The fact is that nearly all of us eat takeaways at different times. So what can we do to make our takeaway choices a little healthier?

At times we all get tired of cooking and thinking about what to feed the family. In fact the trend for eating out is certainly rising.

We are faced with so many options for fast food that it can be hard to know how to make a good choice. There is no doubt that home cooked meals tend to be healthier – they are generally lower in fat and salt as well as being higher in fruit and vegetables. With the increasing trend of choosing takeaway foods, it is important that you do keep your health in mind when choosing your meal.

There are many reasons people choose to eat takeaways – to enjoy a night off cooking, traveling away from home or for social occasions. For some people it has become part of the normal routine, instead of the ‘occasional treat’ it used to be.

Consider some of these points about takeaways:

A treat or routine?

Takeaway meals or fast food outlets should be considered a treat, not your normal meal routine. For the sake of your family’s health, do not have them more than once a week – even a lower frequency than this is better. This includes school bought lunches where choices may be hot dogs, battered fish, chips etc.

Fat content of takeaways

Some takeaways do not have as much fat as others so try to choose wisely – see the table below.

If there is a choice available choose the grilled or baked option rather than the fried. For instance, choose the baked or grilled chicken in a burger rather than the burger with the fried chicken.

Hot chips that are a thin cut or a crinkle cut are higher in fat than a fat chip – the thin or crinkle cut chips have a higher surface area so they absorb more fat.

Eating takeaways at home?

If you are eating the takeaways at home, try to serve with a generous portion of salad.

If you are eating the takeaways at home and want hot chips consider doing your own oven baked chips to go with the bought portion of the meal.

Salt content in takeaway foods

Ask to have no salt added to your chips.

Portion sizes of takeaways

Think of portion sizes – do you really need fish and a hot dog to go with the chips. Do you normally eat two fillets of fish if you are cooking fish at home – if you don’t then you won’t need to order two fillets of fish when eating fish and chips as a takeaway.

Super sizing options may sound good financially, but they are not good for your health. Say no when asked if you want extra cheese, meat or a larger drink with your order.

If you are eating your takeaways at home, another way to manage portion sizes is to serve the meal on a plate, so that you don’t all eat without being aware of the quantities being consumed. It is more tempting to eat quickly when everyone is eating off the ‘fish and chip paper’ out of fear that someone else might get more than their share – this means it is easy to eat more than you need.


Choose your drinks carefully; soft drinks have a high sugar content, so can add a lot of energy to what is already an energy dense meal. Try to encourage your child to have water, milk or diluted fruit juice instead of soft drinks – but remember a serving of juice should be around the 200-250 ml size, not 400-600ml size.

How much fat is in our more common fast food choices?

Teaspoons of fat per serve

Grams of fat per serve

Pizza Hutt Takeaway


Pizza supremeRegular thin crust –1 slice 2 8
Pizza supremeRegular thick crust –1 slice 2 8

McDonalds Takeaway


Cheese burger 3 12
Hamburger 2 ½ 10
Chicken nuggets (6) 4 ½ 18
Fillet of Fish  4 ½ 18
Big Mac Burger  6 ½ 26
French fries(regular/medium) 5 20
Large milkshake 1 4
Hot Apple Pie 3 ½ 14

Kentucky Fried Chicken Takeaway

Original recipe Chicken(2 pieces)  4 ½ 18
Potato and Gravy(110g – small tub)  < 1  < 2
Seasoned chips(133g – regular serve) 3 12
Colonels choice original burger  4 ½ 18
Snack burger 5 20
Chocolate Mousse  5 ½ 22

Fish & Chips Takeaway


Fish battered1 average piece 7 ½ 30
Potato fries(1 scoop approx 300g)  7 ½ 30
Note: figures rounded to nearest half teaspoon

General comments about other Fast Food options:

Chinese Takeaway

Some choices can be high in fat, especially if choosing options like spring rolls, won tons and fried noodles. Watch also for battered meats in sauces, such as the lemon chicken or the sweet and sour pork.

Better options include stir fries, steamed dishes, chop suey, and chow mein.

Indian Takeaway

You need to watch out for items cooked in cream, coconut cream or butter as they are very high in saturated fats (the fats which lead to high cholesterol levels).


Generally a very good choice

Doner Kebabs

A good choice with lots of vegetables – just watch the dressings.


Can be an excellent choice and if you choose well it can be high in vegetables – but again avoid any fried meat options or high fat meats like salami.

Some of the dressings can also be high in fat.

So to takeaway or not to takeaway?

There are times in our busy lives when takeaways will be our quick and easy choice for our evening meal. It is important to remember that this should be a treat, and not the norm! Some options are better than others and there are ways of keeping the fat content in check, so choose wisely and enjoy your meal.

Useful Articles

Have a look at our article on Eating Out which gives great tips for taking children to a restaurant.

If you want some suggestions for healthy, easy meals to prepare at home – check out our article on Quick Easy Meals


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Fiona Boyle is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. She runs a private practice and gives nutrition advice to individuals and families to help meet their health needs and personal goals.

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Takeout food is yum

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