Eating out at restaurants or getting a takeaway is an enjoyable social experience that you shouldn’t have to miss out on for the sake of your health journey. Many people worry that going to restaurants or ordering a takeout always means overindulging. However, it's possible to still make healthy choices when eating out.

To save you the time and stress, our Second Nature health coaches have analysed a few popular cuisines (this isn't an exhaustive list) and selected some lower-carb, balanced meal options you can enjoy. They've also included some Second Nature 'Fakeaway' options in case you fancy making your own! You can find all of these Fakeaway options in the recipes section of the app.

Keep in mind that there may be occasions when you'd like to eat a meal that doesn't fit in with the Second Nature recommendations - and that's fine! Just be sure to enjoy it mindfully and move on afterwards.

Caribbean food

Caribbean food is packed with flavour. Some Caribbean foods can be higher in carbohydrates, but if they're paired with other traditional dishes based on protein and non-starchy veg, you can easily create a balanced meal. Mixing a few different dishes in one meal also means you can enjoy a range of delicious flavours at once!

Order without adjustments:

  • Caribbean vegetables: These include caraille, okra, chayote/chocho, pumpkin, squash, and callaloo. These vegetables are often made into curries or stews, or can simply be ordered as a side dish.
  • Meat curries such as oxtail stew, stewed chicken, beef curry, and curried goat are great sources of protein
  • Coleslaw can make up part of a balanced meal when paired with a source of protein
  • Jerk chicken or prawns with salad
  • Ackee: A savoury fruit, usually accompanied by rice or yam. Instead, you might like to have it with steamed, non-starchy vegetables or saltfish.

Order with a few adjustments:

Be mindful that the following foods will count towards your carbohydrate servings for the day. For this reason, you may need to adjust your portion sizes.

As a guide, the listed portion sizes below are an example of one complex carbohydrate serving:

  • Dasheen, also known as Taro root (85g)
  • Cassava (50g)
  • Rotis (1 small)
  • Patties (one quarter of a pattie)
  • Plantain (50g)
  • Dumplings (40g)
  • Breadfruit (100g)
  • Yam (50g)
  • Green Banana (50g)
  • Cornmeal (100g)
  • Sweet potato (80g cooked)
  • Peas/beans and rice (50g rice, 100g beans)

For dessert, opt for something fruit based or fresh fruit by itself.

Second Nature Fakeaway: Jerk chicken and coleslaw

Chinese Food

Chinese takeaway options can often be deep fried or high in added sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as sweet and sour chicken or spring rolls.

However, there are still plenty of delicious alternatives which are made of non-starchy vegetables and protein, without the added sugar.

Order without adjustments:

  • Many soups will be a good starter choice, as they usually contain a source of protein and vegetables
  • Steamed or stir fried mixed vegetable dishes (e.g. stir fried vegetables in garlic chilli sauce). Avoid those in sweet chilli sauces which will contain added sugar.
  • Any protein option (chicken, seafood, lamb, beef, tofu) with black bean, yellow bean, ginger and spring onion, garlic and chilli, cashew nuts, or black pepper sauce

Order with a few adjustments:

  • Noodle and rice dishes. Enjoy these in moderation as they'll be much higher in carbohydrates. You might like to have a few spoonfuls of someone else's instead of the whole dish.
  • Be mindful of options which are deep fried or high in refined carbohydrates like prawn crackers and spring rolls
  • Some sauces can be high in added sugar such as sweet chilli, sweet and sour, Kung- Pao, Hoisin, plum, orange, and oyster sauces. You could ask for the sauce to come separately if possible.
  • If you're getting takeout, you could prepare cauliflower rice or brown rice at home instead of ordering steamed white rice with your meal (microwavable packets can be handy here!).

Second Nature Fakeaway: One-pot Hainanese chicken and rice, Asian beef stew, Asian style chicken soup

Chip shop

Whether you’re at the seaside or having a night in, fish and chips is a classic British dish. However, we all know it's not the healthiest option! Of course, it’s fine to enjoy a chip shop takeaway every now and then, but there are also lots of ways to make your trip to the chip shop a healthier one.

Watch pies, puddings, sausages, and other deep fried foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and ultra-processed.

Order without adjustments:

  • If your local chip shop has grilled or poached fish as an option, choose this. Add your own peas, salad, or vegetables at home.

