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A selection of UberEats takeaway food
Can you sustain a diet of only eating UberEats?

There used to be a time where settling for take away on a lazy night meant buying greasy fish and chips, or pizza that more resembles cardboard than an actual edible meal. Those days are now distant memories, with gourmet meals of all cuisines from Australia’s top restaurants now readily available. And the beauty of it all? It’s delivered straight to your front door at the click of a button.

There’s no denying that since the introduction of apps like UberEats, Deliveroo, Foodora and Menulog, that the use of takeaway is rising at extreme rates. According to the NAB’s online retail sales index, takeaway food was the fastest growing category in 2016, increasing by 34%.

With the way we think about food in Australia being revolutionised dramatically, does this pose longer lasting effects to your health? Can you really maintain a healthy diet if your meals are mainly from food delivery services? With all this in mind, Deakin’s Social Media Assistant David Lo Monaco decided to embark on a journey to evaluate this very question.

A taste for challenge

As an avid UberEats advocate I was pretty excited to take on the challenge of finding out whether it is possible to have a nutritionally balanced diet when sourcing your meals solely from the app. If someone had to be a guinea pig, I was glad to put my hand up.

The experiment:

  • For one week I ate all my dinners using UberEats.
  • The following week I home-cooked every meal in order to compare the two.
  • I sought to compare not only the nutrition and health of the two, but also the cost and effort required.

Across the two weeks many adventures ensued, a lot of delicious food was consumed and some surprising insights were discovered along the way.

Week 1: UberEats

Monday, Misschu Vietnamese: $33.80

  • lemongrass beef vermicelli noodle salad with mint, shredded carrots and bean shoots
  • two turmeric chicken breast and cucumber rice paper rolls
  • two vegetarian spring rolls

My first night of UberEats did not go entirely without a hitch, to say the least. As the rain started pouring just as my UberEats driver arrived, I found myself very temporarily stuck in the elevator in my building. Just long enough for the paper bag in which my food was held in to be completely saturated. This led to the bottom of the bag completely giving way as I ran the few short steps back into my apartment building and I watched my spring rolls heartbreakingly roll down the street. While not my intention, this was one effective way to shrink my portion size. RIP assumedly delicious vegetarian spring rolls.

Tuesday, Seoul Soul Plus Korean: $32.00

  • eggplant and baby sprouts in a sweet soy bean paste with garlic sprouts
  • chilli edamame
  • stir-fried sweet potato noodles with homemade sweet soy sauce, carrots, cauliflower, snowpeas and beef.

Wednesday, Hecho En Mexican: $25.49

  • corn on the cob flame grilled with chipotle butter and garnished with chipotle aioli and fresh lime
  • burrito stuffed with mexi mexi (potato) chips and jalapenos with coriander, mango, lime juice and grilled chicken.

Once again I had another mishap in my UberEats adventure, although I may be partly (mostly) to blame. I somehow listed the wrong address, which saw me reaping unexpected health benefits as I sprinted 500 meters down the road to collect my food. It also included a very rude driver berating me for making him wait an extra 10 minutes and demanding I give him a tip.

Thursday, Hanoi Hannah Vietnamese: $37.50

  • Hannah Burger with brioche buns, pork patty, green papaya slaw, mint, coriander, chilli mayonnaise and crispy shallots
  • three vegetable spring rolls
  • two Peking duck rice paper rolls.

I tried to be healthy by ordering Vietnamese but was ultimately swayed by a limited-edition burger in collaboration with Huxtaburger. This presents another issue: can you really exert that much self-control when there are so many delicious options available at your fingertips?

Friday, Jimmy Grants: $28.70

  • chicken souvlaki with mustard aioli, potato chips, caramelised onion and parsley
  • chips with garlic oil, feta and oregano
  • grain salad: pulses, nuts, grains, herbs, Greek yoghurt, onion and coriander.

Through all these mishaps in my UberEats journey, it certainly all culminated into the most glorious accident possible.

