Our in-house dietitians Anna and Alex are all about encouraging regular home cooked family meals. But they get it, sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and other times you simply need a night off from cooking.
Queue: time for takeaway!
Takeaway foods can be enjoyed as part of a healthy eating plan, if they are consumed occasionally and in smaller portions. However, Australian families are eating out more than ever before, with these takeaway meals often being higher in fat, salt and sugar than a home-cooked meal.
While the adult dining experience has come a long way in recent years, most kids’ menus are still stuck in the past, offering fast, deep-fried options with minimal nutritional value, making it difficult for parents to ensure their kids can enjoy a fresh, delicious meal when they’re having a night off from cooking.
Luckily, our dietitians have done some digging and found 6 healthy takeaway options to keep in mind for the next time you feel like ordering takeout!
Sushi can be a great option, particularly since it’s so popular amongst kids. We recommend choosing brown rice if possible, as this will boost the nutritional value of the sushi, keeping you and your kids feeling fuller for longer.
Steer clear of deep-fried fillings and opt for simpler options containing veggies and lean protein like chicken, cooked tuna or cooked salmon. Sushi options that contain lean protein, vegetables and avocado can be a nutritious, healthy meal, and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. Omega-3 fatty acids support children’s brain and eye development. And for the little ones, mini sushi rolls make an easy, delicious option, perfect for little hands!
2. Pad Thai with extra veggies
Whilst traditional Thai food is made with flavourful, good-for-you ingredients, unfortunately the food you’ll find in most takeaway Thai joints can be laden with sugar, salt and fat.
If making your own Thai style curry or stir fry at home is out of the question, there are some healthier options you can look for on the menu to feed your family.
Pad Thai is a menu staple of Thai restaurants and a dish kids generally love. It’s made from rice noodles sauteed with spices, peanuts, egg, and bean sprouts. Choose a lean protein to go with it like chicken, prawns or tofu and extra veggies for fibre and vitamins. You could try mixing the extra vegetables through the dish before serving your child.
3. Pizza and Veggies
Good news: you don’t have to ditch pizza altogether!
There are a few simple things to keep in mind when ordering pizza to ensure it’s a nutritious, satiating option for your family:
- Opt for a thin crust over a thick or cheese-stuffed crust.
- Add as many vegetable toppings to your pizza as possible.
- Steer clear of pizzas loaded with processed meats like bacon, salami and chorizo.
- Order enough for a 2-3 of slices per person, then order some salad or vegetables to serve alongside the pizza to bulk up the meal and make it more nutritious.
- Ditch the garlic bread.
Pizza can actually be an effective way to sneak some veggies into your kids’ dinners, so make sure you browse the menu for a veggie packed option.
4. Vietnamese Rolls
Vietnamese is generally considered to be a healthy cuisine. Rice paper rolls are a great choice, as they’re often packed full of veggies and herbs, giving you loads of flavour without added fats or oils. Make sure you choose an option with a good source of lean protein such as duck, pork, chicken, prawn or tofu, to help you and your family feel full, and provide you with the energy you need. Stick to thin, light dipping sauces, avoiding thicker sauces which are usually made with peanut paste and coconut oil.
5. Grilled or lightly crumbed fish
There are many health benefits associated with eating fish, but the classic battered fish and chips is packed with unhealthy fats and salt.
Instead, opt for grilled or lightly crumbed fish and a salad, or see if you can swap half your chips for greens. Some of the best fish choices include salmon, which is full of healthy fats to support cognitive health and inflammation, as well as flathead, snapper and mackerel. Yum!
6. BBQ Chicken and Veggies
A BBQ chicken can be a great option for a quick and convenient family meal, pending a few decisions…
The main thing to be mindful of is which part of the chicken you opt for, and the accompanying side you choose. If you can, we recommend choosing the chicken breast, and removing the skin prior to eating if possible. Then, rather than opting for a creamy pasta salad or a side of chips, stick to some greens and veggies.
7. Mexican Bowls
Mexican offers plenty of healthier options for the family. A burrito without the tortilla might be a little easier for your child to eat and can allow for the addition of extra veggies. Opt for fillings like brown rice, tomato, lettuce and avocado and pending how adventurous your child is, black beans is a very nutritious addition!
Other tips when ordering takeaway
- Talk to your child about the different menu options and encourage balance. For example, if your child orders a burger, encourage them to order a side of veggies instead of chips to accompany it.
- Avoid soft drinks. Sugary drinks are devoid of nutritional value, not to mention terrible for dental health. Opt for water wherever possible, otherwise serve 100% fruit juice.
- Let your child choose what they want to eat, but don’t let them choose from everything on the menu. Anything crispy or deep-fried is going to be packed full of saturated fats and nasties, so encourage them to look to the healthy options like a vegetable stir fry.
- Make veggies part of the main event. Add vegetables wherever possible when ordering takeaway, whether it be ordering a side of grilled veggies, or asking for extra vegetable toppings on your meal. Teach your kids that even though you’re ordering out, it’s still important to eat your vegetables.
- Be a good role model. Show your children you value healthy eating by choosing a meal that includes vegetables, and ordering a healthy drink (or sticking to a glass of water!) to go with it.
- This article was written by Anna and Alex who are Only About Children‘s Accredited Practicing Dietitians. Original article can be found here.
- For some delicious kid-friendly recipes, click here.