Make Takeout Food as Healthy as Home Cooking

The food choices you make help determine your health. Here’s how to choose wisely, be it at a grocery store or your neighborhood hoagie shop, pizzeria, or Chinese take-out restaurant.

1. If you buy take-out food to save time, only buy those things you don’t have time to make. “The less you buy pre-made, the more control you have over what you’re eating,” says Joan Salge Blake, R.D., clinical assistant professor of nutrition at Boston University’s Sargent College. So pick up that rotisserie chicken, but also go to the produce department for a potato to microwave and some baby carrots instead of buying the twice-baked potatoes and candied carrots in the take-out case.

2. Always think vegetables. How are you going to get veggies into the meal? If you don’t want to cook, then fill a salad bar container with raw veggies, says Blake, but stay away from too many marinated veggies. And, of course, those pre-washed mixed greens in the produce aisle make salad preparation about as complicated as finding a bowl!

3. Hit the seafood section. Many upscale grocers will steam or broil your fish selection for free or for just a small charge. That way, you’re getting the unadulterated fish without the hassle of cooking it. Try some steamed shrimp, clams, or lobster. The price alone will keep your portions healthy!

4. Get two meals at a time. Again, you’re trying to save time. So that whole roasted chicken you got for tonight can double as a chicken Caesar salad tomorrow night. If you’re making a bowl of couscous to go with your take-out dinner tonight, double the amount and pick up some extra veggies and feta cheese at the salad bar for a Mediterranean salad the following night. Or perhaps for lunch tomorrow.

5. Grab a can of low-sodium beans before you pay for your food. Then add the beans to the salad bar salad you just purchased. You will save a ton of money (because beans are so heavy) while still adding valuable fiber and other nutrients to the salad.

6. Have an indoor picnic for dinner. For a fresh take on healthy eating, buy a loaf of wheaty bread, a pint of strawberries, a favorite low-fat cheese, some thinly sliced roast beef or turkey, a small tub of olives, pre-cooked shrimp, cherry tomatoes, pre-sliced green or red peppers, and bite-size carrots. When you get home, throw it all on the table and — after properly cleaning the produce — declare dinner served. This type of “grazing” dinner is fun, easy and a pleasant surprise. Make it a bimonthly ritual.

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