Healthy Fast Food (Preview)

Your best meal is probably the one you cook yourself, but sometimes you have to make do with takeaways, which can be something of a nutritional minefield (non-subscriber preview)


Posted: 8 March 2010
by Chris Broadbent

When you make a meal from scratch you know exactly what you're going to be eating and you can add as many healthy ingredients as you like. Unfortunately, holding down a job, having a life outside that job and training for triathlon often leave little time for preparing a decent meal.

Sometimes you just need to grab something quickly and that's where the trouble can begin. We asked Dr Kevin Currell, Performance Nutritionist for British Triathlon, for advice on 10 high-street takeaway options, from the not bad to the perfectly awful.

Chinese

"There has been a lot of negative publicity about the use of the food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) in Chinese food and there are now fewer places using it as an ingredient," says Currell. However, it's worth asking if it is used when you're ordering.

Try to avoid items on the menu that are deep-fried; they're packed with unhealthy hydrogenated fats. Cashew nuts are a good option. "They're often used in Chinese cooking and they contain a healthy fat that supports the immune system," adds Currell.

GOOD CHOICE: Prawn and cashews in a yellow bean sauce
BAD CHOICE: Deep-fried sweet and sour chicken

Pizza

Delicious, and not the worst of the bunch. "Pizza can be great for carb-loading because of its doughy base," says Currell. This alone makes it a good meal choice the night before a big race.

Many elite triathletes eat pizza before overseas races, particularly if they are a little unsure about the local food. But it's not all good news, says Currell. "It's better to avoid the pizzas that include high-fat meats such as salami. They contain fats that are most likely to induce gastrointestinal problems and will increase the likelihood of you wanting to go to the toilet during the run."

GOOD CHOICE: Vegetable pizza
BAD CHOICE: Meat feast pizza

Thai

Currell approves of Thai food. "It tends to be very high in vegetable content and is good for getting your five-a-day," he says. "Vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals, which are a bit like the body's police force. They help make sure everything is in working order and enable necessary chemical reactions to occur.

As with Indian food, there are good spices in Thai cuisine that support the immune system, such as turmeric." Once again, however, he has a word of warning: "Avoid curries, which are often cooked in coconut milk and so have a very high fat content. It's better to go for a stir-fry." It's good to have garlic in the meal, too. There is evidence to suggest it supports the immune system.

GOOD CHOICE: Chicken stir-fry with garlic and pepper
BAD CHOICE: Thai green curry


This article is taken from our latest magazine issue, available on the newsstand now. Subscribers can view more healthy takeaway advice (including Indian, Japanese and kebab options) in the full article. Not a magazine subscriber? Subscribe online now to make a significant saving on the newsstand price.


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