New Jersey Bariatric Center
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Tips for Ordering Healthier Takeout


We all need a break from prepping and cooking, especially now, but deciding what to order while maintaining your health goals isn’t always easy.  Here are a few tips to consider the next time you decide to order takeout along with the best (and worst) selections from popular cuisines.



Tips for Takeout

  • Always choose a balance of protein, fiber and healthy fat that will keep you full and avoid blood sugar highs and lows.
  • If nothing on the menu seems right, ask about creating your own dish.  Some restaurants are used to accommodating individual dietary needs.
  • Don’t drink your calories.  Low-fat milk or protein shakes are the exception to this rule, but sugary beverages like juice, sports drinks, coffee creations and soda are mostly empty calories and should be avoided.
  • This may seem selfish but when ordering for more than one person, order yours first.  We tend to order in a similar fashion to others that we’re eating with, so going first means you’re more likely to stick with your original, healthy choice.
  • The two pillars of healthy eating for weight loss or following bariatric surgery are WHAT and HOW MUCH.  Sometimes a high-protein appetizer or two can make a satisfying meal.  Also, take advantage of takeout and order a children’s portion - no one will know!
  • Plan ahead by checking out menus either the day before or a few hours prior to ordering. Knowing what you’ll have for lunch or dinner helps with planning the rest of your daily meals .


  • The healthiest pizza choice is 1 or 2 slices of a thin crust pie loaded with veggie toppings. Add some grilled chicken for even more protein and you’ll be able to indulge without derailing your efforts. 
  • Starting the meal with a garden salad can help curb the tendency to reach for a third (or fourth) slice.
  • Avoid cream sauces or anything fried such as veal/chicken/eggplant Parmesan as they tend to be high in calories and fat. 
  • Best bets are entrees with grilled or broiled seafood, chicken or shrimp, fra diavolo, cioppino, red clam sauce and tomato-based sauces with veggies and some type of meat or seafood. 
  • If you simply can’t resist the pasta, ask for a small side order and eat it last. 


  • Fajita platters minus the tortillas and rice are flavorful and filling. Start with any of the lean protein options usually available such as shrimp, salmon, chicken breast, pork loin or flank steak. Ask for a side of shredded lettuce instead of rice and pile on the fajita veggies. A small serving of beans provides slow-burning carbs and bulks up the fiber, too.  
  • Build-your-own salads are also a great choice so you can control what goes on your plate. Start with a bed of lettuce then add a protein like chicken or pork, and top with pico de gallo, beans and only a small amount of olives, shredded cheese or guacamole.

Thai and Chinese

  • Choices that will please your palate and still keep you on track include seafood or hot and sour soup, grilled chicken or shrimp skewers, Thai summer rolls, and chicken lettuce wraps. 
  • Sometimes one or two appetizers can make a meal, but if you’re looking for an entrée, stick with any stir-fried (not deep-fried) protein and vegetables. Think beef with broccoli, shrimp with mixed veggies, or tofu and eggplant. White sauces may be lighter in oil than brown, but always ask about the preparation to be sure.
  • Steer clear of noodle dishes like pad thai, dumplings and lo mein. Ditto for battered and fried meat or seafood like General Tsao’s chicken or Sweet and Sour Pork. 
  • Abstain from fried rice, egg rolls, spring rolls, tempura anything, and menu items described as “crunchy” or “crispy” that are most likely fried in oil.


  • One tip to incorporate no matter what you order is to eat with chopsticks.  They’re likely to slow down the pace of eating which can result in fewer calories overall.
  • Best bets for appetizers include a green salad with avocado or seaweed salad with sashimi, edamame (green soybeans), seared tuna, and miso soup.  
  • If sushi is your thing, ask for rolls to be made without rice or order sashimi with a small traditional roll.  Avoid ingredients like crunch, tempura, sweet sauce, and mayonnaise to keep sugar and fat calories in check.  And ask about the ingredients in any spicy or special sauces if you’re unsure. 
  • Avoid udon and soba noodles  which are typically high in carbohydrates due to the large portion size.  
  • Stick with entrees like teriyaki chicken, shrimp, or tofu with veggies which are all good choices as long as you leave off the side of rice.  
  • Brown rice isn’t much better than white.  While it may have slightly more fiber, total carbohydrates and calories are basically the same.


  • The healthiest choices include anything with veggies and lean meats or seafood, such as prawn, chicken or lamb kabobs. 
  • Yellow lentils prepared with less fat and a side of paneer are also good choices if you’re looking for a higher-protein vegetarian option. 
  • Tandoori dishes, prepared by marinating fish or meat in yogurt and spices then cooking in a clay tandoor, are typically loaded with flavor without excess fat.
  • Pair with a side of veggies and you’ve got a super healthy and delicious option. 
  • Skip over the samosas and padoka, which are high in carbohydrate and fat calories. Paneer, a full-fat cheese common in many vegetarian dishes and sauces, can be a good source of protein, but should be eaten in moderation due to the potential for high calories. Stick with a half-cup portion and pair with veggies and other lower-calorie fare.
  • Avoid ghee-based sauces, such as butter chicken or dum aloo, as well as malai, a heavy cream used in many sweet and savory dishes. It’s also best to skip the naan, a traditional Indian bread made of refined flour and brushed with ghee for added flavor.
  • Passing on the rice and breads will help avoid unnecessary carbs while keeping protein front and center. Finish your meal with a delicious cup of tea instead of a sugary dessert to end your night out on a healthy note.

BBQ /Chicken Restaurants

  • If grilled chicken pieces are an option go for those.  If not, choose one or two pieces of fried chicken with the skin removed.  
  • If ribs are your thing, they’re a good source of protein but are usually higher in fat and calories.  Boiling them first cooks off a lot of the fat, so ask your server what the leanest choice is they offer.  
  • When it comes to seasoning, a dry-rub will usually have less sugar and calories than liquid barbecue sauce.  
  • Choose a side dish carefully and opt for non-starchy veggies like a side salad, grilled asparagus or mushrooms, or green beans.  A small order of coleslaw or ½ ear of corn would be the next best choices.


  1. Mendez, E. Adults take in 200 more calories per day when they eat out. Published August 15, 2014. Accessed August 7, 2015.
  2. Hamm, T. Don’t eat out as often. Published July 31, 2014. Accessed August 7, 2015.
  3. The State of Obesity. Fast facts: Americans’ eating habits. Accessed August 7, 2015.
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