Eating Healthy in Thailand
As an American, and as someone who is acutely aware of food, processing of food, food additives, and generally what I put into my mouth (because I realize that it affects how I feel), I have issues with many things here. For one thing, rice is a part of every meal because it is filling and cheap. Now that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, because I like rice. But every meal?
The things I have noticed here the most are that people like to eat and eating is a social event. Maybe more than in the west. It is kind of odd to people when I say I ate (alone) when I could have eaten with someone.
In Thailand (and many other places too) we sometimes eat 4,5,6 times a day. So why are Thai people so skinny on average in comparison to Americans? Well, they pick at their food! They only eat spoonfuls at a time, and they “nibble”. According to my understanding of the human body, this is probably why they don’t gain so much weight. When I began a fat loss program about 15 years ago that was one requirement of the program…eat 6 small meals a day. So maybe this is it.
In Thailand Thais also love spicy food. Usually you have to ask restaurants to not make food spicy. They put chillies on everything, even fruit. So that may be your preference, but my stomach seems to have problems eating too much spicy food. I always say “mai pet” meaning no spicy.
On Koh Samui Thailand many people sell food. Whether it is a nice fancy restaurant, or just a roadside stand, there are hundreds of food sellers. The majority of them are simply mom and pop places with a piece of land by the road. They just open up their doors and start cooking. (No FDA here). So being a tourist location there are many more places to eat than just for Thai food. If you are tired of eating Thai, choose what you want, there is probably a restaurant that specializes in that cuisine.
But going back to Thai food, I have found that Monosodium Glutamate is considered a spice here. It is not only used in the manufacture of almost everything processed, it is sold in bottles labeled in big Roman letters MSG. It is used in all Thai cooking and many if not most people will ask for it (obliviously not understanding the harmful affects of it on our bodies). I request my food to be cooked as I wait, but many foods are prepared like soups and sauces and some places cannot honer my request for “mai sai Pon chu rot” (No MSG). So it is difficult. I can usually feel it when I eat a lot of this and by the way, even if I ask for them not to add it to my foods, it is in the soy sauce fish sauce and basically everything else.
Oh and I have to ask for salt at almost every restaurant because for some reason many people have something against this most essential nutrient falsely believing the propaganda about it causing heart attacks or high blood pressure.(And because basically they use soy sauce for salt)
So food is an issue here in Thailand. But there are many good things about the food and the environment also. Don’t get me wrong about food. I love the taste of Thai food. Thais know how to make things taste really good. For instance, I love Tom Yom soup, and Pad Thai noodles, but I go to the store and buy my own food and cook the way I like it.
Roadside stands and markets also sell fresh food, many many tropical fruits bananas, papaya, oranges pineapples, apples, watermelons.. Freshly caught fish, crabs clams, shrimp, freshly grown broccoli , and just about any vegetable you can think of. Fresh organic chickens, pork, and eggs, among so much more. spices, sauces, nuts. etc. So thats the good part. Organic is not that hard to do. There is plenty of chances to eat good. Thats the part I like.