Order with a few adjustments:

  • A small portion of fish and chips, or share a portion with a friends or family
  • If possible, ask for a fresh fish to be battered and cooked with less batter
  • Prepare your own side vegetables / salad at home (e.g. carrot chips, garden salad, homemade mushy peas). If you're having takeout by the seaside, you could pack these are part of a picnic to accompany your meal.
  • Try to avoid gravy or curry sauces as these can be high in added sugar and refined carbohydrate
  • Avoid sugary or sweetened drinks with your meal

Second Nature Fakeaway: Naked fish and carrot chips

Greek food

Greek cuisine has a long history and is known for its tender grilled meats, zesty salads, fresh fish, and tasty dips.

You can choose to have a main dish or opt for mezes (small dishes which can be shared), which can make it easier to achieve a good balance of macronutrients on your plate.

Be mindful of deep-fried foods and anything made with filo pastry, like spanakopita, tiropitakia, or sweet desserts like baklava. These can have a high amount of added sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Order without adjustments:

  • Tzatziki (yoghurt and cucumber dip)
  • Taramasalata (dip made with fish roe dip, olive oil, and bread) - as this usually contains bread, be mindful of your serving size
  • Melitzanosalata (dip made with roasted aubergine)
  • Hummus (dip made with chickpeas) - as this contains carbohydrates, be mindful of your serving size
  • Grilled halloumi
  • Avgolemono (chicken soup made with egg and lemon)
  • Souvlaki skewer (lamb, chicken, beef, pork, vegetables, halloumi)
  • Grilled or slow cooked seafood e.g. octopus, calamari, prawns
  • Kleftiko (slow-cooked lamb on the bone)
  • Keftedes (meatballs made of pork or beef)
  • Paidakia (grilled lamb chops)
  • Horta (boiled greens served with lemon and olive oil
  • Tyrokafteri to hptipiti (feta, red pepper, and spices)
  • Anginares A La Polita (artichokes with olive oil)
  • Gigandes (giant beans cooked in tomato sauce and herbs)
  • Olives
  • Greek salad

    An example of putting a few meze together could be chicken souvlaki skewer with tzatziki and greek salad, or kleftiko with gigantes and horta.

Order with a few adjustments:

  • Souvlaki wraps are higher in carbohydrates and can contain potato chips too. You could ask for this without chips and enjoy the wrap mindfully.
  • You could share sides of rice or pourgouri (bulgur wheat with tomatoes and onions), new potatoes, pitta, flatbread, or dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes, and herbs) with another person or swap for grilled vegetables or salad.

Second Nature Fakeaway - Greek salad, Moussaka, Tzatziki, Mediterranean quinoa

Indian Food

While there are a number of high carbohydrate foods that we usually associate with Indian food (naan, chapati, poppadom, rice), it's still possible to have a healthy balanced meal.

Order without adjustments:

  • Dry dishes such as a tikka, bhuna, or a tandoori style starter or main e.g. tandoori prawns, chicken, or paneer
  • A shashlik dish e.g. paneer or chicken shashlik
  • A tomato or onion based curry e.g. jalfrezi, madras, mattar paneer, or rogan dishes
  • Side dishes such as saag baaji (sautéed spinach), brinjal bhaji (aubergine), mushroom bhaji, raita (yogurt with cucumber), or any salad
  • Choose one carbohydrate food only, e.g. choose naan or chapati or rice or roti. Put this on your plate first so it's easy to measure your portion size as a quarter of your plate.

Order with a few adjustments:

  • Sides that have the word ‘Aloo’ contain potato e.g. Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potato curry) so these will count towards your carbohydrate servings
  • Dhal is a great vegetarian choice, but can be high in carbohydrates so enjoy in moderation
  • If possible, request that the kitchen use less oil and avoid deep fried items such as pakoras and samosas (which are also high in refined carbohydrates)
  • Switch mango chutney for tomato sambal, onion salad, a green chutney (normally made from herbs and chilli), or yoghurt mint sauce.

Second Nature Fakeaway: Lamb rogan josh curry, Punjabi kadhi, Paneer sabji, Cauliflower and carrot sabji, Coconut dahl, Chana masala, Lamb tikka masala, Mutter paneer

Italian Food

Typical Italian meals often include higher carbohydrate options like pasta, risotto, pizza, or garlic bread. However, there are many other delicious Italian food options that can make up a balanced meal.

