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50 Foods I've Missed

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!

1. Hummus
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.)
6. Olives
7. Florida oranges!
8. Tilapia
9. CAPERS!!!!!!
10. The variety of salad greens
11. Brown rice (It's incredibly rare here. I actually never saw it once here, cooked.)
12. Quinoa
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)
14. Salsa!!!!
15. Scallops
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
23. Asparagus
24. Chickpeas
25. Whole-wheat macaroni with spices and a little big of fresh cheese!
26. Vegetarian lasagna
27. Homemade pizza
28. Crab cakes (healthy style)
29. Blueberries
30. Grapes
31. Raspberries
32. Light-Pop Kettle Korn
33. Wraps
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!
29. Broccoli
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)
38. Tofu
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
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Nutz4 Harry-- you are absolutely right. Many people are impoverished and can't afford to spend a great deal on food, many people are regularly active (only the youngest generation is becoming attached to technology), and every meal was fresh and shared--I will miss that so much!

    Most of all, there is a MAJOR emphasis on staying skinny. Boys and girls are both highly pressured to stay small, or else they are told that they will never get married. Most of my Thai friends were slightly obsessed. This is sometimes good, and sometimes quite bad. It's good that they're conscious though.

    The labororers are active because they can't afford a creature comfort that most Thais now enjoy: motorbikes. I was given a motorbike to rent from the school because as the city of Udon Thani is getting bigger, it's harder and harder to get around without it. But for the most part, it's easy to get what you need within walking distance. It made me realize that I really could do without a car most days at home if I just take the extra effort to get out and enjoy the sunshine!

    At lunch every day, all of the teachers would bring a dish and everyone would share it together. They would eat 3, maybe 4 bites of whatever was available. It was a wonderful way to socialize, for me learn Thai and for them to learn English (we each tried our best lol), try all of the flavors, save money, and get a wide variety of nutrients from the foods available. I loved it!! I'll really miss the customary sharing of meals. It was so much fun!

    Gielliot-- GO! It's such a wonderful, friendly, highly cultural country. I've been backpacking for the past month and I felt totally safe and free. I would reccomend it! But yeah--as a veggie, you might have some problems, particularly if you don't eat fish. Fish sauce is in everything so watch out!

    Carol-- I know, I'll really try not to! I'm doing the Biggest Loser challenge on here, and that'll motiavte me not to mess up. Thanks for the Jiffy tip! I love their brand so it's great to know that there's a natural option! I was living with natives in the northeast (in my opinion, the most "authentic" part of Thailand, but it is rapidly developing--almost changing before my eyes as iphones and malls sprouted up in the last month of my stay!). Unfortunately, the food additives and preserved oils are a lot cheaper and are imported more and more in the area so the vendors are turning to westernized cooking techniques more and more. Eck.

    Is that the case in India? What does your nephew say about the cuisine over there?

    XTRACATE- Thanks!! I love your profile name by the way.
    2164 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/20/2012 12:50:18 AM
    Great blog I would never have thought of the food there being that fatty/saucy, very interesting. Loved your list I would miss all those things too.
    2164 days ago
  • CAROLJ35
    Such an interesting blog!!! I am surprised at the sugar and fat in Thai food. Wonder if the natives eat like that or is their food much simpler. Jif now has natural peanut butter and even my hubby has learned to like it. Best one without any added salt is Krema, but I can't find it everywhere.
    Please don't be so hungry for all these great foods that you overeat!!!

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2164 days ago
    A great list--I would miss most of those things, too! I've always wanted to go to Thailand... mainly for the food! It's good to know that the street options really aren't all that great, especially for a veggie like me. Yikes. Your fatty chicken story...ewww. : )

    Enjoy the trip back!
    2165 days ago
    Wow a lot of foods you miss. My daughter is in Spain right now and she said the Spanish eat a lot of higher calorie foods and most are skinny. She did tell me that not everyone has internet or as many tv shows to watch. They walk almost every where. She has missed some foods yet she still loves all the food in Spain.

    She is staying with a host family and they don't have interent so she isn't sitting around playing on the computer all day. She is doing things and walks a lot. She can't believe how healthy the people can look but still eat like they do.

    Maybe that is one of the reasons Thai people are so skinny because they are still active as in doing manual labor jobs, gardening and stuff like that. We as Americans have become so lazy with technology that we have actually forgotten how to do things. Just my opinion.
    2165 days ago
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