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10 Mistakes You're Making When Ordering Delivery

If you're relying on food delivery as your main way to get dinner, protect yourself with these tips.

Most states are implementing strict quarantine guidelines in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, which means that the number of times you leave your house a week may be limited. Restaurants have shut down to in-house diners, and most have switched gears to ramping up their takeout and delivery businesses. And while we're lucky we can still get our favorite order from the neighborhood joint we have on speed dial, there are some potential pitfalls to ordering delivery every single day. Some mistakes to avoid when ordering delivery have to do with paying attention to your nutrition, and some with how you interact with the delivery person and the food once it gets to your home. Here's what to look out for.

Handing Cash to the Delivery Person


A big no-no is a direct handoff and passing cash to pay for food that has been ordered in. Maya Feller, a Brooklyn-based dietitian and author of The Southern Comfort Foods Diabetes Cookbook explains that "paying for your delivery with cash requires more face to face interaction with the delivery person, who is an essential worker and has likely been exposed to many people."

Fix it: "Rather than accepting your delivery in person or handing over cash, pay and tip ahead of time with a bank or credit card and kindly ask the delivery person for an unattended delivery," says Feller. "If you must pay with cash, kindly ask the delivery person to call when they arrive and ask them to leave the delivery at your doorstep. Retrieve your delivery and ask the delivery person to allow six feet of distance so you can place an envelope with payment and tip at your doorstep for their service."

Forgetting to Wash Your Hands Before You Eat

Man washing hands.

Just because you didn't leave your house to get the food, doesn't mean you still don't have to wash your hands before you eat. It's an important part of everyday hygiene that should never go overlooked, but especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fix it: Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or for two Happy Birthdays), then wipe them with a clean towel or tissue.

Placing Delivery Bags Straight on Your Counters

delivery on counter

"Better to be safe than sorry by not placing takeout and delivery bags and containers on your kitchen counters," says Mandy Enright, MS, RDN, RYT. Although there are currently no warnings from the FDA or CDC about the potential of contracting coronavirus through secondary contamination, some reports have shown the coronavirus may be able to survive on certain surfaces for hours.

Fix it: Enright suggests removing the containers from the bag and placing them on paper towels so the containers don't come in direct contact with your home surfaces. Then you should dispose of the to-go bag immediately and plate the food on to one of your own plates and don't forget to wipe down surfaces afterwards.

Leaving Your Leftovers on the Kitchen Counter

Leftover dinner

Perishable foods, like your delivery leftovers, should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, and storing food in the fridge is even more urgent during summer months, say Kristen Smith, MS, RD, LD, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, founder of 360 Family Nutrition. Just because you may be more concerned about food contamination during the coronavirus pandemic, it doesn't mean you should forget regular food safety practices.

Fix it: Try building a habit of putting your delivery food in the fridge right after everyone's loaded their plates. That way, you're practicing food safety, but will also have less cleaning to do when your belly is full after dinner. It's also a good way to prevent over-eating.

Ordering Too Much Food

delivery foods

"Opting for delivery can lead to over-ordering," says Erin Hendrickson, RDN, a Nashville-based food waste expert at No Waste Nutrition. When dining in person, you can scout out the food and check out the portions. Since that is not possible right now, it's easy to forget how large restaurant portions can be.

Fix it: Hendrickson suggest avoiding food waste or eating too much by intentionally ordering food to share, or saving a portion for later.

Overlooking Tasty Vegetarian Options

vegetarian wok noodles

Many folks may "subconsciously associate food delivery with greasy, fatty foods like burgers, pizza, and fried chicken," says Hendrickson. Vegetarian options on the menu are often overlooked, which usually boast unique flavors, delicious cooking techniques, and a lower price tag. Not to mention, the vegetarian options are inherently more vegetable-forward, which means you're getting more of those delicious nutrients and skipping meats of questionable quality.

Fix it: Try a new-to-you plant-based dish for a tasty experience, and save money at the same time!

Forgetting to Order a Salad and Vegetable Side Dishes

salad delivery

"In my house, it's the fresh fruits and vegetables that we run out of the quickest, because we can't seem to get enough of them!" says Liz Weiss, MS, RDN and host of Liz's Healthy Table podcast and blog. Produce provides a powerful package of important nutrients—fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants—that can help keep you feeling full and your health and spirit fortified. Plus, fresh produce may be something you're missing most in your diet, due to limited trips to the grocery store during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fix it: Weiss suggests the next time you order delivery, round out your meal beyond the usual dinner entrees by adding salads and veggie sides to your order. Include a colorful salad (or two) brimming with crunchy vegetables and a few veggie side dishes, including sautéed spinach with garlic, roasted Brussels sprouts, and grilled asparagus.

Ordering the Most Indulgent Pizza

big meal pizza pasta

"When you're craving pizza, it may not be the best time to order a deep dish, cheese-in-the-crust pizza covered with meatballs, pepperoni, sausage, and bacon," says Dr. Joan Salge Blake EdD, RDN, nutrition professor at Boston University and host of nutrition and wellness podcast, SpotOn!. "This meaty pie can serve up close to 450 calories and over 40 percent of the daily value for heart-unhealthy, saturated fat and sodium per slice."

Fix it: "Since your physical activity has likely winded down recently, you may want to tone down your pie selection," says Salge Blake. If you order a thinner crust pizza, topped with veggies such as tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and black olives, a slice will weigh in at about 250 calories and the saturated fat and sodium per slice will be slashed by at least half.

Eating From the Container

chinese takeout
Eating from the container signals to your brain that portions are limitless and it's a free-for-all type of dinner. This can lead to overeating in a big way, where you're consuming two or three times the calories you truly need at mealtime. Plus, there's something to be said about sitting down at the dining table and following normal dinner protocol during the coronavirus pandemic, where isolation gives way to breaking most rules that provide structure to our daily lives (Working in your PJs from home for a week, anyone?).

Fix it: Even when ordering delivery, make it a point to set the table, and serve yourself and your family members on real plates. Using a smaller plate, like a dessert plate, can help with portion control even further. Wait at least ten minutes before going for seconds, and see if you still want them.

Being Stressed Instead of Cautious

woman in medical mask stay isolation at home for self quarantine

Many of us are worried about potential transfer of germs from food delivery packaging, says registered dietitian nutritionist, Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN. And large amounts of daily stress can suppress your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off diseases.

Fix it: Get your information from expert sources and stay informed. According to the European Food Safety Authority, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Food Industry Association, there is currently no evidence that food or food packaging is a probable source or route of transmission of the coronavirus. Take the time to practice self-care and stress management techniques that work for you.

Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, MS, RD, CDN
Toby Amidor is an award winning dietitian and Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author who believes healthy and wholesome can also be appetizing and delicious. Read more about Toby