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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 00:14 GMT 01:14 UK
Takeaways 'loaded with fat'
Thai food
Thai food was among that examined by the researchers
Many takeaway and restaurant meals are loaded with unhealthily high levels of fat and sugar, research has found.

The magazine Health Which? examined the nutritional content of typical meals from Chinese, Indian, Thai, Italian and Tex-Mex menus.

Recommended daily guidelines (men/women)
Fat 95g/70g
saturates 30g/20g
calories 2,500/2,000
sodium 2.5g/2g
fibre 18g/18g
sugar 70g/50g
In particular they looked at levels of fat (including saturated fat), sugar, fibre and sodium - all of which can be bad for health in high quantity.

The researchers found that certain dishes from each type of cuisine contained worryingly high levels of fat and sugar.

Some Chinese dishes were particularly unhealthy. A portion of battered sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice contained 60g of fat and 44g of sugar.

And the popular dish crispy duck had around 31g of fat per portion.

National dish

The popular Indian dish chicken tikka masala with pilau rice - recently described by former foreign secretary Robin Cook as Britain's new national dish - contained around 47g of fat.

Vegetable biryani contained around 43g of fat, and lamb passanda with pilau rice had around 24g of saturated fat.

Some of the Italian food tested was more healthy. The dish pasta with arrabiata sauce contained only 12g of fat, 6g of sugar, and 0.5g of sodium.

However, the highly popular dish lasagne contained around 45g of fat - more than a McDonald's Quarterpounder with cheese and small fries.

The researchers found that many of the accompaniments that go with Tex-Mex food were laden with fat and calories, such as sour cream and cheese.

Dishes such as chicken enchiladas and chilli con carne are also high in fat.

Thai food

Traditional Thai dishes tend to be relatively healthy, as many are based on steamed rice and vegetables, fish, lemon and garlic.

For instance, stir fried chicken with plain steamed rice (phad khing hai) has 13g of fat, only 3g of which is saturated fat.

But there were some unhealthier Thai options. For instance, green curry with sticky rice has around 29g of fat - largely down to coconut cream.

Sue Freeman, Managing Editor of Health Which?, said: "There's nothing wrong with eating out or having the odd takeaway.

"But if you're relying on this type of food, arm yourself with the nutritional savvy to know which dishes to go for.

"If you want to reduce your fat intake in particular, go for plain rice, stir-fried or steamed food."

Claire MacEvilly, a nutrition scientist for the British Nutrition Foundation, said it was perfectly okay to eat takeaway food, such as a curry, once a week - provided a person's diet was otherwise balanced and healthy.

But she admitted: "As a nation of curry eaters, I don't suppose this type of research is going to do very much to deter people."

New research from the food industry think tank, the Institute of Grocery Distribution, predicts people are going to want much more convenience food in future.

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"Research shows many of today's children will never learn to cook"
See also:

21 May 01 | Health
Children 'breakfast on junk food'
29 May 01 | Health
People 'fool themselves on diet'
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