Healthier Takeout Choices for Weight Loss in 2021

Have you been ordering food more than ever since the pandemic started? After long days of work or school, getting food delivered can be a lifesaver. It eliminates grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning time, and overall, requires less effort. Though it can be a helpful timesaver, it doesn’t always lend the healthiest options. It’s easy to make unhealthy choices when ordering delivery or take-out, especially since we don’t know what ingredients are in the food.

But have no fear. We’re here to help! Here are three healthy takeout choices to make when ordering food.

3 Healthy Takeout Choices

1. Make Adjustments to Your Salad Dressing

Salads Are The Healthiest Foods; however, they’re not always an avenue for weight loss. Besides the toppings themselves, some salad dressings may contain a surplus of highly processed ingredients and unhealthy fats, often resulting in weight gain. Creamy condiments such as ranch dressing and thousand island often contain many chemicals and preservatives. However, oil-based salad dressings, such as a vinaigrette or plain extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and lemon juice, have minimal ingredients and are made naturally. And, even better, EVOO has been shown to aid in weight loss! According to an article by Julia T. Stadler and Gunther Marsche, “there is accumulating evidence that Mediterranean diet, especially when enriched with virgin olive oil, significantly enhances parameters of HDL atheroprotective functions” (1). HDL functions are critical components to managing inflammation and metabolism, which help with weight management and weight loss. When ordering a salad, ask for an oil-based dressing, order the dressing on the side, or feel free to even make your own salad dressing at home with EVOO, lemon juice, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper.

2. Choose Whole Grain Options

Consuming whole grains rather than refined grains provides you with more nutrients, increases satiety, and has been shown to promote weight loss. In an article by Henrik Munch Roager et al., scientists studied the effects of eating whole grains versus refined grains. Participants were randomly assigned a diet (either high in whole grains or refined grains) that they followed for eight weeks. Results showed that “compared with the refined grain diet, the whole grain diet reduced body weight … and fat-free mass” (2). Additionally, researchers found that “[t]he effects on inflammation and body weight were the net result of the refined grain diet increasing weight and inflammatory markers and the whole grain diet reducing these parameters” (2). Based on this study, it’s clear that refined grains may worsen inflammation and increase weight. On the other hand, whole grains are more beneficial in weight loss. You can choose whole grains when ordering food. Try brown rice, whole wheat pasta, Whole Wheat Pizza Crust, and a whole wheat burger bun.

3. Swap Out Fried Foods

French fries, fried chicken, onion rings, and many more fried foods are popularly sold at fast-food chains and restaurants. Though delicious and fun to incorporate at times, fried foods are correlated with weight gain. In an article by C. Sayon-Orea et al., scientists studied a group of men for six years. Researchers focused on the participants’ weight changes and fried food consumption. Results showed that “participants with higher fried food intake exhibited a higher total fat intake” (3). Additionally, researchers using weight gain as a continuous outcome variable found that “participants who consumed fried foods >4 times/week gained more weight than those who consumed <2 times/week” (3). Rather than ordering fried foods, choose items like baked potatoes, soft shell tacos, and fresh spring rolls.

The Bottom Line

Making healthy choices while ordering takeout requires little time or effort. Next time you order food to-go or get food delivered, challenge yourself to choose an oil-based salad dressing, add whole grains to your meal, or swap out fried foods! These small changes can promote Weight Loss and help with weight management.

Written by Cameron Kao

Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If I want to lose weight, does it mean I can’t ever order or eat these foods?
A: Weight loss does not mean eliminating all foods, especially foods you enjoy. A balanced diet, consisting of eating healthy foods and sometimes less nutritious foods, leads to a more long-term and sustainable weight loss. Completely restricting yourself from foods that make you happy to only eating healthy foods is not practical to lose weight.

Q: My family members and/or friends judge me when I order “healthier” options, discouraging me from making healthy food choices. What should I do?
A: It can be challenging, but try not to let anyone else make you feel embarrassed or ashamed for choosing healthy food options! You are making these choices to benefit your physical and mental health and feel good. If your loved ones judge you when you want to order healthy food, try explaining to them why you are doing so. They might even feel encouraged to Eat Healthily and also try ordering healthier options.

Q: How do I help and encourage my family members and/or friends to make these healthy choices?
A: Try these healthy takeout choices with your loved ones! They may end up enjoying these healthy foods even more than their usual less Healthy Options. If they don’t want the food and are unwilling to make these choices, don’t force it on them. It is not your place to control what they eat or make them eat foods that they don’t enjoy at the end of the day.