Wrapped up by wraps? Hung up on hamburgers? Captivated by curries? With ‘up-health’ing’ fish and chips as an appetiser last week, let’s look at how to ‘up-health’ other takeaways. I obviously can’t recommend any specific brands so will keep this a generic review. So, relax and enjoy the high protein; good fats; and ideally gluten, dairy, and food additive-free ‘takeaway crawl’.
There are some general rules of thumb that apply to takeaways wherever you go. These include choosing those establishments that:
- use the freshest and ideally organic ingredients;
- use free-range, grass-fed animal products;
- use river-run fish;
- don’t use trans-fats for cooking or in any sauces;
- use low to medium heat for cooking any sources of protein.
In terms of what choices we can make, choose:
- to add extra vegetables,
- try alternating vegetarian meals if you normally opt for those containing meat,
- in burger venues aim for (in order of preference) a lettuce wrap, paleo bun, gluten free bun, thin wrap or an open bun over the traditional bun ‘sandwich’,
- leave off the sauce, unless a natural vinaigrette made only of olive oil and vinegar. Sorry but most sauces have an unhealthy sugar, food additive and trans-fat concentration. For a healthy person, a normal serving of one tablespoon is probably ok occasionally but most takeaways slather more than this on;
- to supplement your meal with at least one serving of vegetables as soon as you can or add extra vegetables to your other meals that day if the vegetable content of the takeaway is low;
- cafes tend to have a reasonable selection of healthy options such as soup. In case there is nothing obviously healthy then as a last resort a couple of options include a non-dairy chai latte, or poached egg on spinach. If these aren’t available and the only thing left due to the time of day are the slices go for the gluten free savoury one or normal savoury slice, scoop out the middle and leave the crust. If a sweet slice, just eat a portion to avert any ‘hangriness’. You don’t have to eat the whole portion!
- Asian food can up ‘uphealthed’ by choosing the options with no or low sauce such as a chicken tikka rather than a chicken tikka masala.
- a pizza base that is (in order of preference again) paleo, gluten free, or thin normal. I probably don’t need to mention to HealthCentral readers to avoid the hot-dog, burger and pie stuffed crusts but in case you’re wavering-stop it!
- prep bulk lots of meals on the weekend that can be re-heated. This will help reduce tired and ‘hangry’ desperate trips to the local takeaway;
- aim for the next best thing to takeaways-home meal kits. These provide the recipe and ingredients for a range of different meals and can be delivered or picked up from most supermarkets.
- breathe and be kind to yourself! The reality is that takeaways will happen to us all and the damage caused by the guilt of eating one is likely worse than the damage caused by the actual takeaway;
Those who read my opinion pieces regularly probably are waiting for the caveat, and yes there are some. Your patients’ individual health status will determine how often and what type of takeaway they can indulge in. Another caveat includes remembering that high protein is not suitable for all, so please discuss this macronutrient with your patients on an individual basis.
There are multiple advantages to eating a good home cooked meal such as bonding which naturally occurs when cooking with family and/or friends. Cooking can also be turned into an opportunity to practice mindfulness if you fully engage in the tactile experience of handling food with their plethora of smells and taste. To optimise this please hide your cell-phone and dust off one of 500 cookbooks you’ve bought over the years. The activation of digestive juices that occurs while prepping a meal offers health benefits due to optimising our digestion of food. And I personally cannot ignore the feel-good factor of delivering a home-cooked (especially for a novice and reluctant cook like myself). However, as always, I am a realist, so tuck into takeaways if essential but please follow the above guidelines.