We asked three families to share their typical order of Chinese, Thai or Indian takeaways. Dr Bilinski provides tips on how to get the best out of each of these cuisines.
Look for lean proteins such as seafood, lean pork or chicken breast, or meat alternatives such as tofu (avoid the deep-fried version though) and steer clear of fatty meat such as duck.
When ordering sauce with your stir-fry, Bilinski recommends oyster and soy. “While they’re high in salt, they tend not to be as high in sugar and fats as opposed to sweet-and-sour sauce, for example.”
Kim & Jonathan
Kim and her partner Jonathan generally order takeaway three to four times a week. Kim says she tries to make healthy food choices when cooking at home, but when dining out tends to have a more relaxed attitude. She particularly likes choosing items on a menu that are complicated or difficult to replicate at home.
- Steamed prawn dumplings
- Duck with XO sauce
- Chicken with cashew nut
- Stir-fried mixed vegetables
- Chinese broccoli
Dr Bilinski says: The steamed prawn dumplings are a good choice. If you can find steamed dumplings or spring rolls, they’re much better options than fried ones. But most dumplings are essentially just bread with meat inside, so they’re not very balanced. The duck with XO sauce isn’t a great option because duck tends to be very high in fat. The chicken with cashew nut is a better choice, as it tends to be leaner. Keep in mind too that Chinese sauces can be high in salt. The stir-fried mixed vegetables and Chinese broccoli are much better choices.
Thai cuisine offers some of the better choices when it comes to takeaway, Bilinski says. She advises against fried or battered foods, curries made with coconut milk or cream, and richer sauces.
Thai salads are a great option as they tend to have less oil. Steamed fish and raw food such as fresh rice paper rolls are also good choices, as are clear soups (though they can be high in salt). But beware, sugar is big in Thai cuisine.
And that perennial favourite, pad Thai? “It’s basically carbohydrate and the peanut-based sauce, which is quite rich,” says Bilinski.
Steve, Deborah, Daniel & Prudence
Steve and Deborah live with their twin children Daniel and Prudence, aged 21. Steve says the family makes healthy food choices, and Steve and Daniel recently became vegans.
- Fried spring rolls
- Vegan fresh rice paper rolls
- Satay chicken
- Vegetarian tom kha soup
- Pad Thai with chicken
- Pad see ew (vegetarian)
- Jasmine rice (large)
Dr Bilinski says: The fried spring rolls aren’t great and neither is the tom kha, as it’s high in fat from its coconut base. Grilled satay chicken is good but can come with lots of sauce, so ask for it on the side. The pad Thai and pad see ew noodles may be very high in kilojoules due to the noodles.
Indian can be a tricky cuisine for the health-conscious, with many curries containing ghee, a type of clarified butter.
When choosing a curry, steer away from coconut milk or cream-based concoctions – you’re better off with a tomato-based one. “Even something like dal may contain a lot of saturated fat,” Bilinski says.
Darrin, Liz, Delia & Lenny
Darrin and his wife Liz have two young children, Delia and Lenny, and they eat takeaway food once or twice a week. They occasionally treat themselves, but mostly they try to eat healthily.
- Pappadums (two serves)
- Vegetable samosa
- Butter chicken
- Palak paneer
- Mixed vegetable curry
- Garlic naan
- Steamed rice
- Cucumber raita
Dr Bilinski says: Fried pappadums and vegetable samosas aren’t a great choice because they're likely to be deep fried. The butter chicken and garlic naan are high in fat. The palak paneer could be a good choice as long as it comes with a non-ghee sauce, as it contains cottage cheese and spinach. The mixed vegetable curry isn’t ideal if it comes with a coconut base, but if it’s tomato-based it’s fine. The cucumber raita and steamed rice are good choices.
*** SOURCE: NUTTAB nutrient data.