Take Home Lessons

Takeaway food has a reputation for being unhealthy, but a few wise choices make all the difference


Posted: 5 May 2004
by Anita Bean

Eating on the run or getting a takeaway tonight? There’s nothing wrong with the odd curry or hamburger. But it may be a problem if you eat takeaways on a regular basis. Many menu items are loaded with fat – for example, a chicken tikka masala gives you more than half your daily fat allowance – and are also very salty. How healthy your meal is depends on what you opt for. Here’s the low-down on the healthier options and nutritional nightmares among our favourites dishes.

Chinese

Chinese food is one of the nation’s most popular takeaways – in one survey, one in three people said they’d ordered it in the past three months. But, a portion of sweet and sour pork with egg-fried rice – the favourite choice – gives you a staggering 60g of fat (that’s almost the average woman’s daily fat maximum) and 1330kcal. And you might want to avoid crispy duck – it’s very fattening, with 650kcal and 36g of fat per four pancakes.

Many of the menu options are not only oozing with fat but also laden with sugar and salt. Sweet and sour pork contains the equivalent of three tablespoons of sugar (44g) and almost your entire daily salt limit (5.1g). Avoid anything with the words ‘battered’, ‘deep fried’ or ‘crispy’. Instead, order steamed dishes, chop suey, stir-fried vegetables, and boiled instead of fried rice.

Beware of...Better Bets...
Sweet and sour pork (battered) with egg-fried rice Chicken chop suey with boiled rice
Calories 1330Calories 700
Fat 60gFat 19g
Sugar 44gSugar 2g
Fibre 5gFibre 5g
Salt 5.1gSalt 4.5g
Chicken and cashew nuts with egg-fried rice Stir-fried vegetables with boiled rice
Calories 1200Calories 570
Fat 36gFat 15g
Sugar 12gSugar 3g
Fibre 5gFibre 7g
Salt 5.3gSalt 3.9g

Indian

Chicken tikka masala is the country’s most popular takeaway dish. But with 860 calories and 47g of fat (over half of your recommended daily maximum) in one helping with pilau rice, it’s hardly the healthiest. It’s also the saltiest dish on the Indian menu – one portion gives you almost your entire daily maximum for salt (5g). Steer clear of kormas, passandas and masalas, which usually contain oil, cream or ghee (clarified butter).

Instead, choose tandoori dishes and tikka kebabs, chicken dupiaza or prawn madras. Vegetable balti, dahl (lentils) or aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry) with boiled rice make good vegetarian options. Go for chapattis made without fat, which contain 11g less fat and 130 fewer calories per portion than chapattis with fat. Go halves on naan bread – a whole one packs 20g of fat and 540 calories.

Beware of...Better Bets...
Chicken tikka masala with pilau rice Prawn madras with boiled rice
Calories 860Calories 550
Fat 47gFat 25g
Sugar 11gSugar 2g
Fibre 8gFibre 7g
Salt 5gSalt 2.8g
Lamb passanda with pilau rice Aloo gobi with boiled rice
Calories 990Calories 380
Fat 56gFat 7g
Sugar 11gSugar 7g
Fibre 5gFibre 6g
Salt 4.8gSalt 1g

Pizza

Do your waistline a favour and ignore the meal deals that tempt you to eat gigantic portions plus extra garlic bread and gallons of fizzy drink. Expect eight slices of a meat-topped pizza (a so-called medium pizza) to supply 1464kcal and a whopping 62g of fat – that’s almost 100 per cent of a woman’s daily allowance and two thirds of man’s – and more than your daily maximum for salt (7.8g). Swap that for a margherita (cheese and tomato) and cut down to a more modest four slices, and the figures drop to 504kcal and 12g of fat.

The baseline is, avoid meat toppings such as pepperoni, ham, sausage, ground beef and pork – they are loaded with fat and salt. Instead, go for vegetable toppings and goat’s cheese rather than mozzarella. It’s worth knowing that pizzas with a stuffed crust and toppings that go right to the edge can add an extra 200kcal and 15g of fat. And while the free garlic bread may seem like a good deal, remember you’ll also be getting an extra 234 calories and 7g of fat in two slices!

