Your ethnic options may be enticing, but don’t travel too far astray on take-out night. Keep calories in control by sticking to items similar to what you’d cook at home—if only you had the time. Find a way to work plenty of veggies into the meal and start with a cup of broth-based soup or a salad with low-fat dressing.
Japanese. Sushi and sashimi rolls are prepared with little to no oil and are packed with fresh ingredients, making Japanese one of the most diet-friendly take-out choices available. You’ll get plenty of protein and nutrients from the seafood and veggies and the bite-size portions make it seem like you’re eating more than you actually are.
Opt for vegetable rolls or salmon or tuna rolls. Avoid anything labeled “spicy,” as it usually has a mayo-based sauce. The Philadelphia roll’s another no-no—it’s packed with a generous helping of cream cheese. Tempura and tonkatsu spell trouble, too, as these rolls have been breaded or fried.
Chinese. Learning the lingo is key. Look up mystery words like Jum (poached), Chu (broiled), and Kow (roasted) so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Steer clear of fried dishes—General Tso’s and sweet and sour chicken are diet-wreckers—or anything loaded with nuts.
Smart picks are lettuce wraps, stir fry, or a steamed dish. Pick chicken, tofu, or seafood as your protein and request that your dish be cooked using light oil. Even better, ask the chef to use vegetable stock, which can save you 150 to 300 calories and 15 to 30 grams of fat.
Mexican. Choose soft tortillas over fried shells and when building a soft taco, load up on lean protein, plenty of lettuce and as much salsa as you’d like. Cut extra calories and fat by resisting cheese, sour cream, refried beans, and guacamole. Instead of nachos as your side, ask for steamed rice or beans.
Italian. Skip anything breaded or fried, parmigiana (dripping with cheese), Alfredo (heavy cream sauce) or Bolognese (meat sauce). Instead, look for words like marinara or pomedoro, which are tomato-based sauces.
Keep in mind that Italian restaurants offer much more than pasta. You can probably order grilled chicken or fish with a side of steamed vegetables without being the most annoying patron ever. If you decide on pizza, stick to one slice of mushroom or vegetable and the thinner the crust, the better. Blot excess oil using a paper towel.