Order without adjustments:

  • Most Italian restaurants offer a wide variety of fish, chicken, and beef dishes which will be fine to enjoy
  • Any protein dishes made with tomato, butter, cream, or wine based sauces
  • Aubergine parmigiana or caponata as a starter or main, with a side salad
  • Meatballs, grilled calamari, seafood stew, grilled garlic prawns, mixed grilled seafood
  • Baked mushrooms
  • Mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad

Order with a few adjustments:

  • If you'd like to choose a pasta, risotto, or gnocchi dish, see if anyone else would like to share a portion. You can also add in a side salad or grilled vegetables to make a more balanced meal.
  • You may also be able to order a starter sized serving of a pasta or risotto dish so the portion size is smaller
  • Be mindful of any breaded or deep fried dishes. If you enjoy bruschetta or garlic bread as a starter, could you share this with someone else or save some to enjoy the next day?
  • Swap side potatoes or chips for extra vegetables and salad or share with someone else
  • If you order a salad, ask for the dressing on the side or for an undressed option, as these can often contain added sugar

Second Nature Fakeaway: Spaghetti bolognese, Creamy prawn linguine, Citrusy meatballs, Meatballs in chilli-tomato sauce, Lentil bolognese, Chicken or aubergine parmigiana

Japanese Food

Japanese cuisine contains hearty and warming dishes such as miso soup, rice bowls with protein, and of course, sushi! There are also delicious noodle-based dishes, grilled fish and meat skewers, seaweed and pickled vegetables, as well as fermented soy products that have been shown to be beneficial for gut health.

There are some delicious and satisfying choices to be had if you fancy a Japanese takeaway, and some simple adjustments you can make for a more balanced meal.

Order without adjustments:

  • Sides: edamame, miso soup, Yakitori (skewers) with chicken, or shitake mushrooms
  • Bento is a balanced Japanese meal, usually consisting of fish, miso soup, rice, and vegetables like ‘shiro-ae’ (mashed tofu salad) or ‘tsukemono’ (Japanese pickles made from radish, cabbage, and cucumber). The rice will contribute towards your carbohydrate servings for the day, so be mindful of your portion size.
  • Shojin ryori is a good vegan option
  • Baked fish e.g. Miso Yaki (blackened cod marinated in miso)
  • Shogoyaki (pork in a ginger sauce)
  • Dishes with fermented soy e.g. natto and tempeh
  • Sashimi (raw fish)
  • Any form of seaweed side dish e.g. nori

Order with a few adjustments:

  • Teriyaki sauce dishes can often contain added sugar, so be mindful of this
  • Don buri (protein on rice), ask for less rice and extra vegetables
  • 6 pieces of sushi would have around 2 carbohydrate servings, depending on the size. California rolls are larger so would have slightly more. Consider having only a couple of rolls and adding vegetable side dishes for a balanced meal.
  • Avoid dishes that are primarily rice or noodles, like soba or ramen, as these are high in carbohydrates. Alternatively, request that rice or noodles are on the side and add these to your dish yourself so you can better control the serving size.
  • Tempura is generally high in refined carbohydrates, so enjoy this in moderation
  • Avoid caffeinated Green tea from lunch time onwards

Second Nature Fakeaway - Naked katsu curry, Pork mince ramen, Tofu Ramen, Poke bowl.

Kebabs, burgers, and pizzas

Some kebabs and burgers are ultra-processed and high in refined carbohydrates, especially if ordered with a wrap or bun. And, as we know, pizza's are also high in carbohydrate too. However, there are some ways in which you can make these meals a little healthier!

Order with a few adjustments:

  • Shish kebab - skewer with whole cuts of meat (chicken / lamb). Order without a pitta or wrap and have with salad or vegetables.
  • Chicken tikka kebab - chicken pieces with aromatic spices and a yoghurt sauce. Again, order without a pitta or wrap and have with salad or vegetables.
  • If you'd like a pitta bread or wrap, check whether a wholemeal option is available
  • Avoid adding sauces as these can often be high in sugar, or add your own at home (e.g. low sugar ketchup or mayo)
  • Choose a thin crust pizzas rather than deep pan alternatives
  • Choose pizzas with lots of extra vegetables on top, and choose lean meats over processed options (for example, chicken instead of pepperoni)
  • You might like to share a pizza and serve this with a side salad at home
  • If ordering a burger, ask for a wholemeal bun or go without the bun for a low carbohydrate meal
  • Order burgers, pizzas, and kebabs without chips or fries and instead add a side salad to your order

Second Nature Fakeaway: Cheeseburger stuffed peppers, Curried chickpea burger, Tofu steak burger, Black bean patties, Lamb pitta pizzas, Almond flour pizza, Courgette pizza boats, Chicken tikka skewers, Seitan shawarma with tahini.

Mexican food

Mexican (or Tex-Mex) foods can be high in carbohydrates, but there are also some really nutritious, lower-carb options on offer! Aim to avoid deep fried foods such as chimichangas or flautas.