Beware of...Better Bets...
Pizza with pepperoni, sausage, beef, ham, vegetables, cheese and tomato (eight slices) Cheese and tomato pizza (four slices)
Calories 1464Calories 504
Fat 62gFat 12g
Sugar 31gSugar 12g
Fibre 10gFibre 6.8g
Salt 7.8gSalt 4g
Garlic bread (two slices) Vegetarian pizza (four slices)
Calories 234Calories 560
Fat 7gFat 13g
Sugar 3.6gSugar 16g
Fibre 1.8gFibre 6.8g
Salt 0.9gSalt 2.5g

Burgers

The rule here is straightforward: the bigger the burger and chips, the more calories and fat you get. A hamburger supplies a surprisingly respectable 253 calories and 7.7g of fat, but trade up for a McDonalds Big Mac and the figures shoot up to 493g and 23g. Opt for a Big Tasty – the latest addition to the McDonalds menu – and you’ve got a serious 804 calories and 50g of fat to burn off during your next run.

Do the maths – the simple advice is to opt for smaller portions (a small bag of chips sets you back only 9g of fat while a large portion contains exactly double that amount). Better still, go for a chicken salad from McDonalds’ new Salads Plus menu. A grilled chicken salad with balsamic dressing but no croutons supplies less than 300 calories and 11g of fat. And the new Quorn Premiere with a side salad (396 calories and 8.4g of fat) makes a good vegetarian choice.

Beware of...Better Bets...
Large hamburger (Big Mac) and medium fries McDonalds grilled chicken Caesar salad with balsamic dressing
Calories 786Calories 300
Fat 36gFat 11g
Sugar 12gSugar 7.7g
Fibre 9.9gFibre 3.3g
Salt 3.0gSalt 3.0g
Chicken nuggets (nine) and large fries McDonalds grilled chicken caprese
Calories 792Calories 470
Fat 40gFat 10g
Sugar 1gSugar 2.7g
Fibre 8.7gFibre 5.8g
Salt 3.25gSalt 2.6g

Sandwiches

The most popular sandwich on the menus of Pret a Manger and Starbucks – egg mayo – is also one of healthiest options with a commendable 394 calories and 20g of fat. Choose a filling that includes salad or grilled vegetables, or include some fruit with your meal. Starbucks now makes it easier to spot the healthier items with a prominent green ‘less than five per cent’ band on the label. The new range includes a tasty vegan falafel and houmous flatbread (405 calories and 9.1g of fat) and a chicken sandwich with orange and honey mayonnaise and baby leaf spinach (412 calories and 8.9g of fat).

In general, steer clear of big baguettes and super-size sarnies with generous mayonnaise fillings – a tuna mayo baguette packs 535 calories and 23g of fat. Fancy something sweet? A blueberry muffin has considerably more calories and fat than a chicken pesto sandwich (520 vs 399 calories and 26 vs 14g of fat). Swap it for a low-fat peach and raspberry muffin and save half the calories and fat (286 calories and 4.4g of fat)

Beware of...Better Bets...
BLT Sandwich Sausage, egg and baked bean hot breakfast panini
Calories 540Calories 395
Fat 26gFat 9.8g
Sugar 6.8gSugar 5.0g
Fibre 6.1gFibre 1.5g
Salt 1.0gSalt 1.3g
All-day breakfast Egg mayo sandwich
Calories 679Calories 394
Fat 35gFat 20g
Sugar 8.7gSugar 2.7g
Fibre 6.6gFibre 3.8g
Salt 3.75gSalt 2.0g


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Discuss this article

Although the article gives a general comparison of takeaway food I'd like some more info on Curry - i.e. Madras vs Vindaloo? (before a run not recommended - I done that a couple of years ago at Richmond!)
Posted: 09/05/2004 at 15:58

The hotter the better I reckon. Gets your metabolism going.

Tikka Masala probably bad because it's brightly coloured = more chemical carp in it.

Probably not much difference between Madras and Vindaloo.

I'd avoid the creamy stuff and go for the hot stuff instead!
Posted: 10/05/2004 at 22:24

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