With coronavirus case numbers continuing to climb, staying at home is a smart move. You've probably already stocked up on staples like pasta and peanut butter. But making the same meals on a rotation can get old fast. That's where takeout and delivery come in. Ordering from local restaurants has been a blessing for busy families and small businesses during the pandemic.
But is it safe to eat takeout now? Is eating food prepared outside the home the healthiest approach? Let's break it down.
Keeping Carryout Safe
According to the World Health Organization, there's no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness. Transmission happens through direct contact with an infected person or with the respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
But that doesn't mean you should be complacent. There are things you can do to ensure your takeout order is safe and ready to consume:
- Clean your hands after touching food packaging. You don't need to disinfect takeout bags and boxes, but you should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling food packages and before eating.
- Minimize contact with food service staff. Picking up food? Order online and opt for curbside service so you don't have to enter the establishment. Better yet, request delivery. You can pay online and wait until the delivery person leaves before retrieving your food from your door.
- Transfer food immediately. When you bring the food in, take it out of the packaging, transfer it to your plate and throw out the containers. Then wash your hands before eating.
- Eat food within two hours of pick-up. Make sure you consume your food within the two-hour safe window. If you're not going to eat right away, or if you'll be packing half away for leftovers, store food in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat it.
Selecting The Healthiest Takeout Options
The idea of gaining the "quarantine 15" has become popular in recent months — for good reason. People are rightfully concerned that with more time at home, they'll be ordering more takeout and consuming more food.
The truth is, you can order takeout as much as you like, as long as you follow a few key weight maintenance strategies:
- Check the nutrition information: Before you place your order, get online and compare the nutrition information of your preferred options. In addition to calories and fat, this also includes nutrients like sodium, fiber and added sugars.
- Skip the beverages: Many eateries are offering specials on beverages to maximize profits. Do yourself a favor and skip the cocktails. Water is less expensive and better for you.
- Pay attention to preparation methods: Steer clear of menu options that feature words like "breaded," "creamy," "fried" and "sautéed" and focus instead on selections that are baked, grilled, steamed and broiled.
- Watch the portions: The best way to keep portion sizes in check is put half of your order on your plate and immediately pack the other half into a storage container for lunch or dinner the next day.
- Go half and half: Amp up the veggies in your meal by supplementing your takeout with a side or a salad that you prepare at home. You’ll ensure you’re getting some high-quality nutrients and fiber while also enjoying your preferred takeout meal.
Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN, is the director of the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Learn more about Bethany.