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So I got a bit of grief from my sister last week after she happened upon my last blog on burgers and saw that I informed you all that she takes her kids for a burger and chips on a Friday evening. She was very quick to remind me that my own Friday night usually starts out with “Can I have two number sixes and a number, a number 17? Yes. That's it. No. You know what...just throw in a couple of spring rolls that would be great”. I’ve recently learned that in that one quick call I am racking up well over 2,000 calories (my full allowance for the day) and that’s before I start nibbling on the bag of highly addictive prawn crackers which came free with my order.

Did you know that Chinese takeaway is the single most popular style of food across both takeaways and restaurants (excluding pub restaurants) on the island of Ireland? And almost half of us ordered one in the last month? I suppose it’s not that surprising seeing as it is quick, affordable and simply delicious. However, the meals we order are not always the same as traditional Asian meals which are generally lower in fat and high in fruit, vegetables and fibre. These traditional meals have evolved over the years to suit our Western taste buds and, in doing so, different ingredients in different quantities are added, possibly increasing their fat and salt content.

How many of us order a Chinese meal consisting of a starter, main course and a portion of fried rice just for ourselves? Recent safefood research has found that this can contain over 100% of our Guideline Daily Allowance for calories and total fat, over two-thirds of our GDA for saturated fat and one and a half times our GDA for salt. This is before we add our breakfast and lunch to the mix. This is, to me, shocking and has got me thinking…

takeaway and chopsticksMy family are like the 62% of us who go for a Chinese meal as a treat. There are 5 of us and we usually order three starters, two main courses, one fried rice and one fried noodle. We use bowls, chopsticks and sit back, chat and take our time. When my brother-in-law first accompanied us his face was one of utter bewilderment when we didn’t order our own dish and his eyes dashed frantically to my sister’s when we unwrapped our chopsticks. But fair dues to him he went with it and now I believe he even enjoys it - We all get just the right amount and get a little taste of everything. We do the same when we order takeaway. So why is it I order so much for myself at home? Why do I need so much food? The answer is I don’t. The research reported that main courses and rice dishes are enough for two people. We really need to start sharing more or perhaps asking for smaller portions.

I know that many of us already consider Chinese takeaway as a treat only to be enjoyed every now and again… but I didn’t realise just how much calories etc I was consuming in one order – Did you? Here are a few tips that I will bear in mind next time I pick up the menu…
  • Avoid nibbling on prawn crackers – on average one portion contains over 600kcals.
  • Switch egg fried rice for boiled rice - A simple change you could make which would immediately make your dish a lot healthier is to switch egg fried rice for boiled rice. Doing this cuts down on approximately 160 calories, 12 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat and over 3.5 grams of salt per portion.
  • Another tip is to avoid dishes labelled deep fried, pan fried, battered, breaded or crispy as these are considered to be very high in calories, total and saturated fat and salt. Choose main courses that contain plenty of vegetables and that have been stir-fried, grilled, roasted or steamed. Healthier main dishes include lean chicken, pork, beef or seafood and sauces such as bean, oyster, ginger, hoisin or plum.
  • Taste the food before you add salt. This research indicated that Chinese dishes are already high in added salt.
  • Finally, consider investing in chopsticks – they can slow down the speed at which you eat, especially, if like my sister, you’re not very good at using them.
This is the latest in a series of research looking at popular takeaway foods; including information on takeaway burgers, pizza, chicken and potato  and salt levels in soup.

We have top tips for eating out without spoiling the fun, whatever the food.  
Posted: 05/10/2012 15:11:51 by Emily Kelleher
Filed under: Family, Food, Takeaways

About Me

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Emily Kelleher
Hi, my name is Emily Kelleher and I am a Human Health and Nutrition Research Fellow at safefood. I’m a public health graduate with a keen interest in obesity and cardiovascular health and my day to day business involves reviewing the literature and report writing! When not buried in paper, I love the outdoors and at the weekend you will usually either find me on top of Torc Mountain in my beautiful hometown of Killarney or hiding behind a random lonely planet book planning my next adventure.