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Healthy takeaway food for kids

Friday, May 13, 2011
Healthy takeaway food for kids
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Question: My kids like to have takeaway one night a week. What are the healthiest options?

Answer: Takeaway food is a convenient option for a time-poor parent, but you need to be careful what you choose, as it tends to be high in fat, salt, and sugar, and low in fibre, vitamins, and minerals, and it is marketed in such a way as to encourage you to eat more than you actually want. Keep these tips in mind:

Asian
Skip the fried rice, deep-fried spring rolls and dim sims, as fried food is higher in kilojoules and fat.

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Pick steamed rice, steamed or poached dumplings, and main dishes that are high in protein. For example, chicken with almonds or prawns and tofu with lightly cooked Asian leafy greens (eg: bok choy).

Choose low-salt soy or tamari sauce, not sweet and sour or sweet chilli.

Traditional Thai and Vietnamese soups, the tom yum and pho, are good choices, being low in fat, and rich in antioxidant herbs and spices and lean protein.

Japanese soba dishes are hearty and satisfying, and kids love slurping the noodles; Vietnamese rice paper rolls and sushi are also good options, although you should probably avoid the processed seafood sticks in favour of either cooked or raw fish, and give the mayonnaise and deep-fried dishes a miss.

Lebanese
This can actually be a very healthy choice, not to mention tasty, with its time-tested flavour combinations and emphasis on lean protein, wholegrains and vegetables.

Ask for grilled lamb souvlaki or chicken kebabs, and accompany them with wholemeal flat bread, yoghurt and cucumber dip, hummus, and a tomato, cucumber and onion salad or tabouleh (tomato, parsley, and burghul).

Mexican
Like many peasant-derived cuisines, this food is basically a good choice, with a few tweaks.

Avoid or go very lightly on the cheese and sour cream, pick flatbreads (eg: burritos) rather than fried ones (eg: tacos). Instead, load up on salad (eg: onions, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and avocado) plus lashings of antioxidant-rich tomato and capsicum salsa, low-salt if possible and a dash of lime juice.

Pizza
Avoid double meat, salami, extra cheese and high-salt toppings. Choose vegetable toppings instead (eg: capsicum, artichoke, mushrooms, onion, and olives are all good) and add chicken, anchovies or prawns for protein.

A traditional thin crispy base is best so forget the cheese-filled crusts.

Burgers and pies
Don't order a burger with "the lot" — that is, fried egg, fried onion, cheese, and fried bacon. Instead, just have the patty, sauce and lots of lettuce, tomato, beetroot and carrot.

If you fancy a pie, have a plain one with low-salt tomato sauce or mustard, and fill up the rest of your plate with peas, carrots and steamed or boiled jacket potato, not chips or mash — if you want a topping on your potato, try low-salt creamed corn or baked beans.

A vegetable pasty is also a good option. Ignore the Chiko rolls, battered hot dogs, fried onion rings, filled croissants or pastries. If you do want to lash out and have chips, ask what oil they are cooked in (canola and sunflower are better choices) and order a small serving.

Sandwiches
When picking a sandwich filling, skip the processed meats (eg: salami) and ask for lean protein (eg: salmon, tuna, rare roast beef, chicken, egg or low-fat cheese) with extra salad.

Forgo the mayonnaise; if you like a creamy texture, ask for mashed avocado. And choose wholemeal, rye or multigrain sliced bread or a wholemeal pita pocket, not white flour products.

Chicken
A barbecued chook is a healthy takeaway option, provided you remove the skin and choose roast potatoes and pumpkin or a crisp salad to go with it.

Choose a salad without grated cheese, fried croutons or a high-fat dressing, such as caesar dressing, and ask for any salad dressing on the side, if possible. Forget chicken nuggets, deep-fried chicken schnitzels or chips.

Fish
Steer clear of processed fish sticks and any fish, prawns, scallops, or calamari that has been battered, crumbed or deep fried. Choose plain grilled fish with lemon juice, not mayonnaise, add a green salad, and skip the chips and potato cakes.

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Finally, beware of "supersize" portions and "value meals" or "meal deals", such as a double-cheese burger with extra chips and a large soft drink.

These offers are marketed to you to seem like a bargain, and therefore offer you a financial incentive to eat more food than you would have otherwise bought and eaten.

To drink, order reduced-fat milk, water, mineral water or juice with no added sugar and skip dessert, or have fruit salad, yoghurt, or sorbet (a better choice than higher-fat ice-cream).

Your say: Do you have any tips for low-fat takeaway food for kids?

Video: Healthy fast food

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