Expert Advice

Can takeout food be healthy?

Can takeout food be healthy?
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YES. If you make smart choices. Try these cuisine-specific tips:

Chinese: Check to see that the restaurant doesn’t use monosodium glutamate (MSG)—a flavor enhancer that can cause rapid heartbeat, breathing problems, and bloating—and that it uses fresh veggies rather than canned. Choose fish dishes over meat to get the omega-3 content. Stick to brown jasmine rice, which is high in fiber, and ask for steamed veggies like bok choy and Chinese broccoli to boost your intake of vitamins A and E.

Japanese: If you like noodle dishes, order soba (buckwheat) noodles, which are rich in protein. Ask for dishes with fermented soy foods such as miso and tempeh, which contain probiotics, beneficial bacteria that support your digestive system. If you like soy sauce (which is high in sodium), ask for it on the side so you control how much you use. Thai: Try tom yum soup. It contains coconut milk, a source of “healthy” fat, along with immuneboosting spices and vegetables. Order steamed veggies (not fried), fiber-rich brown basmati rice, and ginger tea, which aids digestion. Italian: Order a thin-crust pizza (whole wheat or spelt) with half the cheese or buffalo milk mozzarella, and veggie toppings like peppers, mushrooms, and onions.

Middle Eastern: Start with lentil soup, which has fiber and is filling, and then follow with hummus (made from chickpeas). Skip the baba ganoush (eggplant) if it is made with mayonnaise. Try whole wheat or whole-grain pita bread.

Indian: Order some aloo gobi, (a nutritious meal of potatoes, ginger, and cauliflower), or tandoori shrimp, and mixed vegetable curries, or chutneys.
—Jeannie Cook, R.H.N., founder and president of Health Thru Nutrition consultancy, Toronto, Canada