As we continue to self-isolate and work from home during the pandemic, many people are concerned about the effects that takeouts and delivery orders may be having on their overall eating habits or weight.
This is especially worrying as Malaysians are no stranger to obesity, being the fattest nation in Asia.
Some are also finding that they are engaging in unhealthy behaviours such as emotional eating while bored or stressed.
This is made easy when ordering food or snacks online is only a few taps away – a practice that may feel comforting, but could also be contributing to weight gain as these meals are often higher in calories than home-cooked food.
However, the stay-at-home mandate should not cause additional stress when it comes to eating.
You can indeed treat yourself to delicious, guilt-free takeout and delivery, while at the same time supporting local businesses in your community, with a few simple steps.
Before you make your order, check out the online menus beforehand to review the offerings, and if they’re available, the nutritional information.
Look for vegetables first, then lean proteins like chicken or fish, before building the rest of the meal around those items.
Some of the best cuisines to consider are Mediterranean or Asian, as they tend to focus on low-fat proteins and vegetables.
A stir-fry with shrimp and broccoli, for example, or a salad tossed with olive oil and lemon, and topped with grilled chicken, are always good bets.
If nutrition information is available, be sure to read it carefully – studies have shown that the calories you eat might be nearly one-fifth higher than what the menu says.
Also, keep in mind that the calorie counts usually list the different items in a meal separately, rather than the full calorie count for the whole meal.
So, if you order a full meal, be sure to note the calories for not only the entrée, but also the side dishes.
And try to resist the upsell from restaurants.
They may try to tempt you with “meal deals” that include sugary drinks and/or starchy, fatty appetisers or sides.
When you’re told, “For just a dollar more, you can have a side of fries with that”, think to yourself, “For just a dollar more, I’ll be getting 600 more calories and an extra 40g of fat.”
Try customising your home-delivered meal.
Try it with a thin crust, low-fat toppings and lots of vegetables to trim calories, and add a salad to round out the meal.
Ordering Mexican food?
Swap corn tortillas for flour and you can save unneeded fat and calories.
And be aware of the condiments.
The calories listed on the menu for a salad or sandwich may not necessarily include the salad dressing or condiments, so read the listings carefully.
The extra calories you are adding to your meal through condiments and dressings can add up fast, so consider ordering those “extras” on the side so that you can control how much you use.
And watch out for foods that sound healthier than they are.
Sandwiches can be healthy if they’re made with lean meats, veggies and wholegrain breads, but the calories can add up fast if you load up on cheese or mayonnaise, or if the sandwich is a foot long.
The same goes for those healthy-sounding salads.
Some main-dish salads can rack up more than 1,000 calories, thanks to heavy dressings and fatty add-ins like fried noodles or croutons.
Another tip to consider is steaming or microwaving additional vegetables while you’re waiting for your food delivery.
There’s usually extra sauce left in the food containers and you can mix the veggies in to help expand the meal, while keeping it healthy.
While many restaurants are able to accommodate healthy alternatives and diet preferences, the energy supply for the Malaysian population remained consistently in excess of average calorie needs by a minimum of 30%, according to a study.
Without consciously amending your takeout order, these foods tend to provide more calories, sodium and saturated fat than meals prepared at home.
Right now, we should be focusing on optimising our nutrition to support overall health and a healthy immune system while we navigate this pandemic.
While it’s always important to avoid weight gain, aggressive dieting could backfire.
When cutting calories in an attempt to lose weight, it becomes more difficult to work in all the important nutrients the body needs – and that could mean sacrificing good nutrition in order to shed weight.
So, to keep your weight under control, try to order foods that are similar to what you would normally eat if you were eating at home, rather than using it as an occasion to overindulge.
And remember that restaurant portions can be huge.
Split an entrée with a family member and order an extra side of veggies, or divide the meal into half and save the other half for lunch the next day.
It takes discipline to stick with our usual diet and exercise routines during this uncertain time, but that is where our focus should be.
The most important thing we can do is to take the best possible care of ourselves by eating the highest quality, balanced diet we can obtain.
It’s also key to stay well-hydrated, get adequate rest and exercise, and use methods such as meditation or yoga to help us relax.
Susan Bowerman is the Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training senior director for Herbalife Nutrition. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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