How to Find Healthy Take-Out Options on a Budget

365: Day 252, chinese food picnic.

Ordering take-out is a great way to get your meal in a hurry. Whether you have had a long day at the office and need a break, want to avoid having a pile of dishes later or just want to enjoy your favorite meals without grocery shopping and cooking, ordering take-out foods can seem like the perfect solution. Unfortunately, there are two major problems with ordering take-out foods. The first is the expense, which can be significantly higher than if you made a meal from scratch at home. The second problem is the nutrition, since many dishes from take-out restaurants will be higher in fat and calories than homemade alternatives. If you enjoy ordering take-out but want to save money and calories, use these tips when ordering at your favorite restaurants.

Chinese Dining

Like most Asian cuisines, Chinese food can be made to be very healthy with just a few key requests. Instead of ordering fried chicken dishes or stir fried pork, choose vegetable based dishes for fewer calories. Whenever possible, ask to exchange white rice for brown rice. Brown rice will have more protein and fiber to fill you up faster. This can also be a money saving tip. By ordering brown rice instead of white, you can eat less of the portion. Split your meal in half and save the second portion for the next day. Avoid ordering Chinese appetizers, most of which are fried, unhealthy and overpriced. While the entrees can be affordable, the appetizers have the greatest markup for the restaurant and are rarely nutritious.

Mexican Favorites

When it comes to cuisine from south of the border, your best bet is to stick with simple menu items. A soft corn tortilla with chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, a sprinkle of cheese and salsa is actually very nutritious and delicious. If you choose to have fried flour tortillas and add cheese, beef, sour cream and guacamole to the dish, you will end up with many more calories and fat grams. It will also undoubtedly be more expensive than the simple corn tortilla taco. The most affordable and often healthiest dish on the menu of any Mexican restaurant is rice and beans. Order one portion of this to share and one entree to share among two people. This will cut down your calories and be cheaper than ordering two main courses.

Italian Cuisine

Many Italian foods have a bad reputation for being unhealthy. While it is certainly true that baked pastas covered in cheese or deep dish pizzas may not be the most low calorie fare on the menu, it can be surprisingly affordable. When it comes to Italian food, your best best is portion control. An inexpensive cheese pizza is a smart choice if you are able to limit your dinner to two slices rather than the whole pie. If you choose to order pasta dishes, always opt for a red sauce rather than a white sauce. The white sauce will almost always have more fat and calories, all without the added nutrition of tomatoes in the red sauce.

Everyone loves that take-out foods are convenient, but with these tips you can also ensure that your delivery meals are healthy and affordable. Armed with knowledge about nutrition and budgeting, your take-out ordering skills can ensure that you enjoy something delicious, cheap and even nutritious on any night of the week.

Renee Varney is a freelance blogger and occasionally writes for a site she loves using to find local Fast Food Delivered using their Food Delivery NYC Online directory.

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