This month Suzi Hall writes about healthy eating in Thailand.
Recently, I have seriously considered designing a F.A.Q t-shirt for the benefit of all the people I meet on a professional and personal level. As a personal trainer the ‘million dollar’ question I get asked with regular vigour is; What should I eat?
My outlook on nutrition has always been one of balance, if you pig out and have a treat (or two) or heavy night, endeavour to eat and drink well the next day. A good depiction of this is the 80/20 rule. Eat well Monday to Friday and relax at the weekends with the pizza and red wine you have been fantasising about since Monday.
Visitors to Thailand eating predominantly in restaurants can find it hard to focus on healthy eating, especially as sugar and salt is added to everything you eat and drink! It is a country famous for its delicious cuisine, which mistakenly tourists only consider to be Green Curry and Phad Thai. Local meals include steamed rice, a watery curry with vegetables or meat, smoked fish and eggs. No heavy coconut cream and oils.
Through my own experience and frustration of not having steamed or raw veggies I have found a way to eat very well here. I visit the local markets twice a week stocking up on fruits, vegetables and a ton of coriander, which is great with tuna in a salad. I get tinned fish for my omega 6 and nuts for my omega 3. An apple everyday, yogurts for a snack attack and porridge with honey for breakie (I also have a stash of Marmite, for my bread and butter days)
There is also a vast assortment of dishes you can try in Thailand that are light and nutritious. These are some of my favourites;
Kanom Jeen (Literal translation Chinese candy)
This is a simple breakfast/lunchtime meal of rice noodles topped with a curry sauce that varies from sweet to ‘blind you spicy’. It is served with a variety of leafy herbs, green vegetables like cucumber, long beans and raw eggplant, you can also add a boiled egg and some picked veggies. The idea is ’add all you want’ to your dish, seconds and thirds, just pack yourself full of good, green, happy foods.
Som Tam (Papaya Salad)
Made with unripe papayas mixed with string beans, tomatoes and chillies. All of these are thrashed together using a pestle and mortar with garlic, lemon juice and fish sauce. (Pet or Mai pet is up to you) Yam Mamuoang is similar but made with sour mango, one to try.
Larb (chicken, pork, beef or duck)
Minced meat mixed with chilli, coriander and garlic served with sticky rice and som tam. Simple, healthy and tasty!
A staple of mine! You cannot beat the hot, spicy soup and kick ass health properties of ginger, chilli and lemongrass. Have it spicy with prawns or pork, a side of rice and ride the ‘chilli train’!
Be adventurous with your meal choices, try the variety of scrumptious Thai food available and eat it spicy (chilli has an enormous number of health benefits) In a country that is obsessed with eating, their greeting basically asks not how you are, but have you eat
Top Tips for Snacks:
- Apples, lycees and magosteen from Market
- Nuts: Almonds are great, also groundnuts and broad beans (available at 7/11)
- Yogurts (plain as possible)
- Wasabi peas
- Fruit shake (no sugar in Thai: mai naam-dtaan ka/krap)
- Boiled eggs from 7/11