Believe it or not, although I am a cooking fiend, I do, from time to time, succumb to take-out.
Usually it’s pizza: Cheese or spinach, now that I’m not eating meat. There’s just something about Friday nights, my cool basement (even in summer) and movies that screams pizza. And although I rarely indulge in Chinese because of my soy allergy, if it’s what’s being served I like to know what I can eat ahead of time. Mexican? I’ve got that down. Italian? No sweat.
Do you break out in a sweat every time you head out to a restaurant or order take-out, confused and bewildered by all the options, never sure what’s worse, a creamy sauce or a thick breading? Check out my list below and you’ll know whether you should love it or leave it next time.
Love it: Steamed shrimp and veggies — they’ll be fresh and oil free, which is absolutely your best bet. (And don’t skip the fortune cookie, it’s only 45 calories!)
Leave it: General Tso’s chicken — you could be eating a day’s worth of calories.
Love it: Stick with sashimi. White rice = empty calories. Just don’t eat too much tuna.
Leave it: Tempura. Sounds exotic but translates to deep-fried and calorie laden.
Love it: Order the fresh fish from the specials menu, as long as it’s wild-caught and doesn’t come in a cream sauce, with cheese or is fried. If that’s the case, try their roasted chicken.
Leave it: If you’re anything like me and can’t avoid the breadbasket, skip the pasta AND the dessert. I can’t say no to wine and bread, so I have to say no to the “optional” carbs.
Love it: Go for a regular veggie sub or double the lean meat and halve the bread. Pile on the lettuce, tomatoes and peppers, choose low-calorie condiments like mustard and you’ll be set.
Leave it: Repeat after me: Meatball subs are the devil. Just. Don’t!
Love it: Order the chicken fajitas, but don’t use all of your tortillas. Fill up one or two with chicken and veggies, and skip the sour cream. Pile on all the salsa you want, and a dab of guacamole is OK too — it may be high in calories, but it’s full of healthy fat.
Leave it: If meatball subs are the devil, chimichangas are el diablo! Take a burrito the size of your head, then deep fry it. Great idea, right? Gross! Do not, under any circumstances, order this. And if you really want to be good, tell the waiter you’re allergic to corn. No chips for you. Sweet!
Convenience store/gas station
Love it: Pick up an apple or a banana from the counter, if available, and a jar of overpriced (sorry!) peanut butter. If there’s no fruit, check the fridge for yogurt, or spread the PB on some whole grain crackers or bread. If you look hard enough, you can find something healthy anywhere.
Leave it: Where to begin…chips, candy bars, ice cream, giant sodas, disgusting revolving hot dog machines, microwaveable taquitos, frozen slushy slurpy sugar bombs – just turn the other cheek. You can do so much better than that.
Love it: Hate me now or hate me later — but try herbal tea for once. Lots of them have caffeine anyways, and very few need much sweetener, if any. Think you need your joe? Go nonfat on the milk and skip the flavored syrups. If that’s what you want, you’re really craving sugar, not coffee. Feed your sweet tooth (wisely) elsewhere.
Leave it: Okay, hate me now. Nothing healthy comes in a 20-ounce cup with four inches of whipped cream on top. If you must frap, go Coffee Light in the smallest size possible. (Some cafes will serve you a “short” or kiddie size even if they’re not listed on the menu.)
Love it: Two words — turkey and whole-wheat. (Is that three words?) Make sure your sandwich isn’t premade (God knows what they put on there and how long it’s been sitting), and order the turkey on whole wheat with mustard and whatever veggies you can. Get an apple on the side to serve as the crunch factor and you’re off.
Leave it: Stay away from any sandwich that has the word “salad” in it. That’s code for fat, cholesterol and mayo.
Diner, drive-in or dive (oh yes I did)
Love it: Egg-white omelet with spinach and onions. You can even skip the cheese; I swear it will still be good with salt, pepper and a piece of dry toast! Suck down that coffee and you’ll lack nothing.
Leave it: Why waste your calories on gooey, mushy pancakes? Are they really better than something you could make at home? I guarantee that your version would be healthier. Save the “cake” for your b-day.
Love it: Enjoy one to two (triangle) slices of veggie pizza. Don’t think cheese is better because less stuff means fewer calories. Eat your nutrients; don’t neglect them just because you’re too lazy to cook tonight.
Leave it: Stuffed anything means you’ll be uncomfortably stuffed later. Thin crust is best, and make sure to eat slowly so you realize when you’re getting full. Stop there and don’t look back.
Did I miss anything? Let me know what your favorite take-out or restaurant is, and let’s hash it out together. Unless you live in NYC, a lot of eating establishments are probably still hesitant to publish their nutrition info — so you have to be vigilant. But you can still eat out without fear, and, of course, take home a doggy bag. Leftovers for lunch mean one less thing to do tomorrow. Hurray for that!