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Nutritionista Cheat Sheet: Thai Food

Posted May 18 2010 7:00am

Sad but true: Going out to eat can be a scary prospect for people who are trying to lose weight — or just stay healthy. Since eating out is one of my all-time favorite activities, I refuse to ever give it up completely.

The difference is that these days, I make sure whatever restaurant/food I choose is worth my money. That means you won’t find me at a chain ( though I have been known to make exceptions !). I really do like to eat at places that seem to put some thought into their food.

Last night, I ate at one of my favorite local Thai places, Lotus Thai. They have a location in Bangkok, and they just serve really authentic, tasty Thai food. It reminded me that Thai food is actually a great choice for ethnic cuisine, provided you don’t get sucked in to the Americanized/fried version of everything.

Here’s a little cheat sheet for eating out Thai-style:

  • Cheat #1: Start with a filling soup. Tom Yum Goong or Tom Kha Gai soups are great ways to start a meal. They’re heart, spicy, and delicious. The creamy Tom Kha Gai could be half of an entree — it’s very filling because of the coconut milk. Most of the soups on a Thai menu are a good bet, actually. They’re usually filled with veggies or seafood.

  • Cheat #2: Compliment your meal with a spicy salad. Som Tam (spicy green papaya) salad is a must! So refreshing, flavorful, and healthy. I love the spices: Thai chili, garlic, and lime juice. You could take those spices and make your own Thai-style salad. Pair this salad with the Tom Kha Gai soup and you have yourself a filling, cheap meal!

  • Cheat #3: Get the curry, skip the rice. Here’s my secret to eating Thai/Indian/Chinese food: SKIP THE RICE. It sounds crazy, but hear me out. I eat my curry like a soup — and it’s DELICIOUS! I don’t waste calories on nutritionally void rice, so I can eat more of my beloved curries.
  • Cheat #4: Look for the stir-fry option with the most veggies. I love the unique basil flavor of Thai stir-fries, and they usually come chock full of veggies. And again, if you skip the rice, you can enjoy the whole dish without feeling all carbed out.
  • Cheat #5: Try less common proteins like fish, duck, and seafood. You don’t HAVE to stick with the more popular choices of chicken and beef. Sometimes, the most flavorful dishes are made with unusual proteins. Just watch out for anything labeled “crispy” or “fried” — these are going to be coated in breading.

What to skip: As you can probably guess, I’m not a big fan of noodle/rice dishes. It’s a lot of empty calories and (for my tastebuds) less flavor. I never order Pad Thai because it just seems like a waste of a good Thai restaurant! I also stay away from the fried wantons, spring rolls, and other fried items because I’d rather be eating flavorful meat and veggies!

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