Tommy's PregnancyHub

Eating out and takeaway tips

We all like to treat ourselves when eating out or getting a takeaway, but it is possible to choose healthier options for you and your baby. These include choosing foods from the menu that are lower in sugar, fat and salt.

Getting a takeaway or eating out is great for a treat and you can enjoy this as part of a healthy balanced diet. If you are going out or ordering in once in a while, there is no harm in enjoying your favourite dishes. You can order whatever you fancy to treat yourself and still focus the rest of your time on eating a balanced diet.

 If you are doing this more often, it can be useful to think about dishes on the menu that are healthier choices. Some menu items are probably higher in sugar, fat and salt than you think. Many menus now include nutrition advice for the dishes on offer which can help you stay informed. If you have some occasions planned, it can help to look at the menu in advance. This will give you time to think about what options will be both satisfying and beneficial for you and your baby. 
 

Here are some tips to help you when choosing a takeaway or eating out:

Be aware of portion sizes

Restaurants and takeaway meals often come in larger than recommended portion sizes. Remember you do not have to finish everything if you cannot manage it. 

If you do not want a whole portion:

  • Ask whether there is a smaller portion available. 
  • Choose a starter with a side salad as your main course.
  • See if it is possible to share a main meal between 2.

There is a common myth that you need to ‘eat for two’ during pregnancy, this is not true. You can read more about how to manage portion sizes in pregnancy .  
 

Eating with others 

When we eat out or get a takeaway, it is often with other people, sometimes for a celebration or occasion. It can be hard to keep track of how much you are eating when you are sharing with a group of people. You might keep eating if those around you are or because you are distracted. This is especially easy with finger food like pizza. Try filling your plate to a normal portion size and avoid picking bits and pieces. This will help you keep track of the amount you are eating.  
 

In the bakery 

Image of 4 hot cross buns on a board.

Try choosing:

  • sandwiches, rolls or wraps without mayonnaise – great if you can include some salad! 
  • bread-based cakes such as currant buns, tea cakes or iced buns. 

Better to avoid:

  • pastry-based products like sausage rolls or pasties
  • pastry cakes or cakes with lots of creamy filling or toppings.

Pizza and Italian 

Image of pizza on a board.

Pizzas are great for sharing! You could try splitting a pizza between 2 and adding a side of vegetables or salad. Italian restaurants often serve 2 different pasta portions, so you can go for a smaller size if you prefer. 

Try choosing:

  • thin-crust pizzas rather than deep pan
  • vegan pizzas that do not have any cheese
  • adding a side salad to your pizza order
  • vegetable or fish toppings - these are generally lower in fat and vegetables provide nutrients
  • pasta dishes that have a tomato-based sauce.

Better to avoid:

  • garlic bread as a side – instead you could choose bruschetta which is lower in fat
  • extra cheese on your pizza or cheese in the crust
  • fatty meat toppings on your pizza, such as pepperoni
  • creamy pasta sauces that contain a lot of fatty meats, such as bacon. 
     

Indian 

    Image of chicken tikka on a plate with vegetables

    Try to avoid deep fried sides and creamy sauces. 

    Try choosing:

    • dryer dishes with less sauce, such as tikka (not tikka masala) or tandoori dishes
    • curries that have a tomato-based sauce, such as jalfrezi or madras
    • vegetable curries which will add to your daily intake of vitamins and nutrients
    • try dahl or channa dhal as a side – pulses are a good source of iron 
    • plain boiled rice, chapati or roti breads as a side. 

    Better to avoid:

    • papadums on the side
    • deep fried starters, such as samosas, onion bhajis
    • creamy or coconut sauces (such as korma or masala)
    • fried rice, such as pilau rice
    • breads with lots of fat, such as stuffed naan bread.

    Chinese

    Chinese steamed vegetable dish with chopsticks

    When ordering a Chinese, try to get a balance between steamed and deep-fried (‘crispy’) dishes.

    Try choosing:

    • stir-fried chicken or vegetable dishes
    • chicken, vegetable or prawn chop suey
    • steamed fish or vegetable dishes 
    • a side of boiled rice rather than fried
    • dishes with steamed tofu.

    Better to avoid:

    • battered or ‘crispy’ dishes, such as sweet and sour chicken
    • deep fried dishes, such as spring rolls and prawn crackers
    • fried rice and noodle dishes.  
       

    Thai

    Image of tom yum soup in a bowl.

    Red and green thai curries use coconut milk for the sauce, which is high in saturated fat. If you want to go for a curry, try not to eat all of the sauce. You might like to try tofu, vegetable or prawn curries as a substitute for meat options, which are often lower in fat. 

    Try choosing: 

    • steamed or stir-fried dishes containing chicken, fish or vegetables 
    • clear soups like Tom Yum soup – which are still full of flavour.

    Better to avoid: 

    • fried starters such as fishcakes, spring rolls or satay skewers with peanut sauce
    • sweet and sour dishes as these are often deep-fried and contain lots of sugar.
       

    Fish and chips

    Close up image of fish and chips with peas and lemon wedge

    Choose your chippy wisely! If your fish and chips are soggy rather than crispy, it usually means they have absorbed more fat. 

    Try choosing:

    • fish coated with breadcrumbs or eat less of the batter – this is because batter soaks up a lot of the fat the fish is cooked in
    • thicker cut chips – these absorb less fat than thinner fries 
    • smaller portions of chips or see if you can share between 2 
    • mushy peas or baked beans to add some vegetables to the meal.

    It’s also a good idea to ask for your order without salt so you can control the amount you are adding.

    Better to avoid:

    Pies or battered sausage-type products as these are very high in fat. 

    Burgers

    Image of burger in a bun with tomato and a side salad with a few chips.

    Remember that meat should be cooked through when you are pregnant, so ask for your burger well done. 

    Try choosing:

    • standard rather than ‘super-size’ options
    • a single-patty burger in a bun with a side order of salad or small portion of chips.

    Better to avoid:

    • breaded or battered chicken or fish as these contain more fat and are higher in calories
    • extra toppings such as cheese, bacon and mayonnaise. 
    • chicken nuggets or other battered dishes such as onion rings. 
       

    Grabbing lunch

    Salad buffet

    If you are out grabbing lunch on-the-go, here are some tips:

    Sandwiches: 

    • Avoid sandwiches with sauces like mayonnaise, which are high in fat.
    • Try to go for brown or wholemeal bread as these options can help fill you up for longer.
    • Include some salad or vegetables if you can help you get your 5-a-day!
    • Avoid toasted sandwiches that contain a lot of cheese or fatty meats. 

    Salads:

    • Keep an eye out for creamy or oil-based dressings – these can be very high in fat.
    • Try not to use all of the dressing that is provided in a portion.
    • Be careful of portion size – it can be tempting to think you can eat more because it’s ‘just salad’. 
    • If you are building a salad yourself, try not to include lots of extra toppings such as fried croutons, bacon ‘bits’ or creamy pasta/potatoes. 
       

    Change 4 life (accessed on 28/10/20), Takeaway and ready meal tips: https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/food-facts/healthier-takeaways-and-ready-meals

    NHS Choices (accessed on 28/10/20), Foods to avoid in pregnancy: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/foods-to-avoid-pregnant/

    NHS Choices (accessed on 28/10/20), Healthier takeaways: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/healthier-takeaways/

     
    Review dates

    Last reviewed: 5 March 2021
    Next review: 5 March 2024