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The DAO of ordering in like a boss

You know how it is. You are just coming back from a long trip, ending an insanely hard day, out of groceries, or just not. in. the. mood. All you want to do is flop on the couch and Netflix with your boo (chill optional).

Use the LBD method to order meals

Fortunately, food choices have become more reliable when ordering in. A Thai takeout menu on the East Coast will look pretty similar to one on the West Coast; Mexican, Japanese, and regular American menus often have “staple” fares. 

So you can apply the Little Black Dress Method to this by designating some “favorite” healthy meals and giving yourself a few options per type of food to have novelty. I will give examples in each category of what I consider healthy LBD meals as we go along. 

There are a few principles that I follow regarding ordering in:

Ordering recommendations by cuisine

Here are my recommendations, organized by kind of popular delivery / takeout option, with estimated calorie counts. Before we get to that, two caveats on the calorie counts:

  • Every restaurant preps their food differently. This is why for the most part I recommend ordering dressing, sauces, etc. on the side, and BYOD (Bring your own dressing) or BYOS (Bring your own sauce). You are at home anyway, so that’s available!
  • Like in normal restaurants, portion sizes are usually off the chain. In most if not all cases, one order should be enough to share with your boo or extend to a next day lunch or diner.



  • Domino’s spinach and feta artisan pizza (150 calories per slice)
  • Papa John’s garden fresh pizza, thin crust (210 calories a slice)
  • Pizza hut veggie lover’s thin n’ crispy pizza (180 calories per slice)

If you are ordering pizza with your boo, family, or friends, and everyone wants to just eat from 1 pie, you can follow this trick: Eat one slide, and “pimp” out your pizza by adding your own toppings. Put 1 slices on a plate and cover with greens, olives, bell pepper, cherry tomato, and cucumber. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. This makes it possible to have “regular” pizza for only about 350 calories!

Steer clear of:

  • Stuffed crust pizza
  • Deep dish pizza
  • Side dishes like chicken fingers or poppers

Mexican (i.e., Chipotle)

Here you want to make sure you order a custom meal rather than a pre-made bowl. I prefer a custom burrito bown over a salad bowl because of the carbs.


  • Fajita vegetables
  • Brown rice
  • Chicken breast or bean protein
  • Guacamole

Steer clear of

  • Tortilla chips (these are usually deep fried. If you REALLY love chips and salsa, try getting some Baked Tostitos and just order the Salsa).
  • Sour cream
  • White tortillas (tacos, burritos, etc).



  • Tom Yum (not Tom Ka) soup (150-200 cal with shrimp, tofu, or chicken breast). Tom Ka soup has coconut milk and some places really go wild with the amount, whereas Tom Yum is a broth that is lemongrass-based. In general, with soups, broth base is best
  • Spicy beef or papaya salad (on average, 250-300 cal)
  • Spicy dishes with garlic, chili or basil (ask for brown rice on side and ideally get chicken or shrimp for protein).

Steer clear of:

  • Tom Kha Soup
  • Pad Thai or any kind of noodle dish
  • Curries



  • Rice paper rolls (average 120 calories per roll). Instead of the peanut sauce, use tamari or coconut aminos for dipping sauce;
  • Tamarind soup with chicken or shrimp (also known as “hot and sour”or “sweet and sour” soup) (250 calories per serving) . This is usually a really great filling soup because of all the cabbage and pineapple, and feels very cleansing, too!
  • Lemongrass chicken / beef/shrip dishes
  • Pho with Chicken breast or veggies (350-400 cal per serving). Usually I only eat half of the noodles and get a double order of chicken then save the rest and eat as a salad the next day (just mix with some greens, tamari, and miso! )
  • Banh mi sandwiches (although try to split it, these are normally huge)

Steer clear of:

  • Deep fried egg rolls
  • Clay bot dishes
  • Pork dishes



  • Chinese hot and sour soup (100 calories per cup, 200 calories per bowl);
  • Steamed asparagus with shrimp or chicken and brown rice, side of brown or garlic sauce (200 calories);
  • Steamed veggie dumplings (between 25-50 calories per dumpling depending on size)

Steer clear of:

  • Duck
  • Deep fried crispy snacks
  • General Tso’s chicken (this isn’t even really Chinese!)

