The Hidden Calories and Sodium in Thai Food – and Which Dishes to Avoid
Leslie Beck, RD See Bio
Registered Dietitian Leslie Beck is the best-selling author of 12 books on nutrition and health, writes a weekly column in The Globe and Mail and is a regular contributor to CTV News. Based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto, Leslie offers one-on-one diet coaching, personalized meal plans and evidence-based recommendations on the use of nutritional supplements. www.lesliebeck.comHide
The question: I love Thai food, but not all the calories. What are some lighter options at a Thai restaurant?
The answer: If you’re calorie-conscious, Thai cuisine can be tricky since so many dishes are fried in generous amounts of oil.
Rich coconut milk, a staple in many curries, soups and desserts, isn’t easy on the waistline either, at 275 calories per half-cup. Thai dishes can also be heavy on the starchy carbs and light on lean protein (think Pad Thai), which quickly bumps up the calories in a meal.
It’s not only calories you need to be mindful of. Thai cuisine can also be very high in sodium thanks to ingredients such as fish sauce, curry paste and shrimp paste. Depending on what you order (and how much you eat), it can be nearly impossible to keep your daily sodium consumption in check.
Consider, for example, that an order of stir-fried basil chicken delivers as much as 1,400 milligrams of sodium. A meal of Tom Yum soup will cost you almost 3,000 mg of sodium. If you are planning a meal of Thai food, watch your sodium intake for the rest of the day.
That said, it is possible to find lighter options on a Thai menu. Smart choices include green-mango salad, grilled shrimp and chicken satay, lettuce wraps, fresh summer rolls, seafood salad (Yum Talay) and steamed shrimp salad (Yam Goong).
Hot and sour shrimp soup (Tom Yum Goong) is a calorie bargain at 90 calories per one cup, but, like all Thai soups, it’s high in sodium. To save calories, order soup with less noodles and extra bean sprouts and vegetables.
Basil, cashew, ginger or mango chicken are lower in calories and smarter choices than curries made with chicken. If you don’t like chicken, shrimp and tofu are also good choices. Order steamed rice instead of fried rice, coconut rice and fried noodles (or substitute the rice for bean sprouts). Watch your portion sizes, though, because calories can add up fast.
If you love Pad Thai but want to ease up on the calorie load (400 to 600 calories per serving), order it with less noodles and more bean sprouts. You can ask for it to be prepared using less oil. The same holds true for Pad See Ew, a stir-fried noodle dish made with soy sauce (sodium alert!), garlic, egg, broccoli and thinly sliced meat.
There’s one other way to save calories when eating Thai food: Use chopsticks instead of a fork. You’ll eat more slowly and, as a result, consume fewer calories.
Copyright © Leslie Beck, 2015.
Registered Dietitian Leslie Beck is the best-selling author of 12 books on nutrition and health, writes a weekly column in The Globe and Mail and is a regular contributor to CTV News. Based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto, Leslie offers one-on-one diet coaching, personalized meal plans and evidence-based recommendations on the use of nutritional supplements. www.lesliebeck.com