How ordering takeout can support your health goals, according to psychology

by | May 20, 2022 | Last updated Mar 17, 2023

One of the things that makes Noom a sustainable weight loss program is that it’s realistic. And though preparing your own nutritious meals is up there with some of our other favorite activities, it is—realistically—not always an option. That’s why we believe that ordering takeout has a place in every health journey. 

Today, we’ll explore the psychology of takeout. Though it’s a relatively young area of study, there are already a number of intriguing learnings that can be valuable on a weight loss journey.

Take your time with takeout

One established point is that ordering takeout online tends to be less rushed than doing it over the phone. This gives people more time to peruse menus carefully and pay attention to descriptions of food preparation. You can look for telling words that clue you in to just how healthily a dish is prepared. For example, is your meal deep-fried, pan-fried, or candied? These preparations are among the least healthful, yielding the most calorie-dense foods. When food is sautéed, stir-fried, or grilled, it’s considerably healthier for you—with steamed, baked, and stewed representing some of the very healthiest preparations. (The Noom Weight program shares extensive intel for demystifying any menu.) 

According to a study in Psychology and Marketing, ordering takeout may even have some health benefits. People are more likely to make healthier food choices when ordering takeout online because there is no time-pressured interaction with a server. This offers you the freedom to think carefully about what you’d most like to eat and what choices would advance your health goals. 

Avoid the impulse buys

But then there are, of course, the perils of takeout. For one thing, it’s considerably easier for online orders to turn into larger orders, which can get in the way of staying in your target calorie range for the day. In an interview with Fast Company, Domino’s Pizza confirmed that one of the benefits the chain gleans from online orders is that it increases sales of add-ons. In fact, mobile orders are usually even larger than orders placed on a desktop computer, perhaps because of the perceived ease of tapping a screen to make food appear at your doorstep.  

And it’s been shown that, if you’re ordering takeout to save on time, you’re more likely to look for bold, sweet, or spicy foods that jolt your taste buds. These orders may help you enjoy your food in a faster, more time-conscious way, but they won’t necessarily support your health goals.

Exercise mindful eating with your takeout

There’s an antidote to all this. And, in fact, on a health journey, it’s one of the most powerful tools you can have in your arsenal. It’s being more mindful when you eat: paying attention to your portion sizes and making a point to really enjoy what you’re eating.  

Can you focus on appreciating what you like most about a food—its savoriness, sweetness, texture, or all of the above? Can you notice when you’re eating it because you truly want it, as opposed to when you might be eating because you feel like you have to finish what’s in the takeout container?

Enjoying foods mindfully is a powerful way to build healthier eating habits. With a commitment to mindful eating, you’re more likely to savor what you eat and choose something aligned with your goals. This is true whether you’re baking salmon with sweet potatoes or waiting for a chicken fajita delivery from a new restaurant you discovered on DoorDash. 

Swearing off takeout might be borderline impossible. And no matter what your particular health goals are, it’s important to have a plan to achieve them that you, personally, can stick to. Noom Weight designs personalized weight loss plans so that you can make progress toward your goals comfortably and realistically. 

Oh, and check out these 21 tips for making healthier takeout orders