10 Healthy take-out meals for 2019

How are you going to eat healthier in 2019? It depends on the definition. Do fewer calories make a meal healthy?


How are you going to eat healthier in 2019? It depends on how you define healthy. Do fewer calories, lower fat, fewer additives or higher ethics make a meal healthy?

What about time? True, your busy life makes healthy eating harder–but not impossible. You don’t have to eat in or dine out to eat well, but you do have to make better choices on the go.

Resolve to eat healthy with these 10 new year’s take out meal strategies:

1. Burgers

Healthy burgers? Yep. International Bareburger Organic’s menu boasts fresh, organic, non-GMO ingredients, like pasture-raised beef (or elk or wild boar) with organic hand cut fries or sweet potatoes and rice veggie patties.

But if fewer calories and lower fat define healthy, then even the most unsuspecting places sport healthy choices. Take, for instance, Burger King’s Junior size Whopper without mayo, with a side salad (Italian dressing), for 300 calories.

Size matters. You can eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger (no mayo or secret sauce) with a kid-size french fries for 400 calories and 17 fat grams–instead of a Big Mac.

2. Chicken

The American Heart Association reports chicken, fish and vegetables have less bad fat (saturated) and cholesterol, and so are better for your heart. Even with takeout, healthier chicken choices, like El Pollo Loco’s Mexican-style flame-grilled chicken with a citrus marinade, abound. And flame-grilled chicken beats out deep-fried, breaded chicken (KFC) in reducing unhealthy fats that contribute to obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  

But even KFC has healthier meals. Choose grilled drumsticks, skin removed, with green beans, mashed potatoes, and an unsweetened drink, for lower fat and fewer calories.

And McDonalds’ Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich with fruit will give you balanced calories among fat, carbs, proteins and sodium. The FDA recommends no more than 2400 mg of sodium a day to avoid heart disease, so cutting out the fries and fatty condiments lowers disease risk. You might even skip the bun for a lettuce-wrapped burger (protein style) lower in fat-turning carbs.

Also, remember dark meat is fattier than white. Chick-fil-A’s Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich (360 calories, 5g fat) is 100% white meat.

3.  Sandwiches

Sandwiches made with lean meats and veggies doused in oil and vinegar dressings like Jersey Mike’s “juice, ” and Subway’s oil or vinegar or both, atop wheat bread (more fiber than white) and a little mustard (lower fat than mayo) make a tasty, healthful meal. Choose 6 inches over 12, roast beef and turkey over tuna, and apple slices over chips.

Panera Bread also serves lean meat sandwiches with avocado, coupled with garden veggies or soup. Their reduced fat Signature and Cafe Sandwiches are better than butter-and-oil paninis. Order a lower fat broth based soup for the combo.

4. Mexican

Chipotle’s build your own menu advertises non-GMO and humanely raised animal foods. Again, choices and portions. Slathering on calorie-rich guacamole increases fat, but if you stay simple–black beans, brown rice, and sofritas or vegetarian bowl–you have a low-fat, fibrous meal.

And Wendy’s chili is only 310 calories without the cheese and crackers. Better yet, Baja Fresh’s Grilled Wahoo Fish Taco with Avocado has lower cholesterol fish over beef. Accompany with rice and beans for a complete protein. Skip the tortilla chips.

Even Taco Bell has a healthier Fresco menu, featuring high protein and fiber grilled steak soft tacos with black beans at 150 calories and 5 fat grams.

5. Asian

Whether Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese or Korean takeout, Asian greens are high in fiber and vitamins. Chinese broccoli or bok choy, cabbage steamed or wok fried in ginger, garlic, and sesame oil, all add taste and tremendous benefits to hair, skin and heart into your diet.

Salt and peppered proteins like shrimp, beef, soft-shell crab or tofu are light but tasty take out: no cornstarch or salty sauces.

Though many Asian dishes are sauteed in oil, you can opt for dishes steamed in oyster sauce.

6. Salads

Conscious eats, like Panera Bread’s salads, are antibiotic-free, with daily fresh baked bread. They also donate leftovers to charity. And healthy, Boston-based Sweetgreen features a fresh, in-season, locavore menu–mostly vegetarian–so if you’re a meat eater, you might try California’s Tender Greens “farm to fork” menu, including fish and steak. Or take out on Meatless Mondays.

Typically you can get salads at most fast food restaurants. Side salads with your sandwich or burger avoid the greasy fries. Many chains offer light salad dressings, like Arby’s side salad with light Italian dressing.

Finally, anything at Chipotle can be a healthy salad – without the fat dressing–if you skip the cheese, sour cream, guacamole and tortillas (under 400 calories).

7. Wraps

McDonalds’ Grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap with the Southwest Chicken Salad (hold the chicken) and apple slices is low-fat (12.5 grams), low calorie (405) take out. And Wendy’s Chicken Go Wrap is only 260 calories. Their á la carte menu allows sizing and portion control; avoiding fast food combos is always healthier.

The exception is Starbucks, which boxes up Chipotle (white meat) Chicken with pepper jack cheese, tomato-avocado salsa, on a whole wheat wrap in their ready-made Bistro Box. It comes with side slaw and dark chocolate. Pair that 390 calorie lunch with a nonfat latte to go.  

8. Fish

Unless you’re ordering fresh grilled fish without the fattening sauces, healthy fast food fish is rare. But if you want a little calorie splurge, you have Burger King’s Premium Alaskan Fish Sandwich without tartar sauce with a salad, all for 450 calories.

9. Health Food

Healthy food take-out means fresh, tasty and healthy. And while LYFE Kitchen isn’t exactly healthy food, its menu is relatively low calorie: everything under 600 calories and nothing is fried. Vegan and gluten-free items a’ plenty too.

LocoL is a new fast food chain located in underserved communities in California, offering affordable, healthier burgers with 70% beef, 30% grains, and tofu. And the British chain, Pret A Manger, opened its Eastern U.S. stores selling pre-made soups, and other whole grain and organic foods. They too donate leftovers to charity. Finally, Sheetz started uniquely as a gas station/fast food stop but morphed into a convenience store carries ready-mades to order. You can also get espresso and smoothies.

10. Smoothies and Coffee

And speaking of smoothies, Jamba Juice smoothies are popular vitamin-packed meal substitutes. On the coffee side, Starbucks’ parfaits with a tall coffee is a great breakfast under 300 calories. And you get probiotics, vitamin C, fiber, and oxidant-rich coffee.

With so many fast, healthy options, what’s your excuse for not eating healthier in 2019?


Image 1: El Pollo loco

Image 2: Asian foods

Pamela Gerber
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