Ty Miranda, 127
5 Tricks to Keeping a Healthy Diet in Thailand
Womp, womp, how boring. I know that the holiday season is around the corner and all you want to do is sit on your bean bag bed and eat stuffing out of your rice cooker … or that may just be me. Still, Thailand is a place where keeping a healthy, balanced diet can be a challenge, especially for volunteers living with a host family. Therefore, I have created this totally un-foolproof, off-the-top-of-my-head guide to help PCVs keep up their healthy diet in Thailand.
1. Watch your rice portions
Don’t tell my host mom I wrote this! But, seriously. Thais think rice is very important and it is a good addition to any diet, but in proportion. According to the USDA, one serving of rice is about one cup, which comes to about 200 calories. Now, one cup of rice is the size of an average person’s fist. How much rice do you think you are eating every meal? Yea, I know. I’m not saying to stay away from rice forever, just keep in mind how much you are eating.
2. What is this?
So… what is this dish? I know it’s an awkward question but knowing about your food can help you stay on track. If you know that the stir fried chicken comes with MSG or that your noodles come with extra salt, you are able to make healthier choices. Don’t be afraid to ask the cooks for a healthier version of your favorite dishes. “Jaan nii mii Pung Choo Rod mai, ka/krap?—Does this dish have MSG?” I know it can be really difficult when you are living with a host family, but one idea is to help your host family in the kitchen more often. This way, you know what’s in your food and can offer some gentle “suggestions” if you want to have a healthier meal.
3. Keep it specific with your bagged beverages
I’m a one-a-day person meaning every day you can find me at the coffee shop ordering some Thai or green milk tea. Even if you are ordering coffee, you can count on your barista adding in liquid sugar, actual sugar, and sweet creamer, and that’s on a good day. Simply ask: “Khun chai naam dtaan tao rai, ka/krap?—How much sugar are you going to dump into that cup?” Sometimes, I order unsweetened tea and it still comes with two scoops of sugar. So I recommend being very specific with the baristas. If you only want one scoop of sugar or if you prefer no creamer, just tell them. It’s better than being really vague because you know exactly what is going into your drink of choice.
4. Focus on the fruits and veggies
According to the USDA, half our plates should consist of fruit and veggies and Thailand has an array of options. But, sometimes I can get caught up and forget to buy them. So I have devised a beyond-genius plan. Anytime I go to a market or to the store, I start in the fruit and veggies section. This helps because it makes me not spend all my money on yummy kanoms and reminds me to eat fruits and veggies in the first place. Next time you are going for a meal, try to remember to sneak in those fruits and veggies or maybe replace one of your daily snacks with a healthier option.
5. Think before you add dish toppings
My favorite dish in Thailand is probably “guai dtiao” or noodles. Whenever I go to get noodles with Thais, I watch them pour the contents of the spice rack into their dishes. They add sugar, vinegar, peppers, fish sauce and whatever else they can find. My healthy tip is to just think before you add toppings to your meals. For example, adding peanuts to your dish of chicken is great because peanuts have protein and other benefits. However, adding three scoops of sugar to your fried rice may not be the best choice. Just try to keep it in mind.