How Healthy is Thai Food?
With many ingredients being rich in vitamins and minerals, the nutritional aspects of Thai food are sometimes overlooked. We asked Leigh Higgins, General Manager of Feast Thailand Food Tours, about some of the healthier Thai food options to choose from.
If you choose wisely, there are health benefits from the many fresh ingredients used and also the methods in which they are cooked. There is substantial use of plants, leaves and vegetables along with many herbs and spices used to create the distinctive flavours that are quintessentially Thai. Here are my Top 8 ‘go to’ dishes when I want to eat more healthily! To clarify, these are my criteria for healthier food options in any country; foods that are not deep fried, are lower in carbs, higher in protein and generally less in fats, creams and sugars. 1. Steamed or Grilled Fish
Living in Hua Hin, fresh seafood is the #1 dish. Nothing beats a steamed fish topped with lime and lemongrass or fish or prawns grilled using a salt crust. These are normally served with fresh herbs and lettuce, allowing you to wrap the flesh and devour them.
2. Miang Kham
This one bite morsel is a super-nutritional flavour bomb. Finely chopped raw ingredients like shallots, garlic, ginger, chilli, lime and peanuts are placed in a ChaPhlu leaf, similar to a Betel leaf, then wrapped and popped in your mouth. The explosion of flavour is intoxicating, yet the healthiness of this small package is often overlooked.
A laap is a warm salad of minced meat, often chicken or pork, as well as sliced onions and lots of herbs with a spicy dressing. It’s normally served with a side dish of Thai basil, cucumber, cabbage and snake beans.
4. Tom Yum Goong Nam Sai
Often served with coconut milk, this famous Thai dish is full of protein and packed with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir limes leaves and tomatoes. When ordered ‘nam sai’, the coconut milk is replaced with broth. It is clear and full of flavour, yet with that hit of chilli for lovers of spice.
5 Nam Prik and Vegetables
In every market around Thailand you can buy a large range of nam priks; basically dipping sauces. Some are designed for dipping meats into, yet there are others, such as Nam Prik Kapi, which are designed to be eaten with fresh, raw vegetables like snake beans, wing beans or eggplant. They are great as a snack or to eat as part of a balanced Thai meal.
6. Gai or Moo Yaang
Nothing really beats marinated chicken or pork grilling over hot coals. Served with a simple dipping sauce like Nam Jim Jaew, this is low in carbs and high in protein; there is nothing better.
7 Chim Chum
This is a great way to cleanse the body. A broth bubbles away in a pot at your table. To this you add leafy greens to wilt, various proteins mixed with egg are added and once cooked, you pick out what you want.
8. Som Tam
Close to the national dish of Thailand, this raw dish of fresh ingredients like green papaya, tomato, carrot and snake beans is just the thing on a hot day. Alternatively, try it with other fruits like green mango or even sweetcorn to give it that extra vegetable kick. I arrived in Thailand just over 18 months ago and to date I have lost over 15kgs.
I eat Thai food 2 to 3 times a day and I drink more beer and less water than I did back in Australia. I eat more rice than ever before and I love coconut milk based dishes. I love how fried food tastes, but it’s really the amount of vegetables and herbs I eat along with salads, grilled proteins and soups. I try to eat balanced meals with lots of variety; not too much of one thing! I’m not saying this will work for you, but it has for me; so I’m sticking with it!