Order without adjustments:

  • Order sides of guacamole or make your own for a good source of healthy fat. You could also order or make your own salsa. Instead of having these with tortilla chips as a starter, have it with veggie crudités.
  • Meats (typically chicken or red meats) with seasoning and a side of roasted vegetables
  • Ceviche - typically made from fresh, raw fish that has been cured in fresh citrus juices and spiced with chilli, salt, and coriander
  • Stuffed peppers - peppers stuffed with meat and vegetables, topped with cheese

Order with a few adjustments:

  • Order a veggie bean chilli or chilli without the rice. Add extras like a small amount of cheese, guacamole, and sour cream to make this more filling.
  • Torta (a grilled sandwich), order this without the bun and ask for a side of salad or vegetables
  • Ask for meals without added sauces as they can often be high in sugar
  • If you're ordering a burrito, add extra vegetables or salad and ask for this without the rice
  • Grilled fish tacos, ask for this to be served with a side salad
  • Fajitas, choose grilled chicken and include lots of vegetables and salad. Be mindful of wraps (opt for wholemeal if possible), 1 wrap can be around 2 carbohydrate servings.
  • Enchiladas - a corn tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with a savoury sauce. Enjoy mindfully as the corn tortilla (and sometimes a filling including rice) will provide carbohydrates. You could order alongside veggies or a salad and share with another person.
  • Be mindful of nacho's which will provide carbohydrates. Opt for a smaller serving size or share with someone else.

Second Nature Fakeaway: Mexican stuffed pepper, Mexican pork bowls, Chicken fajita bake, Vegan chilli, Chilli con carne, Crispy fish tacos

Spanish Tapas

Tapas are small dishes perfect for sharing with friends or family. We recommend ordering a variety of different dishes, including both vegetable and protein based options, to share with the table.

Try to avoid eating directly from serving plates and instead serve the food onto your own plate. This makes it easier for your brain to visualise how much food you've eaten which helps your body to recognise when it's feeling full.

Be mindful of your intake of deep fried food such as croquettes, calamari, or patatas bravas. If you'd like to try these dishes, order them for the table and try a small portion.

Instead look for the words 'asado' (roasted) and 'a la plancha' (grilled) on the menu.

Order without adjustments:

  • Aceitunas rellenas - olives stuffed with almonds, roasted peppers, or anchovies
  • Pimientos de padrón - small green peppers cooked in olive oil and served with rock salt
  • Verduras asadas - an assortment of roasted vegetables
  • Alcachofas a la plancha - grilled artichokes
  • Salmorejo - a puree made from tomatoes, garlic, bread crumbs, and olive oil. Often served with Spanish ham and chopped hard-boiled egg on top.
  • Ensalada mixta - traditional Spanish salad typically containing romaine lettuce, cucumber, onions, olives, tomatoes, corn, and either tuna or egg. Dressed with olive oil and salt.
  • Camarones a la plancha - grilled shrimp
  • Ceviche - traditionally made from raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice (the acidity of the juice 'cooks' the fish) and spices
  • Pulpo a la gallega - octopus seasoned with salt and paprika and drizzled with olive oil
  • Pintxos gilda - skewers with anchovies, olives, and peppers
  • Gambas al pil pil - sizzling prawns cooked in garlic, chilli, and olive oil
  • Bacalao al pil pil - salted cod cooked in garlic, chilli, and olive oil
  • Albóndigas - Spanish meatballs cooked in a tomato sauce
  • Espinacas con garbanzos - spinach and chickpea stew
  • Tortilla de patatas - a Spanish omelette made with potatoes and onions
  • Spanish cured hams such as Jamón ibérico and Jamón serrano
  • Spanish cheeses such as manchego, roncal, mahón, and majorero

Order with a few adjustments:

  • Patatas bravas (spicy potatoes) - traditionally the potatoes are deep fried, but some restaurants oven roast the potatoes instead. This dish is served with aioli and a spiced tomato salsa. It's a good idea to ask for the sauces to be served on the side so you can choose how much you add.
  • Pan con tomate (bread with tomatoes and garlic) - ask the waiter if they can thinly slice the bread for you. To increase the protein content, you could also ask for some anchovies or Spanish ham to be added on top.
  • Tomato gazpacho soup (a cold soup made with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and peppers, thickened with bread crumbs) - this dish is often served with croutons which you can ask to have left out.

