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Healthy Picks for Every Kind of Takeout Craving

Healthy Living
February 21, 2013

Thanks to the cold weather, takeout's becoming an increasingly frequent part of our lives, but that doesn't have to sabotage your healthy diet. Robyn Youkilis, national consultant for health for seamless.com, shares the nutritious picks that should be on your plate, from the local deli to your favorite Italian joint. By Ava Feuer, REDBOOK.

Pad Thai is a universal favorite, but it's also incredibly oily and eggy. If you love the stuff, ask for an appetizer portion, or try pad si-ew instead, a great dish into which to add a protein and extra vegetables. Chicken in a peanut sauce calling your name? Use Youkilis' sneaky trick, and order the sauce on the side along with an extra lime. Then, squeeze lime juice into the sauce, which will double its volume without adding any extra calories.


"In a deli, I tend to employ my good-better-best theory," says Youkilis. "You may not end up with the best option there, but you can end up with a good one." A whole chicken breast wins out over processed meats. Then, add as many veggies as possible to your sandwich and if you're craving pretzels or chips, have them, but skip one of the slices of bread on the sandwich. Instead of cheese and thick salad dressing, ask for hummus or avocado, two nutritious add-ons that are also creamy and satisfying.

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The cardinal rule of this cuisine is to avoid cream-based sauces, which given the huge variety of healthy options, isn't terribly difficult. Dal, a lentil soup with Indian spices, will help fill you up before the main event. Tandoori and tikka dishes, like chicken tikka masala, use no extra oil, and are chock-full of protein. Just avoid scraping the sauce off your plate before it's taken away, no matter how tempting it may be.

A healthy meal is all about prioritizing - and there's nowhere that's more true than your beloved cozy Italian spot. You don't have to eat pasta, bread, and fried calamari, but there's nothing wrong with chowing down on one of those things. If you're in the mood for noodles, start with a vegetable-based soup or green salad, and ask for your main dish in arrabiata sauce, a spicy tomato sauce with a bit of chili added to it. "When things are spicier, we tend to slow down and eat more mindfully," says Youkilis. "It just has a little bit of heat, and most likely, you'll be satisfied with having less." Steer clear of chicken or veal marsala, which despite being infused with mushrooms, are bathed in a butter sauce.

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Even if you haven't joined the gluten-free craze, you'd be wise to order your slice that way when whole-wheat crusts aren't on the menu. "Sometimes, they'll use healthy, more nutritionally dense flour in homemade gluten-free crust," says Youkilis. "That can be a little easier for your body to digest." Once you've worked out your base, ask for light cheese, plenty of veggies, and choose chicken over processed meats like sausage and pepperoni. Combined with a salad or minestrone, Italian wedding or vegetable, broth-based soup, one-and-a-half slices of pizza is nothing to feel guilty about.

Before you pick up your chopsticks, be aware that the ratio of grains to protein in rolls is a high one. However, there are lots of super-healthy options in this fish-based cuisine. Start with a sashimi appetizer - pure, clean protein - and follow with a roll wrapped in brown rice and a seaweed salad, which is rich in minerals such as iodine, and excellent for the thyroid. Detoxifying miso soup has been shown to up mental focus, and thanks to volumetrics, helps keep you full. "When you order sashimi, eat the daikon radish - that white shredded stuff," says Youkilis. "It's an incredible system cleanser, metabolism-booster, and a holistic diuretic." The ginger beside your dish is also excellent for digestion.

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Start by thinking about your overall well-being, not your weight, by ensuring your Sunday dinner-spot isn't using MSG. Studies have linked the concentrated salt to headaches, autoimmune disorders, and tummy troubles, so when you place your order, request that the seasoning be left out. Nutrition-wise, the worst offenders are deep fried, says Youkilis, whose favorite Chinese appetizers are steamed spring or egg rolls, or those wrapped in rice paper. For your main course, opt for a protein - chicken, beef, or bean curd - with as many leafy greens, such as bok choi, cabbage or broccoli as possible. "Ask for your dish very dry," says Youkilis. "That's restaurant code for less oil and butter, so they'll still put sauce on, but they'll put less of the fats they cook the food in."

All-American and super-satisfying, barbecue is a staple of our diets - especially in the summer. Whereas lean proteins like chicken fish are often available - and are better choices than brisket, pork, or ribs - we can run into trouble with side dishes. Vinegar-based slaws, grilled or steamed vegetables, and whole grains like black-eyed peas, baked beans, and sweet potatoes are excellent options. And although your afternoon might not be complete without cornbread, it should be treated like a member of the sweets and dessert category.

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