Middle Eastern / Greek


  • Chicken breast kabob with salad (300-400 calories);
  • Yogurt with mint and cucumber (50-100 calories per bowl);
  • Tabhouli – bulghur wheat with parsley, tomato, and lemon juice (110 calories)
  • Half a pita with 1 serving hummus (170 calories);
  • Greek salad with dressing on side add chicken breast (350 calories). Stick with the “thumbful of fat” rule for the feta because these places tend to overload on the cheese;
  • Baba Ghanoush (this makes a great dressing for the salad) – 30 calories per serving ;
  • Greek yogurt with honey (200 calories)

Steer clear of:

  • Gyros
  • Souvlaki
  • Baklavah
  • White rice (in excess of 1/2 cup)
  • Heavy casserole dishes


Indian is TRICKY. Having married into an Indian family, I know firsthand even the homecooked veggie dishes are made with a lot of oil, often canola or even ghee, because of the high cooking temperatures. I would really not order Indian often and make it a “20.”


  • Chicken or fish Tikka
  • Caulflower, pea and potato dish (also known as aloo gobi)
  • Channa masala (chickpea stew)

Steer clear of:

  • Samosas
  • Lamb curries
  • Butter chicken



  • Pizza – order a thin crust margherita pizza. 2 slices usually clock in at 350 calories, more bang for your buck than the chain pizzas
  • Minestrone soup (250 calories) with side salad (no dressing, BYOD!)
  • Pasta: Cappellini y pomodoro (300 caloiries per serving) – because this is tomato-based and has thinner noodles, it is a usually a good choice. Either share it with your boo, or spread it out over two meals and add a protein!

Steer clear of:

  • Creamy pastas, like fettucuni
  • Calzones (this is basically deep fried pizza)
  • Lasagna



Here are my recommendations for sushi:

  • 1 tuna, salmon, or yellowtail roll, 1 cucumber roll or veggie roll, and
  • seaweed salad or miso soup – approximately 450 calories for ALL of this. Eat the tuna roll first then the salad and soup, and usually you will not even feel like eating or finishing the non-fish roll, which you can totally eat the next day!

If you are not a raw food person, here are my recommendations:

  • Black cod, salmon, or wagyu beef
  • Side salad with a sesame ginger dressing (which is usually low in cals) and sub brown rice for white rice, for a total 400 calorie meal. Usually the teriyaki serving is twice the single serving size, so you definitely have additional eats for next day’s lunch or next night’s dinner, just eat over a salad and save some of the rice and dressing.

Steer clear of:

  • Any sushi rolls with mayo or cheese, like Philadelphia or Spicy tuna roll
  • Ramen
  • Tempura
  • Teriyaki (loaded with sugar).


Here are some good options for room service orders, including breakfast. A great Sunday morning treat for your boo (or even just for you) is breakfast in bed – but for us busy #fitprofessionals, we can order in and still feel sexy in our skivvies!


  • Bunless burger with side salad (400-600 calories);
  • Bunless grilled chicken sandwich with side salad (300-500 calories);
  • Entrée salad with grilled chicken, salmon, steak or shrimp, no dressing BYOD (300-450 calories)
  • Veggie eggwhite omelet with side of turkey bacon or sausage;
  • Greek yogurt and fruit;
  • Avocado toast and soft-boiled egg.
  • Side of wheat toast, feta chees, and honey.
  • BYOC!!! Skinny Champagne at only 85 calories a glass. Mix it with Vitamin water zero in rise (orange flavor) for a low-cal mimosa!!

Steer clear of:

  • Fries, including sweet potato fries
  • Wings
  • Any kind of fried food, including fish, crabcakes, or chicken

Photo by Jeremy Banks


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