Take a healthy approach to takeout

Take a healthy approach to takeout

  • Is it safe to order takeout during COVID-19?
  • How to enjoy tasty and healthy takeout meals.
  • Manage portions with these tips.


Are you a juggler?

Working from home. Homeschooling young kids. Caring for aging parents. Grocery shopping and house cleaning. Any combination of these can be considered part of the juggling act of daily life, especially in the time of COVID-19. When you throw in making meals, all those plates in the air sometimes come crashing down — usually around the dinner table.

That’s one reason takeout meals are so appealing. They’re convenient and often just a phone call or online order away. Still, buying food that’s made outside your home means you have less control over ingredients and preparation. And, of course, there’s the concern about COVID-19 and what it means to order takeout. But if you’ll keep these tips in mind, you can get takeout meals that are safe and healthy for you and your family to enjoy at home.

Takeout meals and COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that the risk of getting COVID-19 from restaurant takeout or a drive-thru is thought to be very low. At this time, there’s no research showing that food plays a part in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

The food’s packaging and bags are also thought to be very low risk. There haven’t been any cases reported showing that COVID-19 is caused by touching food, food packaging or shopping bags.

At this time, there’s no research showing that food plays a part in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

Of course, the best thing you can do to lower your risk and worry is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling takeout food packaging. If you don’t have soap and water, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Tips for healthy and tasty takeout

While the chances you'll get COVID-19 from buying and eating takeout are low, there are other health risks you may be more likely to face. They're caused by eating foods that are high in calories, unhealthy fats, sodium and sugar, and they offer very few nutritional benefits. Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and premature aging are just a few of the problems these ingredients cause.

Take the reins when it comes to eating takeout — try these healthier choices.

Takeout tip: Master the menu

Many menus now include nutrition information — if you’re looking at a restaurant’s website, take time to compare nutrients and ingredients, if they’re available. For instance, you’ll want to look for foods that have fewer calories, less saturated fat and lower sodium.

You can also call the restaurant before you order. Restaurant employees are there to help you figure out what’s on the menu and tell you how the food is prepared, what the ingredients are and which substitutions you can make.

Takeout tip: Go heavy on the veggies

There’s always a way to add nutritious vegetables to the meal mix, even when you’re doing takeout. For instance:

  • Ask for more lettuce and tomato on your sandwich order.
  • Get a side of broccoli instead of fries or other starchy foods.
  • Make vegetables your main dish — whether that’s ordering a veggie pizza or an entrée salad (just go easy on the dressing).
  • Save calories and money by making steamed vegetables at home to go with your takeout food.
  • Don’t forget the fruit! Skip the restaurant desserts and make fruit your go-to at the end of the meal.

Takeout tip: Free yourself from fried

Tempting as it is to get fried chicken or fried wontons, you’ll do your health a favor by ordering foods that are grilled, steamed, baked or roasted. This will help you avoid the trans fats and extra calories that so many fried foods consist of. Try:

  • A taco salad sitting on a bed of lettuce — not in a deep-friend tortilla “bowl”
  • Fish that’s baked or grilled instead of batter-fried
  • Steamed vegetable dumplings vs. fried wontons
  • “Oven-fried” chicken instead of oil-fried
  • Baked croutons instead of fried (ask the restaurant how they’re prepared)

Takeout is also about portions and moderation

Many restaurants are notorious for serving large portions. Before and after you place your order, consider these tips.

When it comes to portions:

  • Don't eat out of the restaurant’s containers — serve them on plates just as you would if you’d cooked the meal yourself. That way, you can see for yourself how much there is.
  • Speaking of plates, serving on smaller ones is a neat little mind trick that makes it look like you’re eating more, even when you’re not.
  • Order only healthy appetizers for your meal or share a meal between two or more people.

When it comes to moderation:

  • Eat slowly instead of rushing through a meal. That way, everyone will have a chance to feel full before asking for more.
  • Let go of old habits like being part of the “clean plate club.” Only eat until you feel comfortably full.
  • Try not to order takeout beverages — it’s too easy to indulge in sweet sodas or fruit juices. Instead, try ice water flavored with lemon or lime or a splash of pure fruit juice.

Try not to make takeout your go-to

While your local restaurants can be lifesavers, keep in mind they have some not-so-healthy items on the menu and it’s best not to make them your only go-to for daily meals. Still, by taking a savvy approach to takeout, you’ll find they can be a handy and healthy option when you’ve had an especially long day of juggling.


Get relevant, up-to-date information on the coronavirus (COVID-19) from Providence.

If you need care, don't delay. Learn more about your options.


Find a doctor

Providence doctors and nutrition experts can help you take a healthy approach to the foods you and your family eat. See our provider directory.






Takeout meals can be a handy way to deal with a busy life. But you’ll want to make healthy choices. Share your takeout order stories @psjh. #eatingout

Related resources

From the kitchen of Chef Tse: Is takeout safe?

American Heart Association

Keeping Portions Under Control

Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

How to stock your pantry, fridge and freezer

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.