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You might think you’re doing yourself a favor by going out to eat at your favorite Thai restaurant, but many of the appetizers and entrees on the menu are anything but healthy.
Take for example the Pla Muok Tad.
It may sound exotic, but this plate is essentially the fried calamari from an Italian joint with a different dipping sauce. That means 800 or more calories per appetizer portion. Read through our list of the best and worst Thai foods, to learn what you should order and avoid at your favorite Thai restaurant
Lean pork or shrimp mixed with vegetables and rice noodles and wrapped in a thin sheet of rice paper—summer rolls might be accurately thought of as healthy and unfried egg rolls. They have roots in Vietnam, but they’re common in other parts of Asia and available on some Thai menus. Just make sure you order a summer and not a spring roll, or you’ll be right back in the fryer.
These meat skewers are grilled and then coated in a spicy peanut sauce, which brings to your table lots of flavor and protein with relatively little fat. Consider this one of the good guys: An entree portion has fewer than 300 calories.
A high-protein, low-calorie soup featuring lean meat and mushrooms simmered in broth with lemongrass, cilantro, and other seasonings. You’ll do fine with any bowl of tom yum, but the best options are the ones that feature shrimp or mixed seafood.
In terms of fat and calories, this soup is on par with a chowder or cream-based soup. Unless it’s all you plan on eating, pick something else.
Grilled meats are popular in Thai cuisine, and as far as lean cooking methods go, this is as good as it gets. Instead of letting oils soak into the tissue, the grill’s dry heat pulls fats out. Every time you eat Thai, try to squeeze one grilled item on your family’s table.
Mild, Medium, or Hot
If you can stand the heat, tell the chef to turn it up. That burn on your tongue comes from a class of pepper-based phytochemicals called capsaicins, which have been shown to clear congestion, lower cholesterol, and boost metabolism to reduce body fat. Taiwanese researchers even found that exposing developing fat cells to capsaicins caused them to die before they matured. And hey, who says you can’t break a little sweat at the dinner table?
A curry that’s closer in consistency to the thicker versions of India and generally cooked with crushed peanuts and potatoes. However, like most Thai curries, massaman generally carries a load of high-cal coconut cream.
Whereas most curries are made with a base of coconut milk, country-style curries are made with water. For that reason, choosing country-style can cut a couple hundred calories off your meal. Be warned, though: Without the presence of fat from coconut, water-based curries tend to be far spicier than their coconut-based cousins.
Sweet Coconut Rice
It may have fewer calories than the pies and cakes found in Western restaurants, but this is no dieter’s dessert. The rice contributes nothing but refined starches, the coconut milk packs plenty of fat, and the sugar surge pushes the calorie count over the edge