Eating Thai cuisine can be a nutritious and tasty choice as there are plenty of healthy and delicious options to choose from. Many dishes are based around vegetables and lean protein and contain a variety of herbs and spices. These healthy ingredients provide immune-boosting and disease fighting benefits. However, there are some dishes that are not as good for your health (or waistline, for that matter). Read on to find out what dishes you should steer clear of when eating Thai in order to reap the cuisine’s benefits.
NUTRITIONAL FACTS AND FIGURES
The basics: most Thai dishes contain a variety of fresh herbs and spices. Onions, shallots, garlic and ginger are among the basic starter ingredients, while coriander, spring onions, and basil are among the common garnishes. The following five ingredients are widely used throughout the cuisine and provide numerous health benefits:
Turmeric–curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is an anti-inflammatory agent, which may help relieve allergy and arthritis symptoms (or any condition caused by excess inflammation) and improve cardiovascular conditions.
Galangal-this relative of ginger also boosts anti-inflammatory properties and may assist in digestion and help alleviate abdominal discomfort.
Coriander-this seed has been used to treat gastrointestinal trouble (including gas and bloating), digestive problems, bacterial and fungal infections, and loss of appetite.
Lemongrass-one of the most widely used ingredients in Thai food, lemongrass has been shown to relieve everything from cold and flu symptoms, to fevers, headaches, and stomach conditions.
Chilies-not only are they excellent sources of Vitamin C, but chilies may also help you sleep better, keep your heart healthy, and help you maintain consistent insulin and glucose levels.
Despite all of the healthy components of Thai food, there are a few ingredients that you want to watch out for:
Coconut-coconut cream and milk are popular ingredients in many sweet and savory Thai dishes and coconut has recently soared in popularity. Unfortunately, it is not so great when it comes to its calorie and fat content. Coconut is extremely high in fat (especially saturated fat) and calories, so it is best not to overindulge in dishes made with this ingredient. *Note: even though the saturated fat in coconut is made from medium chain triglycerides, which are absorbed and digested differently than saturated fats made from long chain triglycerides, they are nonetheless saturated fats and it is not advised to consume them in large quantities.
Coconut milk (1 cup)-552 calories and 51grams of saturated fat!!
Coconut Ginger soup (1 cup)-200 calories
Tom Kha Gai “Thai Coconut Chicken Soup” (1cup)-355 calories
Coconut Shrimp (5 pieces)-320 calories
Green Curry with Sticky Rice (1cup)-620 calories
Mussaman Beef Curry (1 cup)-680 calories
Starch Overload-Rice and noodles are accompaniments of most Thai dishes. Although they can be a healthy part of any meal, you need to watch out for the portions. Just a 1/2 cup of COOKED plain rice or noodles is approximately 100 calories and most serving sizes in Thai restaurants run on the up side of 2-3 cups (600 calories). So keep the portions small and choose plain steamed whole grain starches, such as black rice, instead of fried rice.
Fried Rice-540 calories in a standard restaurant side portion
Coconut Rice-580 calories in a standard restaurant side portion
Entire Chicken Pad Thai Dish-1120 calories in a standard restaurant portion
Entire Vegetarian Pad Thai Dish-730 calories in a standard restaurant portion
Plentiful Peanuts-Although peanuts are nutrient dense and contain healthy fats, they still pack quite a powerful calorie punch. Since they are a favorite ingredient in Thai dishes, watch out for their portions.
Limit your intake of:
Peanut Satay Sauce (2 tablespoons)-80 calories
Thai Peanut Salad dressing (2 ounces)-144 calories
Choose and Lose: this chart provides some options that can definitely be included in a healthy plan and others that you are better passing up on (or at least limiting).
|Basil or Thai rolls (not fried)||Fried fish, meat or tofu|
|Satay with Tamarind Sauce||Pad Thai|
|Steamed Mussels||Fried rice|
|Green Papaya Salad or Thai Beef Salad||Dishes made with curry and coconut milk|
|Steamed/ightly stir-fried vegetables and lean proteins||Tom Kha Kai (sweet and sour coconut milk chicken soup)|
|Soups (Tom Yum Goong, Talay Thong, or Crystal Noodle)||Lad Nah (stir fried noodles with chicken or pork)|
|Pla Muk Yang (grilled squid with chili sauce)||Massamun (meat or fish with potatoes, onions and peanuts in a curry coconut sauce)|
|Ho Muk Pla (marinated fish filet)||Fried Spring Rolls|
Thai food is a wonderfully delicious and for the most part, very healthy cuisine. To ensure that you stick to the healthy stuff, abide by the following rules:
- Start with a broth-based soup, not one made with coconut milk, such as Tom Yum Gung.
- Go light on any dishes made with coconut milk.
- Choose dishes that have been grilled, steamed, or lightly stir-fried.
- Steer clear of heavy sauces and deep-fried entrees.
- Watch your starch portions…make the meal based around vegetables and lean protein with just a plain starch as a side.