New initiative uncovers misconceptions about the healthiness of pre-ordered food
Australia’s top nutritionist says consumers have been left in the dark with the lack of nutritional information available for takeaway. With our busy lifestyles leaving us little time to analyse our food choices, is it any wonder we’re unsure as to whether or not we’re eating healthily when ordering in?
Dr Joanna, internationally known for her wholefood, low GI approach to eating and developed the Dr Joanna Plate – a healthy guide to meals that has helped thousands of Australians – says, “It is compulsory for restaurants with more than 20 outlets to release nutritional analyses of their menus to the public, and much of our packaged food comes with nutritional analyses. When it comes to ordering in from small restaurants, however, there is nothing available to us.”
To help solve the challenge in takeaway, Menulog has launched Healthy+ on its web platform to help Aussies choose the healthier options on takeaway menus. Guidelines developed by Dr Joanna and Menulog specifically for takeaway have been used to analyse the dishes, initially, of 18 restaurants across Australia. Surprisingly, 40 per cent of dishes normally perceived as unhealthy have made it into the program.
Major food misconceptions uncovered
Dr Joanna explains why: “The initial rollout of Healthy+ across restaurants has uncovered some surprising results, and will demystify many misconceptions Australians have about takeaway. The eight cuisines that have so far made the Healthy+ program among participating restaurants are Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, African, Modern Australian, Italian, Japanese and Thai.
“Factors that have made particular dishes on menus stand out have been healthy cooking methods, inclusion of lean meats or seafood, plenty of vegetables or good oils. The abundant use of antioxidant-rich herbs and spices are also major brownie points for many cuisines,” Dr Joanna says.
Dr Joanna says the guidelines are important, as a recent survey by Menulog found that takeaway is here to stay, with 47 per cent of Aussies likely to cook from home at least three times a week, but 55 per cent feel that ordering in has been more affordable. The research also showed 72 per cent of us like to order in at least once a week.
Dr Joanna’s top 8 healthy dishes around Australia that people may perceive as unhealthy:
Of the 133 dishes that have so far been certified as Healthy+, 55 that could normally be perceived as unhealthy by Aussies have made the cut. Menulog lists 8 of these dishes from around the country – Dr Joanna says to simply team the mains with a green salad or steamed veggies for a winning meal. Her thoughts on the following dishes may surprise you.
Garlic prawns – Red Rock Noodle, Brisbane“Prawns are often thought to be high in cholesterol, dietary cholesterol has very little influence on blood cholesterol levels: if you eat more cholesterol your liver simply makes less. Prawns are in fact a terrific protein-rich food that provides anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, several nutrients including the antioxidant mineral selenium and iron. In Red Rock Noodle’s recipe, they are teamed with egg noodles, which tend to have a lower GI than rice, and plenty of veggies. Overall it’s one of the lowest kilojoule dishes on the menu with only 1705kJ per regular serve, is high in protein, and low in fat, while meeting the targets for both sugar and salt.”
Pad Thai – Oriental Healthy, Sydney“Noodles tend to have a lower GI than most white rice, so combined with the protein-rich meat, prawns and eggs, all fried in my favourite oil, extra virgin olive oil, this dish is a Healthy+ winner.”
Beef and black bean sauce – Red Rock Noodle, Brisbane“This dish contains lean beef so that the saturated fat content is only 1.2g per serve, plenty of veggies and with just under 2000kJ per serve it's a good choice. Black bean sauce is made from fermented black beans which have terrific benefits for the gut,” Dr Joanna says.
Beef Masala – Saffron Indian, PerthLean ingredients and the cooking method are key to this dish. “This Beef Masala is slow-cooked on the stove, and it’s fairly lean with little oil used and no cream added, as with some curries. Onions are the base of the sauce and these contain a number of sulphur antioxidants that have particular benefits in protecting us from cancer,” Dr Joanna says.
Rogan Josh from Indimex, Greenslopes, Brisbane“This dish makes the cut as it uses lean meat or seafood, delivering plenty of protein, has added veggies and the spices are antioxidant rich. They also use mustard oil, a high monounsaturated fat, instead of the more usual ghee, boosting the health profile of the dish.”
Lamb Kofta – Dine In, Melbourne Fried meat? “This dish made the cut as the kofta are pan fried, not deep fried, and in extra virgin olive oil. It's a myth that you can't cook with this. The yoghurt based sauce accompaniment adds protein and calcium to the meal,” Dr Joanna says.
Penne pasta dishes (Napoli and Pollo) – Pasta Fiesta, Perth.Pasta as an unhealthy choice is a common misconception. “Pasta is low GI and much higher in protein than rice, so provided you watch your portion size it's actually a great choice. These dishes are also tomato-based, use extra virgin olive oil with their antioxidants and also boost the uptake of lycopene from the tomatoes.
Thai Fish Cakes – Oriental Healthy, Sydney “These fish cakes are an aromatic mix of minced fish with spices and although fried, the restaurant uses canola oil - an oil that is primarily healthy monounsaturated fats.”
Menulog.com.au is Australia’s number one for online and mobile takeaway. With more than 5500 participating restaurants offering more than 130 different cuisines and over 16,000 special offers at any given time, Menulog also offers Australia’s most comprehensive range of meal options on a single platform.
About Dr Joanna McMillan
Dr Joanna is one of the best-known nutrition and wellbeing experts in Australia and director of Dr Joanna and Get Lean. She has authored a number of books including the internationally published The Low GI Diet, The Low GI Diet Cookbook (Hachette Livre) and Star Foods. In 2010 she won Best Health, Nutrition or Diet Related Book at the Food Media Awards for Inner Health Outer Beauty.