(As published on TheTownDish.com)

It is for the plain and simple fact that we can throw up our hands from time to time and just say, "Enough!" that take-out meals have become a greasy staple food in the weekly menus of many families. Unfortunately, our beloved time-savers also pack in an average of 1000 calories per meal, almost half of our daily recommended calorie intake.

But not every meal you order has to have you loosening a notch on your belt. There are a few ways that even when crunched for time, ordering take-out can still remain healthy for you and your family. So before picking up the phone to order dinner tonight, stop and take a look at these simple tips for ordering take-out that can help keep your blood pressure and waistline in check:

  1. Go for grilled over fried. Not everything we order has to be saturating the paper bag with grease when it arrives at our door. Keep in mind, a grilled chicken breast has an average of 300 less calories than a piece of fried chicken. Remember, crispy does not always mean delicious, but most certainly means fried. So whether it is in a sandwich, in a carton, or better yet, on a salad, keep it grilled. Your body will thank you for it.
  2. Order a smaller portion. How often do we feel full half-way through a meal, but continue to nibble on what's in front of us just because it's there? Its time to put down the fork. When your tummy starts to tell you that you've had enough, listen. And if you can still hear your mother yelling at you to finish everything on your plate, then save the leftovers for another time.
  3. Plan ahead. If you know there's a good chance you are going to be ordering out anytime soon, then research a little. Go online and see how many calories are in the foods you usually order. Now more than ever, restaurants are offering healthier options, but do not always make the public aware that these options are available. For example, order a wrap instead of a sandwich or ask all dressings and condiments to be placed on the side. Ask some questions, dig a little deeper. Remember, the foods you eat have an enormous impact on the way you feel, think, and act throughout the day.
  4. Load up on the veggies. There are little instances where more is always better, but eating vegetables happens to be one of the rare exceptions. Even if you are ordering out, look for an option that offers a side of veggies, a topping of veggies, or a vegetable based meal. This way, you can still enjoy the ease of having your meal delivered to your doorstep without worrying so much about the repercussions of indulging.

We've all felt as though we are rushing against the clock, but being pressed for time does not always have to mean sacrificing your health or the health of your family. If you do find yourself in a jam, make sure to follow these simple steps and your time-saver meal could actually aid in your active lifestyle instead of hindering your health.

For assistance and education about what you eat and how you can better manage your diet, call Chester County Hospital's Nutritional Counseling Program at 610-738-2835.

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