On a cold winter night, snuggled up on your couch, it can feel impossible to make it to the grocery store or even to get up and cook. Enter delivery. Although cooking your own food is great, sometimes we just need to order in. We lead busy lives and once in a while, convenience is key- no problem. Here is a Your Secret Ingredient guide to ordering in, so you can sit back and relax, knowing a healthy meal is just a bike or car ride away.
1. Always curb your appetite with a snack about 1-1.5 hours before your meal, that way you won’t be ravenous when the food comes. Plus a snack makes the wait for delivery a little easier.
2. Ask questions: What exactly does “crispy” mean? Perhaps you can substitute some healthier items in, such as grilled chicken for fried or fruit for home fries as some examples.
3. Order sauces and dressings on the side, to use at your discretion.
4. Look to cut portions. Ask for half orders or appetizer-sized portions if possible. If you don’t see it on the menu, ask if it can be done! Save half your entrée for your next meal or order 2 appetizers instead of entrees.
Guidelines by Cuisine:
1. Chinese food
-Eat with your chopsticks. You’ll eat slower and therefore fill up faster.-
-Skip the fried foods (noodles, egg roles, dumplings) and start with some soup.
-Veg it up. Look for vegetable-based dishes or meat, chicken or fish dishes that come with lots of vegetables.
-Order dishes steamed not fried (such as orange or sesame chicken) with your favorite sauces on the side. Dress it up yourself with 1 to 2 spoonfuls of sauce to save extra calories.
-Watch the ribs. Spareribs can cost you up to 200 calories per rib so keep them for a special treat.
-Limit the extra oil. Dishes like fried rice, lo mein, chow fun, and sesame noodles are loaded with oil and extra calories. Order steamed brown rice instead. If you really have a craving for fried rice, mix a couple of spoonfuls of fried rice with your steamed rice for just a taste.
-Make Chinese a special treat. No matter how hard you try to save on calories, Chinese food is loaded with sodium, which is not good for your heart. Make ordering in Chinese food a "sometimes" choice and try making it at home sometimes! Look to cookinglight.com or eatingwell.com for healthy recipes.
2. Japanese food
-Start with edamame- the fiber filled beans will take the hunger edge off.
-Go for the salads (ginger dressing on the side and use sparingly), steamed shrimp dumplings, tar-tar, ceviche, fish, and skewers (meat and/or veggie). Stay clear of anything “tempura” or “crispy” as that means deep-fried.
-Think sashimi (raw fish) or a mixture of sashimi and sushi (raw fish over rice), including some fatty fishes like salmon or tuna, brown rice rolls (whole grains) with fillings of fish, avocado, and vegetables, “teriyaki dinners” with chicken or fish with sauce on the side to save on sugar and sodium! Avoid the roll fillings “crunch” or “tempura flakes” (fried) and cream cheese like in Philadelphia rolls to save on saturated fats. Know that when you see “spicy” it means mayonnaise!
-Stick to low-sodium soy sauce, pour in about 1 tablespoon and make it last!
3. Italian food
-Start with a salad with lite vinaigrette or a hearty bean soup, such as minestrone.
-Limit the starches. Italian cuisine can be very high in grains so pick and choose which ones you want most. Do you want a piece of bread from the basket, a side or appetizer order of pasta or potatoes with your meat/fish dish?
-Limit the cheese and cream based dishes. Avoid excessive saturated fat and calories by avoiding garlic bread and cream sauces such as Alfredo or butter sauce. Ask about sauces if you are not sure if they are creamy or cheesy.
-Limit portion sizes of tomato and mozzarella salads, parmigiana, beef lasagna, vodka sauces, cheese sauce or cheese filled pasta, carbonara, and sausage dishes.
-Choose appetizer sizes, side orders, or half orders of pasta and risotto. If you don't see it as an option on the menu, ask your server if it can be done.
-Eat lean protein and vegetables first. It makes eating less pasta easier. Try the grilled chicken, fish, or seafood dishes with marinara, garlic and oil, or marsala sauce.
-Load up on the fish. Italian cuisine has delicious fish entrees including a Your Secret Ingredient fav: branzino ( aka. Mediterranean seabass).
-Stack the veggies on your pizza. Go for thin crust and have up to 1-2 slices. Bulk it up with a salad or lean protein like chicken or fish. Limit portions of rolls or calzones (split them a few ways)
-Watch the wine. Limit yourself to 1-2 glasses of wine and choose between wine and a few bites of dessert.
4. Asian Varieties
-Start with some soup or salad
-Take advantage of all the vegetarian options, such as tofu with vegetables. Although the sauces (especially panang curry) are delicious, they can pack on the pounds so order it on the side and dip at your own discretion.
- Order the skewers: chicken, fish, shrimp- all a good choice!
-As for the pad thai- this is a hard one- it’s so good but not so good for you. Have it once in a while and eat 1/8th of the ridiculously oversized container.
-Order steamed rice. Often times there are a lot of varieties to chose from that are not fried.
-Start with a salad. Greek salad is a great choice, just be sure to take out some of the feta because often times it can be about 10 servings of cheese in there.
-Share some spreads: Hummus, babaganoush, tziki, all good and mostly good for you. Just remember the portion size for dips is about 2 Tablespoons, so take it on your plate first rather than dipping from the container. Use vegetables to dip, rather than chips.
-Go for the lean meats such as fish or chicken or stick to the vegetarian options such as eggplant, hummus, or baked falafels (as your server if they are baked or fried).Again take the opportunity to bulk up on great fish choices like branzino or red snapper.
-Choose whole-wheat pitas, if available. Stack them with lots of veggies, a little protein, and 1 Tablespoon of dip for a hearty meal. Limit your pita servings
-Try gigandes (Greek baked beans) or briam (roasted vegetables) for extra fiber and healthy side dishes
-Limit baklava, spinach pie, and other filo dough options as they are high in calories
6. American and Diner Food
-Take a pass on the fried appetizers, and take advantage of some likely delicious soup, such as matzoh ball soup or vegetable soup. Still watch the portion since it is a high-sodium food.
-Egg-white omelets are a great choice. Load it with veggies and even a little cheese, if you want. If you have good self-control and get the homefries and just eat a few if you can portion control. If you’re like me, skip it and order some fruit or sliced tomatoes instead. Whole-wheat toast is a go.
-Diner portions are notoriously large, so think about sharing or definitely plan to have lunch for the next day- bonus!
-If you’re craving a burger… order sliders and have 1-2, a kid's portions, or share 1 burger and a salad with someone. Or try a grilled chicken burger, turkey burger, or even a veggie burger. Often times these will hit the spot, too once loaded with lettuce, tomato, and onion.
-Craving pancakes, French toast, muffin or other breakfast cake? Do what I do and order an egg white omelet with fruit for yourself and a short-stack order of pancakes for the table. That way everyone can have just a bite and satisfy a craving!
-Try a sandwich or salad. Often times diners have a variety of sandwiches and salads to choose from. Look for ones with lean meats like turkey or grilled chicken, no bacon, very little cheese, and try to get low-fat condiments/dressings, if possible. Mustard has no fat but a lot of sodium, so have just a tsp. Add other lean proteins to salads like egg whites or beans for a vegetarian protein source.
-The best thing about a diner is you can usually get whatever you want. So be creative with your requests and substitutions to make some traditional orders a little more Your Secret Ingredient-esq.
--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN