you’re confronted with battling the daily commute, just to get home famished and in a rush to prepare dinner, even if you’re a stay-at-home parent (or retiree) who simply needs a break from cooking, you’re likely one of many who rely on the comfort and convenience of the “new” “fast food”, otherwise known as takeout.

But, while takeout may be the best choice for saving you time and energy and offering you more time for YOU, and your family, experts note, that the most popular choices are rarely the best ones for your health or your waistline.

Laden with salt, MSG, etc. many take out foods fool us into believing they are nutritious, when they are in fact notorious for being nutritionally “deprived” and packed with fat and calories. And, like most foods is often “altered” or “enhanced” (especially in portion size) to appeal to our western tastes, making many normally “good-for-you” foods, a bad choice. Here are some familiar favorites (to name a few)


General Tso’s Chicken: This succulent staple is loaded with calories, and fat (both total fat and saturated fat) making it one of the most dangerous dishes on the menu. Not to mention that it’s battered (dark meat chicken), deep fried and cooked with spicy veggies smothered in sweet and spicy sauce. But, if it’s chicken you want, health and nutrition experts suggest Szechuan chicken instead. This delectable dish, made with leaner, white meat and sautéed with veggies is not only tasty but better for you.

Egg Role: Fried and filled with fat and almost 200 calories per roll, this choice may weigh heavy on your heart and your conscience. Instead experts suggest opting for an appetizer alternative such as steamed vegetable dumplings. But, caution against those made with pork, because they double the fat content. And, by the way, with a typical order of six per serving, they suggest you share.


Beef Burrito With All The Trimmings (Rice, Refried Beans, Cheese, and Salsa): According to nutrition professionals this one “meal) amounts to nearly one pound of food and exceeds more than half your daily fat allowance. Even many of the smaller or low-fat varieties offered are laden with fat and calories say experts. So, the best way to enjoy this dish is to go for the smaller portions sans tortilla, order lettuce instead of rice, and skip the refried beans and cheese altogether.

Nacho Platter: Typically this tasty and tempting takeout selection is nacho best choice. Featuring beef, sour cream, and guacamole, it is greasy, laden with over 1,000 calories, and contains in excess of one day’s allotment of fat. Experts suggest ordering instead enchiladas. An enchilada with red chili sauce, but sans the sour cream offers the same satisfaction but without the fat. And, if you really want to go light and easy, consider ordering up some chips and salsa but take it easy with the chips.

North American Cuisine:

Hamburger And Fries: Best described as a heart attack on a plate, experts note that your standard burger from a family-style eatery often contains more fat that some of the largest fast-food versions. Add fries, and your simply adding grease, fat and calories. While chicken and turkey burgers are a viable alternative, experts say your best choice is a veggie burger and they note that many taste just like the real thing. But, they warn against fries, ketchup cheese, mayo or fries. And, oh yeah, you may also want to skip the bun, especially if it’s white bread.

And, if a plain burger with some lettuce and tomato isn’t enough to quell your cravings, supplement your meal with mashed potatoes (and gravy) in place of fries. Ordering a baked potato is another healthy alternative, even if you insist on using a spoonful of sour cream.

Pizza: The “trick” here say experts is going easy on the toppings (if you have to have any at all). Instead of the standards, sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, and/or extra cheese, consider asking for half the cheese and topping off your pie with lots of veggies and greens. And, if you must have meat, experts say ham is healthiest with only about 1 gram of fat per slice.

East Indian Cuisine:

Chicken Tikka Masala: Cream sauces are notorious for being laden with fat and calories, so you may want to consider that this dish takes otherwise healthy poultry and allows it to marinate in yogurt and spices for hours on end. The obvious alternative, according to experts is a simple chicken tikka and an order or naan.

Saag Paneer (Spinach and cheese) One of the best ways to ensure you never get rid of any sagging body parts. Loaded with fat and calories, not only does this dish contain cheese, but cream too. A better option is any vegetable dish cooked with tomatoes. Experts suggest okra in tomato sauce (Bhindi bhajee) as a good source of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and C as well as folate and calcium.


Spicy Tuna Roll (Or Spicy Rolls Of Any Sort): In case you haven’t heard, Japan, with its “recent” embrace of western culture and eating habits has been prone to more ailments (that never before existed in the land) and is facing an increasing obesity problem.

Spicy rolls generally contain mayo and have more fat and calories than you’d think or expect. Instead experts suggest ordering the standard rolls, such as (plain) tuna roll (especially since tuna hardly contains any fat), and try to forego the soy (….with salt) or at least request the low sodium kind. However, nutrition experts affirm that even if you opt for the higher fat options, Japanese cuisine is among the healthiest (takeout) choices on the menu.

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