Take On The Take Away


Take On The Take Away - Rozanne Stevens

The takeaway business in Ireland is one of the few food businesses to actually grow in the recession. Possibly as it’s seen as a treat and the next best thing to dining out, which many people have cut back on. Unfortunately from a health point of view, most takeaways are very calorific, and contain excessive amounts of sugar and salt. An average sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice clocks in at 760 calories! That’s more than half of the daily recommended calories for a woman.

The good news is, you can still recreate many of your favourite takeaway dishes at home that are budget and figure friendly. But there is one more pitfall to avoid and that is ‘cook in’ sauces. Cook in sauces contain huge quantities of sugar, with one popular brand containing four tablespoons per bottle! Besides additives, sugar and salt are the ‘food villians’ that lurk in processed foods that we all need to cut back on.

I have recreated one of the most popular take away dishes-Sweet and Sour Chicken. This is a stir fry with lots of crunchy vitamin and fibre rich vegetables, lean protein from chicken and a much healthier, homemade sauce. This is a very family friendly meal that is quick and easy to prepare and tastes great. To make it even healthier, choose better brands of ingredients that you can buy to keep in your storecupboard. For Asian ingredients, it is well worth a trip to an Asian market where you will find good quality brands, in bigger sizes for a fraction of the price.

Top Storecupboard Ingredients:

  • Low salt and low sugar tomato ketchup – I buy the Heinz version
  • Low salt and additive stock cubes – I favour Kallo
  • Tinned fruit in natural juice, not a sugar syrup – there are many supermarket ‘own brand’
  • Good quality soy sauce – I like Thai Gold which is gluten free and Kikkoman soy sauce
  • Sunflower oil for stir fries – this is a flavourless oil that doesn’t burn at high temperatures so good for stir fries
  • Brown basmati or jasmine rice – I buy Thai Gold organic brown jasmine rice

Sweet and Sour Chicken Serves 4-6

  • 4 chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Sunflower oil, for stir frying
  • 1 brown onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
  • 400g tin of pineapple pieces in natural juice, drained and juice reserved
  • Sweet and Sour Sauce
  • 2tbls tomato ketchup
  • 2tbsp plum sauce
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • 4tbls white wine vinegar
  • 1tbsp cornflour dissolved in 1tbsp water
  • 4tbls chicken stock (use a corner of a stock cube dissolved in boiling water)
  • Reserved pineapple juice
  • Brown basmati rice, to serve


1. Mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok and stir fry the chicken in batches until browned and cooked through. Set aside in a clean bowl.

3. Heat another tablespoon of oil and stir fry the vegetables until cooked but still crunchy, approximately 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water to create steam and cook the veggies without adding extra oil.

4. Add the chicken, pineapple pieces and sauce. Bring to the boil and wait for the sauce to thicken while stirring.

5. Serve immediatley with brown basmati rice.

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About Elaine

Elaine graduated from Trinity College with a B.Sc., (Hons) in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. She gained wide experience working as clinical nutritionist in several hospitals prior to establishing her first private dietetic clinic in 1992.

Private Practice Experience
Elaine has gained vast experience specialising in providing private individual dietetic consultations for her clients in her clinics for the past 17 years. In recent years, her main areas of interest are weight management, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and nutrition and gastro-enterology.

Elaine is an active member of the INDI and was chairperson of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic weight management interest group from 2005 to 2007.

Dietetic and Nutrition Consultancy
Elaine has provided dietetic consultancy to a wide range of industries including private hospitals, hotels and catering companies. She has designed, piloted, implemented and coordinated workplace wellbeing programmes for several prominent companies and large international corporations.