A vacation is a time to relax and unwind, explore, and embrace the break from the nuances of a busy life. However, whether you are visiting friends or family, or traveling solo, eating healthy while on vacation can often be stressful. There are many post-vacation symptoms. Sun-kissed skin and hair, sleep deprivation, and those extra kilos that you notice when you get back into the swing of things. Vacations or living in a new country are typically about trying new things and indulging in a new lifestyle. It’s difficult to pass up that delicious pizza, those fried noodles, or deep-friend prawns. We’re only human.
But for those of you who want to enjoy your vacation without packing on the extra weight, Thailand boasts an array of delicious healthy options that you can tuck into without the guilt or post-vacation symptoms. Eating is a social event in Thailand, and when you’re traveling in any city or town, you’ll find that the most popular question from a Thai person is … “Have you eaten yet?” The country was built around gastronomy.
There are so many food courts, vendors on every street corner, pop-up restaurants, and malls and of course, it is often easier to eat out than it is to prepare meals at home. For this reason, it is usually difficult to keep the weight off despite the humid weather or miles of walking. Traditionally, Thai food is known for being healthy. The use of fresh ingredients combined with plenty of spices, veggies, and herbs make for amazing dishes. However, there are some surprisingly unhealthy meals that are very high in MSG, sodium, sugar, and fat. So, if you’re looking for healthy alternatives when traveling or living in Thailand, here are a few ideas for you.
Note: this article was not written by a doctor or a nutritionist. If you have real health concerns, please consult your general practitioner or a health specialist.
SOM TAM (Payaya salad)
Probably one of the healthier choices and a very popular dish in Thailand, Som Tam or papaya salad is low in calories and packed with goodness.
There a few variations of it. However, it generally consists of fresh papaya slices, tomatoes, string beans, Thai chilies, and garlic as well as fish sauce. Some dishes come with dried shrimp. Overall, Som Tam is a winner packed with Vitamin C and high in fibre.
LARB GAI (Chicken with lime, chili, and fresh herbs)
High in protein and combined with a fragrant blend of herbs and spices, this tasty Thai dish is definitely a go-to when looking for a healthy alternative. Larb gai is a popular northern dish, found around Isaan and Laos and consists of ground chicken, basil, mint, onions, chili, and lime juice. Light and easy on the gut, it’s perfect for those counting calories or on a Keto diet.
KHAO MAN GAI (Chicken and rice)
For those of who you are staying fit and exercising regularly during your vacation, this meal is for you. Not only is it a healthy option, but it’s cheap too and found at food courts, street vendors, and restaurants. The protein to carbohydrate ratio is perfect for fighters and gym-goers, repairing muscle and fueling that cardio workout. The dish is served with a chicken breast, rice, and a small bowl of broth.
KUAY TEOW LUI SAN (Summer spring rolls)
For those of you looking for a light meal or a graband-go snack, Kuay Tiew Lui Suan is the perfect choice for you. These fresh vegetable spring rolls are packed with goodness, including basil, lettuce, noodles, and sometimes ground meat. For a flavor overload, dip into a spicy sauce to get that metabolism going. This is the perfect snack to eat between meals and is light, rich in fibre, and low in calories.
PAD PAK BUNG FAI DAENG (Stir-fried morning glory)
Probably one of my favorite dishes in Thailand, pad pak bung or stir-fried morning glory is a vibrant Thai dish, a little less healthy than most, but still low in calories and carbohydrates. The dish consists of morning glory cooked with chilies and oyster sauce and packed with garlic. It’s a great accompaniment or perfect as a meal on its own.
PLA NEUNG MANAO (Steamed whole fish with lime dressing)
This superb Thai steamed fish dish bursts with flavor, o ffering a well-balanced taste and is a great healthy alternative to fried food. It is low in calories and high in protein and perfect for sharing among friends. A classic dish, pla neung manao is found in most seafood restaurants in Thailand and for those who love spicy food, this should be at the top of the must-try list.
NAM PRIK (Thai spicy chili sauce)
Nam phrik is a type of spicy chili sauce and is widely used around Thailand to accompany a number of dishes. The sauce usually consists of chilies, garlic, and lime juice, and often ground shrimp. Nam phrik is great with seafood and is the perfect dipping sauce for raw or boiled vegetables, adding a depth of flavor to the meal you’re having. The veggies are loaded with vitamins and the seafood is packed with protein, and it is a low-calorie, high-fiber meal.
TIPS FOR ORDERING MEALS: Don’t be afraid to turn up the heat when ordering food. If you love spicy meals, Thai cuisine is definitely for you. Chilies are loaded with health benefits. Steamed rice is the better option when ordering a meal, so choose that instead. A lot of meals come with MSG and sugar, don’t be afraid to order your dish without these additions. Knowing what to order and how to order is very beneficial when traveling and eating well.