Tonight, I will not step into the kitchen. I will not open the refrigerator, turn on the stove or wash a dish. We will eat takeout for dinner. And I don’t feel an ounce of maternal guilt, because my city is full of healthful takeout possibilities.
Every eatery offers menu items that are more healthful than others. Choose wisely, and ask questions if you are unclear about the ingredients or the grams of sugar in your order.
▪ Order as many vegetables as possible. Add extra bok choy to your Chinese dish or broccoli to your burrito.
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▪ Choose brown rice or another whole grain (such as quinoa or farro) rather than white rice or noodles.
▪ Steer clear of fried items to avoid unhealthful fats and skip anything heavily sauced, as high amounts of sodium and sugar often hide in sauces.
▪ Pay attention to serving sizes. Typical Chinese and Thai takeout dishes are usually two servings.
▪ Plan ahead. Investigate the menus online before you arrive at the restaurant. Some restaurants, like Zoe’s Kitchen, have nutrition calculators so you can see exactly how much sugar, sodium and fat your hypothetical order would serve up.
Best bets: Seaweed salads, steamed edamame, sashimi, brown rice.
▪ Avoid anything labeled “crispy,” as it is usually deep-fried.
▪ If you want crunch with your roll, skip the tempura and request a topping of chopped nuts or the addition of crispy salmon skin in your roll.
Best bets: Brown rice, steamed or lightly stir-fried meat or vegetables, steamed edamame, asking for sauces on the side.
▪ Add extra bok choy, broccoli and green beans for additional fiber, nutrients and a more filling meal.
▪ Sometimes Asian restaurants will quickly deep-fry the vegetables before stir-frying, so request that they do not.
▪ Some places oil-saute their edamame after steaming for extra flavor, so request that they simply steam.
▪ Summer rolls are preferable to fried egg rolls.
▪ Order steamed vegetable or shrimp dumplings rather than fried or meat dumplings.
▪ Request low-sodium soy sauce or tamari.
▪ Avoid the puffy shrimp chips: They are not as “light” as they may seem.
▪ Ask how much sodium is in a soup or pho broth.
Best bets: Brown rice and salad bowls are a better choice than anything in a tortilla or hard taco shell.
▪ Organic corn tortillas trump flour-based.
▪ Soft tacos are generally preferable to the fried hard ones.
▪ Load on the veggies and protein and skip the sour cream, refried beans and cheese.
▪ Reasonable amounts of guacamole or sliced avocado are a good source of healthful fats and protein.
▪ Limit the chips, as they are usually fried.
Best bets: Salads or whole-grain bowls with lots of vegetables, beans, lean or baked proteins and hummus.
▪ Avoid deep-fried items.
▪ Limit the bread and chips.
Best bets: Tons of vegetables, lean meats, beans, whole grains, egg and avocado.
▪ Limit the croutons and bread.
▪ Avoid deep-fried toppings.
▪ Scrutinize the salad dressing ingredients, watching for high amounts of sodium, sugar and unhealthful fats.
▪ Use only as much dressing as you need.
Best bets: Tandoori-grilled meats, brown rice, vegetable and legume side dishes.
▪ Indian spices such as turmeric and cardamom are very healthful.
▪ Roti is a whole-wheat, more healthful and filling version of the white-flour naan.
▪ Be careful not to overdo the rice; stick to one serving size.
▪ Be wary of cream-based sauces.
▪ If you would like a creamy balance to the spices, order the yogurt-cucumber raita.
▪ Skip the samosas.
▪ If you are unsure what something on the menu contains, ask for a list of ingredients.
Best bets: Salads, vegetables and lean proteins are better choices than pastas and pizzas.
▪ If ordering a pizza, opt for a thin whole-wheat crust and add as many vegetables as possible.
▪ Pass on the bread basket.
▪ Limit cream sauces.
Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a Washington, D.C.-based nutrition education company.