Thursday, April 19, 2012
I have loved living here. But as anyone who has lived overseas for an extended period of time can tell you: there's just no place like home. I have to say, I am proud of the variety of foods in America that I truly miss.
Don't get me wrong, I love Thai food. Thais always prepare foods with the freshest herbs and spices, and there's usually plenty of cheap vegetables and fruits for sale for a $1 a pound on the streets. I could never get sick of Thai cuisine. The flavors are so spicy and zesty, and the ingredients are incredibly fresh. Food is so inexpensive here that I haven't had to cook at all! Which is a good thing because I didn't have any cooking equipment, and buying it for just a 6-month period wouldn't have made much sense.
But. For one, I would hate to be a vegetarian here. The number one meat is pork, and we're talking pork shoulder, pork back, and pork stomach--the MOST fattening parts of the poor pig. The typical Thai breakfast in the Northeast province is this: grilled chicken (so delicious, but so utterly fattening..I could see it smothered in white, greasy gooey fat, and yet I ate it anyway) skewers with high-glycemic sticky rice. Chicken (what we usually consider a "lean" option) actually had the most fat of all! Meat is in almost every single dish, and tofu is VERY seldom an option.
Second, everything is stir-fried. Okay, so stir-frying shouldn't be that bad...but consuming that oil every single day adds up. Thai cooks don't use that stuff sparingly.
Third, there are absolutely NO calorie counts on ANYTHING. This used to drive me bonkers. Eventually I just got used to it and did my best to make healthy choices, but now that I'm about 24 hours from coming home, I can't wait to know exactly how I'm doing....I thought I'd like a "break" from calorie counting. But I didn't. It's just frustrating.
Fourth, everything is sickeningly sweet. It seems like every third street vendor is selling iced coffee. The recipe is always the same: Carnation creamer, Ovaltine, fresh coffee, and about 4 teaspoons of sugar. Smoothies--forget it. They'd throw a diabetic into a coma. The curries are surprisingly packed with sugar. Som tam (spicy papaya salad) sounds like a good option, right? Nope--the lovely, spicy juice with lime and spices is also full of palm sugar--so much that you can feel the grittiness from the sugar on your mouth as you chew. Mango and sticky rice is full of it, of course. And zero-calorie options are almost non-existant (except in Bangkok, where Coke Zero is finally advertising everywhere).
Fifth, curries and most of the soups are full of coconut milk, which we all know is bubbling in fresh fat. Yet this is generally the alternative to the stir-fry, which I already touched upon.
Sixth, rice. I am firm believer that rice actually is not the devil. I think it provides a safe amount of carbs form an all-natural source without causing TOO much of a glycemic shock to a typical body. But every single day, twice a day? That may be okay for a maintenance diet, but when you're trying to lose weight, it's a problem.
Seventh, MSG. Although I'm not a believer in the claim that it's terrible for you. I'll leave that up to someone else to debate, but there's actually no solid evidence that it's unhealthy. I looked. Supposeldy, it's a chemical that makes you addicted to certain types of foods. I'm still a doubter.
In conclusion: I came to Thailand thinking that because Thai people are SO skinny, that somehow by eating the way they do, the weight would naturally fall off.
I now appreciate all the options we have in the states.
Here is a list of 50 healthy foods that I've missed so much for the past 5 months. You know, America might be a fat country, but at least we make it easy for those who want to give weight loss a shot!
2. Salad dressings (The only dressing here is Salad Cream, which is pure mayonnaise with a garlic flavoring. It's semi-solid when you squeeze it out of the plastic bag the vendors five you. Yuck!)
3. Peanut butter (I'm going to try going all natural. I used to hate the stuff, but since I haven't had it in a while, I'm going to try to develop a taste for it instead of the chemical-laden Jiffy jar.)
4. Lean cuts of meat
5. Skim milk (It's rare here, and it's usually written in Thai. I know how to speak a lot of Thai now, but I still can't read it.)
7. Florida oranges!
10. The variety of salad greens
11. Brown rice (It's incredibly rare here. I actually never saw it once here, cooked.)
13. Tap water (it probably won't make you sick, but the Thais don't drink it so that's probably a good reason not to drink it)
16. Canadian bacon
17. Sugar substitutes
18. Low-calorie pudding. I make this all the time at home!
19. Frozen yogurt (I eat too much of this, but I still miss it)
20. Baked potatoes
21. My bakes sweet potato fries
22. Spinach!! Especially in omelettes
25. Whole-wheat macaroni with spices and a little big of fresh cheese!
26. Vegetarian lasagna
27. Homemade pizza
28. Crab cakes (healthy style)
32. Light-Pop Kettle Korn
24. Dessert yogurts
25. Smoothies (totally FULL of sugar here)
26. Veggie burgers
27. TURKEY!! (It doesn't exist here. At all.)
28. Turkey burgers!
30. Jell-O with fruit in it (normally I don't like the stuff, but right now it doesn't sound too bad!)
31. Grapes (they're SO expensive over here!)
32. Cinnamon. Just the smell of it. I haven't really seen it here.
33. Sandwiches (they're here, just not common, and usually very bizarre versions of what we'd call a "sandwich")
34. Healthy chili
35. Popsicles (they have them, I just miss making them :) I didn't have a fridge)
36. All the varieties of flours we have. Especially for pancakes!
37. Whole wheat ANYTHING (again, it just doesn't exist over here)
39. Eggplant (they have a delicious mini-eggplant in the green curry, but it's always fun to bake and work with a big eggplant)
40. Baby carrots
41. Cauliflower mashed potatoes
42. Grilled chicken breast (it's never the breast here...only the fattiest parts like the stomach, or the boniest like the wing, which is usually covered in skin)
43. Fresh tomatoes!
44. Artichoke hearts
45. Oatmeal (they have it, but it's kinda pricey)
46. Vegetarian stuffed bell peppers
47. Water flavorers
48. Dessert-flavored yogurts
49. White bean chili
50. My healthy versions of brownies