Healthy alternatives to your takeaway favourites

Loaded beef burger

Love eating takeaway but don't love blowing your kilojoule budget in one meal? We’ve given popular takeaway meals a makeover! From burgers and pizzas, to curries and fried chicken, these healthier versions deliver on taste without derailing your diet.

1. Burger and chips

Healthy burgers are easy to recreate at home and can taste just as good as the cheat-meal kind with a few tiny tweaks. Using wholemeal or a multigrain bread for your bun instead of traditional white, means you’re getting a whole lot of fibre and texture. Go for lean beef mince for your patties, and combine it with a variety of vegies such as grated carrot, zucchini and onion. Then use an egg and some cooked quinoa in the mince mixture to hold your patties together.

When loading your burger, choose your favourite salad vegies such as lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and beetroot – and even a piece of pineapple for a sweet addition. Just make sure you avoid the bacon, fried eggs and melted cheese.

Oven bake your chips instead of deep frying them. Lightly spray them with olive oil first, then spread them evenly over a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes or until browned and crisp.

If you’re adventurous, try going for a bunless or ‘naked’ burger – everything, without the bun. But if you prefer to hold everything together, lettuce leaves can be a fresh and crunchy substitute instead of a burger bun.

Or try: Loaded beef burgers

2. Pizza

Swap your store-bought high-carb pizza base or high fat pizza takeaway food for whole wheat mountain bread or thin tortilla wraps. If you want to add in more vegies to this meal, you can even make your own cauliflower base using processed cauliflower florets, eggs and some grated cheese, oregano, garlic and a bit of sea salt. You can make it as thick or thin as you like because it’s mostly made out of vegies!

For your toppings, choose a variety of vegies and avoid any processed meats such as salami, bacon and pepperoni which are high in sodium and saturated fat. Keep full fat cheese to no more than half a cup, otherwise white cheeses typically contain more water and less fat and kilojoules than yellow cheeses. Another way to cut the cheese kilojoules would be to go for a reduced fat cheddar cheese or, if you’re willing to give it a go, try some sliced avocado. It’s a good source of healthy fat and provides the same creamy texture as cheese.

And, instead of the heavy bottled tomato sauce, go for freshly sliced tomatoes. Not only will you be cutting out the extra sodium, sugar and preservatives, you’ll be adding all the freshness and texture that only comes from the real fruit.

Or try: Pesto muffin pizza

3. Fried chicken

Fried chicken isn’t the same without a good batter, but you can make a much healthier version than the fast-food kind by using almond meal or almond flour with pepper, sea salt, paprika and egg.

Instead of letting your chicken pieces swim in a pool of oil, use olive oil spray to coat them - a great way to cut down on the kilojoules. Then oven-bake your chicken for an even healthier result. The best thing about oven-baking them is that you can make a whole “bucket” of chicken without having to do lots of batches in oil if you’re do fry them. 

Or try: Baked yoghurt chicken with tomato, mint and cucumber

4. Pad Thai

Lots of the kilojoules from your takeaway version of pad Thai come from the thick, heavy sauces combined with the thick, carb-rich rice noodles. Make your own lighter and zestier version of pad Thai sauce by using rice vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, grated fresh ginger and lime.

Make vegetables and herbs the main focus of this dish; there’s loads of ingredients so you can’t skimp on flavour - carrots, zucchini, radish, bean sprouts, red onion, chilli, coriander and shallots.

Keep the portion of noodles to a ‘food unit’ sized portion (half a cup) and stick to healthier noodle alternatives such as flat brown rice noodles, thin vermicelli noodles or even basmati rice for those who are gluten intolerant and want a good low GI carb option.

If you’re adventurous, you can even try a no-noodle version of pad Thai by swapping out the noodles for thinly sliced cabbage or “zucchini noodles” where you use a spiralizer or just a vegie peeler to make zucchini pasta-like ribbons.

Or try: Thai-style beef and bean stir-fry

5. Fish and chips

Lots of the kilojoules from your takeaway version come from the oil laden fries and heavy batter. Go for grilling or oven-baking your fish. If you prefer the crispier kind, you can make a healthy batter with almond meal or almond flour mixed with pepper, sea salt, zested lemon and egg, and then pan-fry on both sides.

Avoid your chips dripping in oil by oven-baking cut potatoes lightly sprayed with olive oil and adding some dried rosemary. Spread them over a baking sheet in an even thin layer and baked for about 40 minutes or until browned and crisp. Even better, try homemade sweet potato chips, a lower GI choice and contains more vitamin A, C and fibre.

Or try: Steamed fish with fennel and orange salad

6. Indian curry

Indian curries are a popular takeaway favourite mainly because of their rich flavours and aromas. The problem is a lot of kilojoules come from the
heavy curry pastes that contain unnecessary amounts of fats and sugars combined with coconut cream. But you can make your own version of curry paste using lots of herbs and spices without sacrificing on flavour.

A delicious and fresh mix can include chopped chillies, ground black pepper, garlic, grated ginger, red onion, coriander, lemongrass and ground cumin. Combine this with olive oil, shrimp paste and kaffir lime leaves. Use reduced-fat coconut milk and stick to diced fish or chicken with loads of vegetables. Forget carb heavy naan bread and accompany it instead with a serve of low GI rice such as basmati or brown rice. If you like, you can go without the coconut milk as curry has plenty of flavour on its own.

Or try: Chicken and lemongrass curry

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