Walk Talk Nutrition: Thai food

Som Tum: papaya salad

Som Tum: papaya salad

We love Thai food!

Thai cuisine has plenty of options that are healthy and friendly to people concerned about calories.  But diners need to use common sense when ordering.  Most Thai restaurants are locally owned, and so recipes, ingredients and menu listings will vary considerably from one to another.  One restaurant’s Pad Thai may be dramatically different from another in both ingredients and portion size.

Tom Yum soup

Tom Yum soup

We picked a variety of items:

  • Som Tum: shredded papaya salad
  • Larb: minced pork salad seasoned with mint
  • Tom Yum soup with mushrooms
  • Pumpkin curry with tofu
  • Pad Thai with shrimp
  • Rama with chicken
Larb: minced pork salad

Larb: minced pork salad

The soup, larb and papaya salad were delightful, and we agreed these would make a filling and healthy meal by themselves.  We love pumpkin curry, but caution people that curries made with coconut milk are high calorie.  Then there’s the rice that comes on the side.  We ended up with over 1 lb of cooked rice.  Unless you need extra calories, that’s a lot.  Kathy suggests asking for brown rice, if it’s available, and definitely avoiding the fried rice option.

Sodium in Asian foods can be high, thanks to seasonings like fish sauce and soy sauce.  Fish sauce is a common seasoning in Thai recipes, and can add considerable sodium if used in large amounts.  We didn’t think our dishes tasted especially salty, but these dishes might be prepared differently at different restaurants.

Good points:

  • Lots of vegetables included in dishes
  • intense satisfying flavors
  • low calorie options
Pumpkin curry

Pumpkin curry

Caution advised:

  • high calorie potential from coconut curries and fried foods
  • potential for high sodium
  • high calorie/high carb items like noodle dishes and rice

Another calorie pitfall: giant sugar-sweetened iced tea and coffee drinks.  Choose plain tea instead.

Here are some fun reads on Thai food:

What to eat at a Thai food restaurant

21 Healthy Thai Foods

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