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We rate takeaways: The best and the worst

We rate takeaways: The best and the worst

Dietitian Katrina Pace takes a look at the best and worst takeaway options, so you can buy smarter.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes when you make a takeaway choice – how often you’re eating out, how energetic you’ve been and what else you’ve eaten that day or week. Use this information to help guide you towards healthier choices.

What are healthier limits for your main meal? Of course, it all depends on your age, sex and activity levels, but the Healthy Food Guide main meal recommendations are to make regular choices that are around 2500kJ or less, 7g or less saturated fat and 800mg or less sodium.

Burger joints

Fries, burgers and nuggets can be high in energy, saturated fat and sodium. Which is okay if you only eat them once a month or less, but regularly choosing this for your takeaway may take its toll on your heart and waistline. But, over the years, we’ve seen some healthier choices added to burger joint menus, including grilled options, wraps and salads.

McDonald’s

Better choices

Grilled Chicken & Aioli McWrap
2170kJ, 2.6g sat fat, 885mg sodium

The wholemeal Snack Wraps® and warm grilled chicken salad, with a small side of fries, also meet HFG meal recommendations.

Boost the fibre of any meal by choosing a salad side.

Think twice

The Big Cheese could be half your daily energy requirements, more than your saturated fat and two-thirds of your sodium limits (4430kJ, 33.4g sat fat, 1540mg sodium). And it’s not the only one.

Think twice about the Almighty Angus ½lb Burger (4200kJ, 27.9g sat fat,1430mg sodium), The Boss (3570kJ, 26.3g sat fat, 958mg sodium) or the Double Quarter Pounder (3440kJ, 26.7g sat fat, 1160mg sodium). + add 967kJ, 1g sat fat, 222mg sodium for a serve of small fries.

Too good to be true?

Make sure you order the right Chicken & Aioli McWrap.

Choosing crispy rather than grilled chicken kicks the sodium up to 1010mg per serve. And the Loaded Lettuce Wrap may be lower in carbs but still has 10.3g saturated fat and 1270mg sodium with grilled chicken and 11.2g sat fat and 1480mg sodium with crispy chicken.

Carl’s Jr.

Better choices

BBQ Chicken Burger
(1328kJ, 1.2g sat fat, 770mg sodium)

Carl’s CatchFish Burger
(2463kJ, 7.7g sat fat, 923mg sodium)

Think twice

It’s easy to go nutritionally overboard at Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Angus Double Burger, is twice our recommended meal amount for energy, and has whopping amounts of sat fat and sodium (5667kJ, 42.3g sat fat, 1776mg sodium). And all of that has just 3.8g fibre.

Also watch out for the Jim Beam Bourbon Angus Double Burger (5421kJ, 42.1g sat fat, 1662mg sodium). + add 1029kJ, 2.1g sat fat, 493mg sodium for a serve of small fries.

Too good to be true?

Don’t think vege options are always healthier. Carl’s Jr. Veggie Burger exceeds recommended limits, with 3165kJ, 7.3g sat fat, 1323mg sodium per serve.

Burger King

Better choices

Whopper JR, with 1364kJ, 4.7g sat fat and 468mg sodium, may be small but ticks the right boxes, even with a side of small fries. Add a side salad and it makes a good meal.

Other better choices are the BBQ beef burger (1363kJ, 4.6g sat fat, 774mg sodium). Whopper JR Cheese may be more satisfying with 1546kJ (7g sat fat and 562mg sodium).

Think twice

Whopper Double Cheese (3970kJ, 24g sat fat, 1103mg sodium)
Brewers Angus Steakhouse (3730kJ, 19g sat fat, 1352mg sodium)
BK Chicken Hawaiian (3478kJ, 11.3g sat fat, 1504mg sodium)
+ add 930kJ, 1g sat fat, 39mg sodium for a serve of small fries.

Too good to be true?

Sounds good? Salad isn’t all you’ll get with the Salad Burger. It has 7.9g sat fat and 1128mg sodium.

Wholemeal Wraps (Peri peri and Caesar) are a step in the right direction for fibre, but they also pack a sodium punch with 1206mg and 1195mg respectively.

KFC

Better choices

On their own, these are better choices, but take care if you’re adding a side of fries or a drink. The energy, saturated fat and sodium can quickly add up.

Colonel Burger (1580kJ, 1.8g sat fat 830mg sodium)
Aioli Twister (2068kJ, 2.7g sat fat, 711mg sodium)
Sweet Chilli Twister (1860kJ, 5.8mg sat fat, 750mg sodium)
Crispy Chicken Wrap (1046kJ, 1.3g sat fat, 453mg sodium)

Think twice

Colonel’s Stack Zinger Burger (3631kJ, 10g sat fat, 2461mg sodium)
Aioli Bacon Zinger Burger (3341kJ, 8g sat fat, 1694mg sodium)
+ add 1180kJ, 1.4g sat fat, 288mg sodium for a serve of regular fries (there is no small fries option).