As I eagerly waited for my Jimmy Grants to arrive, I heard a knock on the door a mere eight minutes after I ordered. You couldn’t imagine my shock when I opened the door to find my meal already here. After thanking the driver profusely for his efficiency, I took my bag of food, which seemed to be ridiculously heavy, ready to eat my order of a chicken souvlaki, a grain salad and a small serving of chips.

Once I was inside and the driver had taken off, I unpacked the bag to find not one but two souvlakis (one lamb, one chicken), a grain salad, a large serving of chips, two dim sims and two drinks. I was counting my blessings as I feasted away on my dinner having also successfully managed to secure tomorrow’s lunch in one hit, not having to pay an extra cent.

Total spent: $157.49 

 

Week 2: Home-cooked meals

Monday home-cooked: $14.39

  • barbequed pork sausage
  • barbequed lamb cutlet
  • silverbeet sautéed in olive oil and garlic
  • steamed green beans dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • fennel and orange salad dressed in olive oil and a splash of white balsamic vinegar.

Tuesday home-cooked: $20.88

  • oricchiette pasta with cherry tomatoes, pork sausage and kale mixed through and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top
  • fried chicken schnitzel
  • half an artichoke stuffed with breadcrumbs, parsley, cheese, garlic baked in the oven.

Wednesday home-cooked: $12.09

  • lamb chop
  • lamb cutlet
  • broccoli boiled and then sautéed with garlic
  • salad with iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Thursday home-cooked: $10.57

  • penne pasta with homemade tomato salsa and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese
  • half a corn cob
  • fried potato, capsicum and caramelised onion with homemade tomato salsa.

Friday home-cooked: $21.42

  • barbequed porterhouse steak
  • two barbequed chicken wings in lime juice dressing
  • salad with iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber, dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • asparagus boiled and then charred on the BBQ.

Total spent: $79.35 

Which way was healthier?

Now that my two-week experiment is over (and I’ve had adequate time to mourn the loss of my spring rolls), Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Katherine Livingstone has compared the nutritional value of each approach.

‘It is very hard to say exactly which week was healthier,’ Dr Livingston explains. However, ‘when you cooked at home, you were able to include a wider variety of healthy meals and avoided many of the energy-dense sauces and cooking methods,’ she says.

The fact that it is not so easy to distinguish which method was more obviously healthier may come as a shock to quite a few who are used to regarding takeaway food as an unhealthy guilty pleasure. Dr. Livingstone elaborates: ‘it is certainly possible to choose healthier alternatives from food delivery services. Simple strategies such as ordering a smaller portion size and avoiding extra sauces and dips are a great place to start’.

Yet this doesn’t mean we can now instantly forsake cooking for takeaway as ‘ultimately, preparing meals at home allows you to have more control over what you eat,’ she says.

Cost versus convenience

‘The benefits of cooking healthy foods at home is not only nutritional, but may also be social and economic,’ Dr Livingstone explains.

The viability of maintaining a diet of takeaway comes into particular contention when you consider the exorbitant cost. In my experiment, I spent $79.35 on dinners for the week when cooking, as opposed to the $157.49 spent when ordering UberEats.

While I also had many mishaps along the way, including awkward interactions with Uber drivers, food delivered to the wrong address and receiving the wrong food, there’s no denying that it is far more convenient than the trip to the supermarket and nightly hour-long preparation of dinner when cooking dinner at home.

To cook or not to cook? 

It may not exactly be realistic for your health or wallet to completely give up on your time in the kitchen for a life of eating takeaway. However, with the rise of an abundance of gourmet delivery options, we surely no longer need to feel guilty about our occasional takeaway meals when there is so much opportunity for it to be just as nutritious and nourishing.

Interested in how our ever-changing culture and lifestyle can affect diet and nutrition? Consider studying food, nutrition and dietetics at Deakin.    

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Dr Katherine Livingstone
Dr Katherine Livingstone
Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Faculty of Health, Deakin University

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