Fast food and takeaway

The average Australian family spends nearly 15% of their food budget on fast food and/or takeaway food1. These foods are not always nutritious and excessive consumption may contribute to poor health.

Fast food and takeaway food can often be high in:

These foods can also be low in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Food items which have smaller volumes, but large surface areas such as french fries and chicken nuggets can absorb a substantial amount of fat per portion. This increases the energy density of the food and contributes to extra kilojoule intake.

Some fast food retailers also offer larger portions for little extra cost, making it easy to consume excessive fat and kilojoules.

Frequent consumption of foods that are high in energy, salt and saturated fat can put you at higher risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure.

Some fast food retailers are making changes to their cooking methods and ingredients, to improve the nutritional quality of their meals. Occasionally, choosing small portions of these items can be part of a balanced diet.

When choosing fast food or takeaway items it is always best to opt for foods that are:

Healthy options

Here are some healthy option ideas for when you are eating out:

  • Plain hamburgers with extra salad (skip the bacon, fried onion and fried egg)
  • Small portions of gourmet style pizzas (topped with vegetables, lean meat or seafood and opt for a thin crust)
  • Jacket potatoes with creamed corn, baked beans or salad toppings
  • Wholegrain sandwiches with lean meat and salad
  • Grilled fish with a side salad
  • Pasta with tomato based sauces
  • Sushi or Vietnamese rolls.

Smart Eating Tips for takeaway foods

  • Always have some quick and easy meal ingredients so that you are less tempted to order takeaway. Examples include pizza bases, pasta sauces, fresh vegetables, lean BBQ meats, lean mince and ready prepared lentils
  • When ordering takeaway foods which are high in saturated fat and salt such as chips, fried chicken, fatty meats and cheese, choose smaller portions and request a side of salad or vegetables
  • Check what type of oil your food is cooked in and opt for healthier oils such as olive, canola, sunflower or soybean oil
  • Instead of choosing a meal deal with chips and a soft drink, choose healthy accompaniments such as a side salad, corn cob, bread roll, fruit, yoghurt and opt for plain water
  • If lean, wholegrain or reduced fat versions are available; these would generally be healthier choices
  • Choosing skin-free chicken or simply removing it can reduce the fat content of your meal
  • Ask for your burger with the sauce on the side so you can add a little yourself. Most fast food places will accommodate your personal preferences.
Takeaway foods can be enjoyed as part of a healthy eating plan, provided they are consumed occasionally and in moderated portions. An Accredited Practising Dietitian can assist you in making changes to your diet and can offer advice on nutritious alternatives to high fat, high salt takeaway foods.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2000, ‘6535.0 – Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Detailed Expenditure Items, 1998-99’, viewed 10 August 2010, <>