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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

Healthy Take Out: How to Order Your Family’s Favorite Foods

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Healthy Take Out: How to Order Your Family’s Favorite Foods

Learn how to make some of your favorite American take-out healthier for your family!

Carpool, work, soccer, piano, meetings, and everything else packed into your day can often leave you running up against dinnertime with tired, hungry kids and ZERO desire to cook that healthy dinner you had planned.  We’ve all been there – torn between the stress of just one more thing to do and the guilt of ordering in.  It’s time to ditch the guilt and embrace healthy take out!  You want what’s best for your family, and some days that means more time together around a quick and easy healthy takeout meal instead of stress over a wholesome home-cooked meal.

Even those super parents we all envy (How DO they get it all done?) know when to order takeout and where to find the best choices because they also know there are some serious benefits to taking it easy on those super busy days including:

  • Spending extra time with family – Cut out the time spent cooking and cleaning and cut straight to the healthy meal together, catching up on everything from the day while modeling healthy eating habits for kids.
  • Reducing stress – When life seems to be throwing everything it has at you, sometimes you just need to let someone else do the work.  Give yourself a break to reduce unnecessary stress and improve well-being.

Still not convinced?  Takeout isn’t just the greasy fries and breaded orange chicken we often think of.  Next time you’re crunched for time, rely on restaurants to give you a hand.  Here are some of our favorite go-to takeout choices and how to make them a healthy part of your family’s busy week:

Burgers – Forget the double cheeseburgers and greasy fries:

  • Load up burgers with veggies like lettuce, tomato, onions and more
  • Choose a simple burger with a salad or side of fruit for pickier eaters
  • Request a whole wheat bun whenever possible
  • Skip the higher calorie condiments like mayo and aioli
  • Try different patty options, including turkey, chicken, vegetarian and even salmon

Pizza – Make this American favorite a healthier takeout pick:

  • Choose whole wheat and/or thin crust when available
  • Include lots of veggies or for the non-veggie lovers, opt for fruit or a side salad
  • Top with lean proteins like chicken or even shrimp
  • Forget the double stuffed pizza and opt for less or more flavorful cheese like feta
  • Get everyone involved in building the perfect healthy pizza!

Chinese Food – This classic takeout option has plenty of healthy dishes to enjoy:

  • Request steamed brown rice in place of white for added fiber and nutrition
  • Order grilled, steamed and stir-fried options instead of breaded and fried choices
  • Make the most of the many veggie-rich choices from Broccoli Beef to Buddha’s Delight
  • Request sauces on the side to add as needed
  •  Make it fun with choices like steamed dumplings and spring rolls, perfect for little hands

Taco Shop – This can be a healthy take-out choice when you know what to order:

  • Request whole black or pinto beans instead of the standard refried beans
  • Opt for lean grilled proteins like seafood and chicken in burritos, tacos and combo plates
  • Forget the fried options and crispy tortilla shells
  • Order soft corn or whole wheat tortillas when available
  • Add LOTS of veggies such as lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and onions, whenever possible
  • Go easy on the extras like guacamole, sour cream and cheese, and make the most of those freshly made salsas.

Healthy takeout is possible and a great, stress-free way to spend time with your family.  When you focus on quality ingredients like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, ordering a healthier meal from restaurants that everyone can enjoy is easy.  What are your favorite healthy takeout options for busy family days?

For even more dining out tips, plus advice for eating on the road, check out this article.

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Healthy Dining Finder

Healthy Dining provides the digital tools and resources necessary to find the best restaurant choices for dietary goals and healthy lifestyles. Healthy Dining’s signature web and mobile site,, enables millions of nutrition-conscious restaurant diners, as well as those dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other nutrition-related conditions, to easily find dietitian-recommended Healthy Dining and Kids LiveWell choices. The site also provides inspiration for healthy eating through articles, blogs, and recipes. Visit to find the best restaurant choices…so you can be at your best!

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