No study or statistic will ever make me give up pizza.
Spinach and vegetable soups are okay, but pizza’s cheesy goodness fills a void in my stomach (and heart, if I'm being totally honest). For all my lofty fitness goals, a day always comes when greasy takeout is the only thing I can even consider ordering.
Luckily, the frequency of my Seamless orders doesn't have to be directly proportional to the circumference of my thighs. I chatted with Hanna Trundle, a registered dietitian, about smart swaps to make that don’t involve giving up your favorite Monday night delivery meals.
Consider these the 10 commandments of takeout.
1. Start with soup.
If you’re planning on Asian food, begin with a broth-based soup that’s blessedly light on calories. Miso, hot and sour and wonton soup are all options that’ll make you fuller without feeling like the “dieting friend” everyone hates.
2. When it doubt, drop the fried food.
Trying to step up your takeout game is all about making small sacrifices that still allow you to eat the most important part of the meal.
With that in mind, your best option is choosing food that’s not deep fried. You’ll save on calories and fat by switching out egg rolls for spring rolls and General Tso’s for chicken and broccoli.
3. Lean protein beats pork, every time.
Less bad fat is always a good thing, so Trundle recommends prioritizing non-meat proteins like tofu and veggie burgers. If you’re a carnivore through and through, choose shrimp or chicken over fatty pork.
4. Add vegetables like they’re going out of style.
Nearly every takeout spot allows extra veggies, so capitalize on them as nutritional powerhouses that don’t interrupt the taste of your takeout.
“By adding the vegetables, it usually takes off a lot of the grease and a lot of the cheese [off pizza],” Trundle adds. "That’s an easy way of just getting more vitamins, minerals, fiber but also enjoying your pizza, too.”
5. The sauce goes on the side.
In the rush to get orders out the door, restaurants often coat food in far more sauce than the amount needed for taste. Make sure to order any sauce — peanut, hot, ketchup — on the side as a way to evade weight gain and bloat.
6. Portion size is important.
Dozens of articles about how chic French girls stay thin come to the same point. It doesn’t matter that you eat the cake, it’s how much of the cake you eat. Be cognizant of larger family-style servings, particularly in Thai and Chinese meals. When it comes to sushi, cut down by ordering slightly smaller hand rolls instead of traditional style.
7. Condiments can be killer.
Ketchup, ranch dressing and duck sauce make fast food taste good, but they have zero nutritional value. I know this because I made Trundle reiterate it twice while I mourned.
Instead of a sugary, salty sauce, look for lighter options like mustard and hot sauce. All the flavor, none of the bloat.
8. Cheese less to eat more.
Here, Trundle makes an important point: The difference between one and two slices of swiss on top of a hamburger doesn't mean much to your taste buds. That distinction, however, will save you 100 calories or more in the grand scheme of things.
9. Fiber is your friend.
Some of the easiest changes amend the nutritional content of your food, but not its taste. Trundle stands by sweet potato fries as a fibrous alternative to their French friends, as well as brown rice subbed in for white. A little added fiber goes a long way, as anyone who's eaten too much whole wheat pizza in one sitting could tell you.
10. Taste the filling, not the wrapper.
The easiest decision you'll ever make is deciding to skip the bread wrapper on your favorite dish. Burrito bowls are always lighter than their tubular equivalents, and Naruto rolls made with cucumber skip the rice entirely.