Find the healthiest take-out food with these 4 dietitian-approved tips

  • 2 Minutes Read
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Do you need take-out food on a busy night, but don't know what is healthiest and kind for weight-loss? These 4 dietitian-approved tips will help you navigate the world of eating out with confidence to find the healthiest take-out food.

Healthiest take-out food

Review online menus first to find the healthiest take-out food

Ordering takeout online means you have more time upfront to review the menu before deciding. Large chains (with 20 or more locations) have government required nutrition information on their websites and menus in-store. If you're eating at a small local restaurant and want to stay on track with your weight-loss goals, order a meal that resembles this healthy plate.

Watch for hidden calorie traps


While sauces and condiments offer flavor and texture, they also contain hidden calories and, often, sugar and sodium. Modify your order ahead and hold the aioli, cream sauce, or butter. Can't imagine that grilled chicken sandwich without the pesto? Order it on the side, and once at home, use it sparingly.

The bread basket

Many restaurants offer complimentary bread or tortilla chips within arm's reach when eating at a restaurant or throw it in the take-out orders. Choose to bring home the healthiest take-out food by leaving such extras at the restaurant. Chances are, you will get enough to eat from the main meal anyways!

Healthy salads at restaurants

Did you know that a one-ounce portion (two tablespoons) of regular creamy salad dressing has 130 calories and 13 grams of fat? Large or meal-sized salads often come with two ounces of dressing. With takeout, salad dressing is typically packaged separately. So, that's good news for easier portion control! Once home, dip your fork into the salad dressing before picking up a bite of salad. You'll still enjoy the flavor and save on fat and calories. Finally, most restaurant salads are big enough to feed two. Order the half salad with grilled meat on top for a complete meal if you are eating alone.

Did you know that salads are sometimes disguised as the healthiest take-out food? That's because of all the less-healthy extras on top of the greens. One way to make your salad healthier is to hold the toppings such as crispy noodles and cheese. Instead, choose grilled meats rather than fried, or opt for a vegetarian salad containing beans full of filling fiber and plant protein.

Finally, for extra calorie savings and a more nutritious meal, opt for a side salad instead of fries or chips when you crave a burger.

Use your own plate at home

Restaurant portions are larger than you'd make at home, which translates to more calories. In addition to larger portions, restaurant food contains more fat and sodium than home-cooked meals. So, dish up your meal onto your own plate instead of eating from the to-go container to control portions. If you're concerned the smaller portions won't fill you up, keep frozen veggies on hand to microwave and complement your meal.

Go ahead and treat yourself-sometimes

If you manage your weight and make healthy choices most of the time, there's no reason not to occasionally treat yourself to a more decadent meal instead of the healthiest take-out food on the menu. Take a minute and think about how the meal fits into your overall health plan and make sure to enjoy your special treat by eating mindfully.

Managing your weight long-term is all about finding balance. While one high-calorie, high-fat meal may leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable, it won't undo all of your hard work when it comes to managing your weight long-term. If you do end up overindulging, be kind to yourself. What might you say to a dieting friend who shares that she'd eaten an all-fried meal last night? You'd listen and support her while offering suggestions and encouragement. If you do over-do-it remember to be a friend to yourself!

Related Content:

Looking for a healthy breakfast when eating out?
Rethinking Burgers- Here's how to make a burger healthier
Yes, large portions of food do cause overeating- 7 simple tips to combat portion distortion

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Dining Out->Fast Food Dining Out->Portion Size & Calories Weight Loss->Food Environment
Nov 15, 2021

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