Second Nature Fakeaway: Mel's tapas

Thai food

While many Thai dishes include a good balance of macronutrients, certain Thai dishes can be high in carbohydrates and may contain deep-fried foods, added sugar, or high amounts of salt.

Order without adjustments:

  • Papaya salad - shredded papaya mixed with chilli, green beans, peanuts, and a fish sauce dressing. Great as a side dish!
  • Tom yum soup - hot and sour soup with prawn/chicken/mushroom/tofu, broth, lemongrass, and chilli
  • Tom Kha soup - traditional creamy, smooth Thai soup with prawn/chicken/mushroom/tofu, coconut milk, and vegetables
  • Larb - stir-fried ground meat, vegetables, herbs, and spices
  • Steamed fish and vegetables - typically white fish steamed with spices
  • Beef and broccoli - lean beef, broccoli, and other vegetables.
  • Massaman curry - a mildly sweet curry with a mix of curry paste, vegetables, coconut milk, herbs, and spices

Order with a few adjustments:

  • Thai salad - beef, chicken, prawn, tofu, or duck salad with lettuce, spring onion, onion, tomato, and carrot. Ask for the spicy salad dressing to come on the side as this can often contain added sugar.
  • Thai yellow, green, or red curry, or Penang curry - ask for rice to come on the side, or add your own wholegrain rice at home, as well as your own vegetables
  • Stir fry - look for options that contain lean protein, lots of vegetables, and no added sauces (ideally the seasoning should come from the spices). For example, beef and vegetable ginger stir fry.

Second Nature Fakeaway: Lamb Massaman curry, Shredded Thai chicken salad, Thai yellow curry, Thai pork loin and salad, Thai fishcakes, Beef and broccoli stir fry, Rice paper rolls, San choy bau.

Turkish/Middle Eastern food

Turkish/Middle Eastern cuisine has a wide range of meat dishes, high in protein to help keep you feeling full and satisfied. They're often served with rice, so be mindful of this in terms of your carbohydrate servings.

Order without adjustments:

  • Kibdeh - chicken liver and onions
  • Lamb and lhicken skewers
  • Kofta or kebab
  • Samak mashwi - grilled fish
  • Quzi - a lamb shank dish
  • Moussaka
  • Marag Bamya - lamb and okra stew

You might like to include the following side dishes instead of rice, couscous, or flatbread:

  • Tzatziki
  • Fattoush
  • Pickles
  • Hummus
  • Baba ghanoush
  • Gaimar - a yoghurt side dish

Order with a few adjustments:

The following meals are based on rice, chickpeas, or potato, and will therefore contribute towards your carbohydrate servings. Keep this in mind when considering your portion sizes.

  • Biryani dishes, these are based on rice so be mindful of your portion size. You could ask for extra meat and a side salad with this.
  • Tabbouleh salad, this contains bulgar wheat which will provide a source of carbohydrate
  • Hashweh - a rice dish made with meat, carrots, peas, onions, pine nuts, and spices
  • Vine leaves stuffed with rice
  • Kousa bil laban - courgettes stuffed with rice in a yoghurt sauce
  • Thareed, a meat stew with potato and chickpeas
  • Makloubeh - chicken with rice, tomatoes, aubergine, and potato
  • Vegetable tagine or meat tagine- vegetables, chickpeas, and potatoes in a sauce

Each of these are examples of one carbohydrate serving:

  • 40g Kahi or Khubz - a traditional bread
  • 35g falaffel
  • 75g Kibbeh - bulgar wheat patties stuffed with lamb
  • 70g Sambousek - a cheese filled pastry

Dates or dried apricots are often added to Turkish dishes. These are a concentrated source of sugar so try to pick these out or count them towards your daily servings of fruit.

Second Nature Fakeaway: Falafel bowl, Beetroot falafels, Fattoush salad, Chicken tagine, Lamb kofte, Muhammara and salad, Beetroot hummus.

Take home message

  • There will always be occasions when you want to eat out at a restaurant or fancy picking up a takeaway. You can use the guide above to help you choose the best possible options in these scenarios.
  • Remember that portion sizes can be quite big for takeaways, so use your plate to portion yourself and save the rest for leftovers
  • Keep the Second Nature balanced plate model in mind when serving up. Aim for 1/4 of your plate to be protein, 1/4 to be complex carbohydrates, and 1/2 to be non-starchy vegetables or salad
  • There may be times when you want to enjoy a meal outside of the Second Nature guidelines, and that's fine! Just be sure to enjoy it mindfully and move on afterwards.

Can't find the cuisine or meal you're looking for? Remember you can always ask your health coach to review a menu for you in the group chat!

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