I already had a love for Thai food years ago, but deepened that love on my honeymoon, when I went to Thailand. Hotels featuring pad Thai at breakfast was like a dream come true, but of course I wasn't watching my calorie intake on the trip and wasn't focusing on which entrees were healthier than others.
While not all Thai food utilizes coconut milk, it certainly can play a large roll, especially in the famous curry dishes. Coconut milk is loaded with saturated fat (not the good fat) with 45 grams per one cup, but has been shown in studies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. My first tip here is to go light on any dishes made with coconut milk or inquire to see if they have a lighter version of coconut milk that your meal can be made with instead. If selecting a curry dish, stick with leaner protein options like chicken.
When looking at how dishes are being prepared on the menu look for grilled, steamed or even stir-fried and keep an eye out for the sauces being used. I advise sticking with dishes that use lemongrass and/or basil along with Thai herbs and seasonings such as ginger, garlic and chilis. This will help ensure the sauce is not loaded with unwanted calories while still providing a great kick in flavor.
How to Order Thai Food
- Spring vs. Summer Rolls - I had mentioned in a previous post I am a fan of having a healthy appetizer to start, whether at home or eating out. While a vegetable spring roll may sound like a healthy start, it actually is fried, while the summer roll is not and typically comes wrapped in a lettuce leaf or rice paper. I think you know which appetizer I'm recommending you order!
- Tofu - While tofu can be a healthy menu selection and a great go-to option for vegetarians, it is important to note that tofu, just like it looks and feels, is very spongy. This means that it soaks up all the flavor but also all the oil if fried, turning this healthy staple into a calorie bomb.
- Pad Thai - One of the more commonly known and popular Thai dishes can be a pretty good choice, as its typically low in saturated fat. I recommend including a lean protein choice such as chicken or shrimp, and not eating the full portion in one sitting.
- Brown rice stir-fry - Beware of rice dishes listed as fried rice, as these entrees can be soaked with oil, similar to tofu, depending on preparation. Instead, order a brown rice stir-fry that can be loaded up with veggies and protein, plus all the great Thai seasoning.