Nutrition Articles

Dining Out: Thai Cuisine

Restaurant-Specific Strategies

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Characteristics:

Dishes are usually packed with lots of fresh ingredients, and have many hot, spicy, flavorful, along with some sweet and sour options.
Common Ingredients:

These foods feature chili peppers, rice, noodles, sugar, citrus fruits, fish, chicken, and fresh vegetables. They’re often light in fats and meats, and heavier in noodles and vegetables.
Hidden Dangers:
  • Pad Thai noodles are stir-fried with a lot of oil, and often include eggs and peanuts.
  • Nam Prik (spicy peanut sauce) and Sao Nam (coconut sauce) are very high in fat.
  • Nam Pla and soy sauce are both high in sodium.
  • Watch out for peanuts, cashews, coconut, and any nut oils or sauces, which can be high in fat.
  • Avoid deep fried noodles and entrees.
  • Say “no” to the heavy sauces.
  • Avoid anything with full-fat coconut milk.
  • Tom Ka Gai (chicken in coconut milk soup)
  • Gaeng Keow Wan Gai (curry chicken with eggplant)
  • Gaeng Ped Gai (red curry chicken)
  • Gluay Kaeg (fried banana slices)


Healthy Finds:
  • You can often find a sweet, fat-free chili sauce.
  • Try sauces that are made with basil, chilies and lime juice.
  • Ask for more veggies and less meat or nuts in a dish.
  • Make sure meat is sautéed, stir fried (with vegetable oil) or grilled.
  • Thai Chicken (sautéed chicken with lots of vegetables and pineapple)
  • Poy Sian (sautéed seafood with cabbage, beans, and mushrooms)
  • Gai Yang (grilled chicken on cabbage and rice)
  • Tom Yam Goong (hot and sour shrimp soup)
  • Nuea Pad Prik (pepper steak)
  • Khao Newo Kaew (sweet sticky rice)

The Big Tip:

 
Watch out for Sator Beans! They’re very much an acquired taste, one that will stay with you for hours, tainting everything you eat with a pungent odor—not pleasant if you’re not prepared for it!
Substitution Ideas:

 Try This Skip That
Request vegetable oil  Food made in lard or coconut oil
Chicken Duck
Fresh Spring rolls Fried Spring rolls
Steamed rice Fried rice
Hot & sour soup Coconut-based soup
 Steamed rice noodles Fried noodles

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Member Comments

  • This really is another case of too much of any one thing is not good. Many things mentioned on this menu is high in fat but they are good fats so just don't eat that much.
  • I'm so hungry and the suggestions sound simply delicious......
  • Thom Ka Gai is necessary for my mental health. :-) Love the stuff. No oftener than I get to go out for Thai food, I'm going for it & will watch fat grams elsewhere. Moderation, remember?
  • This is not the first time SP has offered advice that is contrary to good sense. What intelligent person would ask a chef to replace coconut oil with vegetable oil, when vegetable oil is usually sourced from GMO ingredients (corn, canola, soy).

    I am once again appalled by the author's lack of good sense. Where is the quality control? This is not the first time I've found information on this site that is contrary to current medical knowledge.
  • ALLISON150
    Lard or coconut oil (natural, good fats) is MUCH healthier for you than over-processed vegetable oil (full of bad fats). Don't be fooled by Spark's recommendations..
    .
  • So glad I came across this article! Have a birthday party tonight in a thai restaurant so now I know what the best options are. Thanks Spark!
  • I just had Thai last night with my husband. We split an appetizer and soup and I had a few bites of his dessert (jack fruit w/young coconut and tapioca). That was plenty of food for us- we didn't even order an entre and we still took home most of the soup. BTW I really wanted to order the Tom Ka Gai, but the waitresss misunderstoop me and we ended up with Tom Yam Goong -very yummy!
  • I'm going out to lunch with my co-workers today. They picked Thai and it was really stressing me out. It's confusing and everything seems to be full of fat. I'm s glad I found this article. Compared it to the restaurant menu and I'm preparedto order a healthy meal now.
  • Going out to lunch with a friend today, so glad I found this before I left, I feel like i can stay on track!
  • Thanks for this. I'm going out for Thai food with a friend and was feeling nervous about it but I just knew Spark would have something helpful to say. This website almost never lets me down!
  • I used to hate Thai food until recently. We now live in San Fran and have several "real" thai restaurants nearby- My absolut FAVORITE thing ever!!!- is the mango shrimp salad. It has boiled shrimp, green mango, red bell peppers, tomatos, lettuce, and a sprinkling of cashews in it with a lime juice based dressing! Simply Fabulous and low in fat! If you skip the nuts it's virtually no fat. Ask for it even if it's not on the menu- most Thai restaurants serve a variation of it.
  • this entire ethic food article is so helpful! i'm curious about what portions are appropriate for thai and chinese foods since the delivery sizes are usually enough to feed an army.