Too good to be true?

Shaker Salad may seem like a healthy option, but comes with 1278mg sodium. And a large

Mango Smoothie Crusher pushed the boundaries, with 2012kJ, 5.7g sat fat and 82g carbs per large serve.

Pizza places

Choose your crust carefully. A classic or thin and crispy crust can be lower in carbohydrates and energy than the deep pan version. Choosing a cheesy crust or edge (with added cheese on the edge) also adds more sat fat and sodium.

Also, pizza sizes vary. Generally, pizzas are bigger at Hell Pizza, where two slices are about 200g. With the thin crust or classic bases at Domino’s and Pizza Hut, three slices are around 180g and the deep pan versions are around 240g.

Pizza Hut

Better choices

Apricot Chicken, three slices of large deep pan base (2028kJ, 5.7g sat fat, 810mg sodium)

Hawaiian, three slices of large deep pan base (1992kJ, 6g sat fat, 816mg sodium)

Tandoori Chicken, three slices of large thin ’n’ crispy base (1584kJ, 5.7g sat fat, 969mg sodium)

Think twice

Double Topped Pepperoni Cheesy Crust XL size.
One slice alone is a hefty 150g, about the same as three slices of thin crust pizza. While each slice contains only 1594kJ and 760mg sodium, it’s that sat fat, at 11.3g per slice, that deserves a double take. That’s only one slice!

Hell Pizza

Better choices

The Saviour is advertised as ‘NZ’s healthiest pizza’. Two slices of a double size (204g) will give you 1510kJ, 6g sat fat and 661mg sodium. The sprouted seed base and heaps of veges give a filling 9.4g of fibre.

Sinister (vegan), two slices (1306kJ, 0.6g sat fat, 614mg sodium)

Pride, two slices (1670, 5.6g sat fat, 414mg sodium)

Think twice

Spirit pasta (per serve, 3400kJ, 24.9g sodium and 1270mg sodium)

Green Demon pasta with blue cheese and sun dried tomatoes (per serve, 3650kJ, 20.2g sat fat and 1280mg sodium)

Domino’s

Better choices

Vegan Vege Trio, three slices (2022kJ, 0.9g sat fat, 771mg sodium)

Vegan Vegorama, three slices (2049kJ, 0.9g sat fat, 774mg sodium)

Vege Trio Value Range Pizza, on a classic base, three slices (2016kJ, 3.6g sat fat, 831mg sodium)

Adding meat to pizza increases the saturated fat and sodium. Keeping to two slices when you have meat toppings keeps the amount down.

Think twice

On Classic pizza base: Three slices of 4 Cheese Deluxe gives 2844kJ, 15.6g sat fat, 1161mg sodium. If that wasn’t enough, choosing a cheesy crust brings it in at around 3255kJ, 21g sat fat and 1422mg sodium.

Others to watch for

The New Yorker range is a larger pizza than the other ranges. Each slice is the same as two slices of the gourmet, standard or value range.

Picking your own filling and toppings is a great way to make some healthier choices. However, energy, sat fat and sodium can creep up via sauces and cheeses. Pick your own filling rather than choosing set options, to have more control.

Sandwich stands

Pita Pit

Better choices

Stick to the pitas and Pita Pit is, overall, a great choice, with plenty of low-sat fat, low-sodium choices.

Think twice

Carnivore Regular Pizza (4066kJ, 29.4g sat fat, 3197mg sodium)

Classic All Day Breakfast Pita is a less-than-ideal option, with 1573kJ, 9g sat fat and 897mg sodium. But it’s still better than a breakfast burger from elsewhere.

If you’re watching your sodium, steer clear of the Roast Beef Pita filling, at 1119mg sodium per serve.

Subway

Better choices

Choose a 6” sub on rye and hold the salt or herb seasoning, and most Subway fillings (apart from Buffalo Chicken) meet HFG guidelines.

Think twice

Sodium is what to watch for. The Deluxe range is highest (809mg- 1500mg sodium), and the Italian BMT also has over 1000mg sodium.

Pizza with Cheese on a 6” sub (1710kJ, 7.1g sat fat, 928g sodium) Buffalo Chicken with Blue Cheese Dressing has 1500mg sodium.

What ’s on the side?

Seeded Mustard Sauce adds 318mg sodium in a 21g serve. Sweet Onion, Honey Mustard and Cranberry are the dressings lowest in sat fat and sodium.

International fare

Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern takeaways remain firm favourites. While traditional foods may be healthy, be aware that some of the versions popular in New Zealand aren’t necessarily as good.

Indian

Better choices

Tandoori meats are marinated in spices and yoghurt before cooking in the oven. Because the meats are served without thick, creamy sauces, they can be a healthier option.

Jalfrezi, rogan josh and other curries in tomato bases tend to be lower in sat fat.

