Can you eat healthily with delivery food?


Even if you rely on food delivery services, such as takeout or packaged weekly meals, the District is still a great place to eat healthily, say two local nutritionists.

“I counsel patients on eating better and to do more cooking in their own kitchen: beans, grains, having more fresh fruit in their diet,” says Susan Levin, Director of Nutrition Education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

“Often people look at me and say, ‘I just don’t have time. We can argue about their philosophy of what’s more important. Where do you want to spend your time: in the kitchen now, or in the hospital later? Immediate gratification and immediate resources are alright.”

Levin, who recommends a vegan or vegetarian diet, argues that taking shopping out of the equation and using a service that delivers fresh food, such as Soupergirl! or Purple Carrot, is a good strategy if lack of time is what stops you from maintaining a healthy diet. Those meal delivery services are completely vegan, so you don’t have to search through menu options to get the fat down and the fiber up: every meal is going to be naturally high in fiber, and their menus offer lots of variety.

“Soupergirl! is a local business that has amazingly healthy food on their menu,” says Levin.

When ordering takeout or pickup, Levin usually goes for something international. “That tends to be healthier,” she says. She orders Thai or Vietnamese food, for example, while making sure she gets an abundance of vegetables. Her favorite local takeout restaurant is Pho 14.

“They make an amazing pho (Vietnamese soup) and offer alternative broths – vegan made with apples, instead of beef. Sushi is also a good option for takeout. I’ll order vegetable sushi. It has rice and often raw veggies and fresh seaweed salad.”

If you are in the mood for healthy pizza, one of Levin’s favorite places to get vegan pizza is &pizza.  She recommends ordering chickpeas, broccoli, skipping the cheese (even vegan cheese), and then getting delivered what amounts to an inexpensive gourmet pizza for one.

“I love the food delivery services. When ordering I always look for foods that are high in protein with quality lean meat,” says Christine Hanson Haas, a licensed nutritionist in Maryland and Washington, DC and owner of Washington Nutrition and Counseling Group. She also recommends Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes like those from Hungry Harvest, a farm to doorstep produce delivery service that delivers to houses or apartments in the District.

Both nutritionists say there is no excuse in NW Washington not to eat healthily. However, if you depend on food delivery services, they warn that you still need to be aware whenever you are ordering out. If you are not careful about making overtly smart ordering decisions, you probably are going to be eating a lot more fat and calories that you may want to believe.

“You still have to be smart and take the time to consider how they are making the food. What is so great is that, if you invest time to do the legwork initially — figuring out good places and menu items within those places that are good — then it becomes second nature to order these healthy foods and actually make improvements to your diet,” says Levin.