Dhal (lentil) and spinach dishes are also higher-fibre choices.

Think twice about
Creamy curries, such as butter chicken and korma
Deep fried samosa, bhaji and pakora
Filled and ghee-coated breads.

Don’t get caught out

Doubling up by ordering rice and Indian breads and sides (roti, chapatti, poppadums, naan), means you get more carbohydrates and probably a lot more kilojoules than you’d think.

Japanese

Japanese food can be low in fat and a great way to top up on omega-3s by choosing raw salmon and tuna.

Better choices

Sushi and sashimi, with fresh, raw fish and vegetables. Seaweed is a good source of iodine. Choose a side of edamame beans or seaweed salad to increase the veges.

Noodle soups can be another good choice, as is teppanyaki grilled meat and veges.

Think twice about

Deep-fried (tempura) foods and dumplings. These tend to be higher in sat fat and sodium.

Keep an eye on

How much soy sauce you add. One tablespoon of soy sauce contains over 1000mg sodium, and one teaspoon around 350mg. Seaweed is also very high in iodine, so this isn’t for every day.

Kebabs

Better choices

Kebabs can be a healthy option. The meat isn’t fried but can be quite fatty.

Lamb shoulder steak is lower in fat than kebab meat made from lamb mince. And chicken is a healthier choice, only if cooked with the skin off. Ask at the shop to find out what they use.

Hummus (made from chickpeas) is a good source of fibre, and a kebab served with salad is another healthy choice.

Think twice about

Those additional sauces, which may be high in saturated fat and salt.

Keep an eye on

How much sodium you’re getting.

Falafels can be high in sodium, so enjoy with plenty of salad, which is high in potassium and will lessen the impact of a high-sodium meal.

Chinese

Better choices

Steamed rice or boiled noodles with stir-fried chicken or fish and plenty of vegetables are the best choices.

Pick a side of sauce-free, stir-fried or fresh veges.

Think twice about
Deep-fried wontons and meats in batter, such as sweet and sour chicken or pork.
Fried rice and noodles are also a higher-kJ choice.
• Steer clear of heavy, salty sauces such as black bean.

Kiwi favouries

Little is more ‘Kiwi’ than ‘fush ‘n’ chups’ or stopping off at the bakery for lunch. But how can we make the best of our national favourites?

Fish and chips

Fried fish and chips are automatically going to be high in fat, making them high in kJ. A meal of fish and chips rarely has a vegetable option, and if there is one, it’s coleslaw, which can be high in sat fat and energy. Buy a bag of salad on the way to the fish and chip shop to balance your meal.

Better choices

Ask for crumbed fish rather than battered and see if they can grill, rather than deep fry, the fish.

Chunky chips and wedges absorb less fat than skinny fries so are a better option, if possible.

Think twice

Battered sausages can have around 1400mg sodium and 12g sat fat.

Keep an eye on

• How much tomato sauce you’re adding. For each tablespoon, you can add an extra 200mg sodium, 5g sugar and 88kJ.
• How much salt the shop adds to your fries. Ask them to hold the salt and take your own small sachet.
• Look for a ‘Best Chip’ training certificate in your chip shop. The Chip Group is an industry group that provides training on how to cook healthier chips.

Bakery

Bakeries give us so much choice. Traditionally, they serve sandwiches, pies, hot chips and sweet bakery items. Look carefully and you can make some good choices.

Better choices

Sandwiches on multigrain or rye bread, with tuna or chicken and plenty of salad.

Oat or nut-based cakes.

Think twice about

Doughnuts, cream-filled cakes.
Fried food, sausage rolls and pies. A mince pie can have around 11g sat fat, 1800kJ and 800mg sodium.
• Ask for unsalted fries and add your own to limit the sodium.

Keep an eye on

How big your slice or cake is. Some of the slices can be enough for two or more. Save some until later or share.

Petrol station choices

There’s a lot more choice at petrol stations these days. Although the pies and sausage rolls are still there, you’ll also find savouries, sandwiches, salads, wraps and breakfasts, including muesli and Bircher.

Better choices

Wraps and sandwiches packed with egg, chicken or tuna, Bircher muesli and yoghurt, or salad.

Think twice about

Pies, savoury bites and giant muffins.

Kids choices

Better choices

  • Sushi with a side of edamame beans (but limit the soy sauce).
  • Pita Pit Cheeky Chicken, Happy Ham, Marmite Mania, Veg Vegemite or Super Veggie.
  • Subway Mini Subs Carved Turkey, Chicken Strips, Leg Ham, Roast Beef or Veggie Delite with Avo.
  • A smaller serve of other takeaway items we’ve highlighted.

Think twice

Think twice about fried foods and skinny fries with added salt. Chicken nuggets, battered sausages and deep-fried items may be your kid’s favourites, but keep them occasional.

First published: Mar 2019

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