Restaurant 101: Thai Food

Ordering healthy food at a restaurant can be challenging, especially if you’re unfamiliar with many of the ingredients. Luckily, Thai restaurants have plenty of healthy options. Thai cuisine is made with whole-food ingredients and relies on spices and herbs to flavor dishes rather than high-fat sauces. Here are some ways to order healthier dishes at your local Thai restaurant.

Thai Appetizers


In general, opt for grilled or roasted appetizers instead of deep-fried ones. Here are some suggestions:

  • Chicken Satay: skewered, grilled chicken often served with a side of peanut sauce. The chicken provides lean protein, and peanut sauce contains good-for-you fats.
  • Fresh Summer Rolls: traditionally a Vietnamese dish but available in many other Southeast Asian restaurants. They’re made with fresh vegetables wrapped in rice paper and contain less fat than fried spring or egg rolls.
  • Tom Yum: a hot and spicy soup made with broth, vegetables and a protein (like chicken or seafood). Tom Yum is a lighter choice than Tom Kha soup, which is made with coconut milk and can have more than twice the amount of calories and fat.
  • Larb: a salad that consists of a protein tossed with lemongrass, mint and lime. Order larb with chicken or seafood instead of beef to reduce the amount of saturated fat.

Thai Noodles and Stir-Fries

Drunken Noodle with Beef

Thai noodle dishes can be heavy on carbs because they’re made with a large proportion of rice noodles. To balance out your entree, try these modifications:

  • Ask for a lean protein with your entrée. These include chicken, tofu or seafood. Skipping the beef and pork will lower the amount of saturated fat in your entree.
  • Pick a noodle dish with lots of veggies. For example, Pad Kee Mao has more veggies and fiber than Pad Thai, which is mostly noodles and few veggies. If you order the Pad Thai, ask for an extra dose of vegetables.
  • Go with regular rice noodles. They’re more nutritious than glass noodles (woon sen), which have less fiber. Avoid meek-rob rice noodles, which are deep fried.

Most Thai stir-fries are healthy options because they’re made with non-starchy veggies. Some examples include:

  • Pad Ma Kuer: a protein stir-fried with eggplant, basil and Thai chilies.
  • Pad Prik Khing: a red curry-based dish that contains green beans and kaffir leaves.
  • Pad Priew Wan: a sweet-and-sour chicken dish.

Thai Curries

Thai curries are usually made with coconut milk, which is high in saturated fat. Here are some tips to help balance out the high-fat content:

Green pork Curry , Thai cuisine

Thai curries are usually made with coconut milk, which is high in saturated fat. Here are some tips to help balance out the high-fat content:

  • Share two entrées with a friend. This allows both of you to eat a more balanced meal (and try different dishes).
  • Order curries with a side of brown rice. You’ll get more fiber than if you stick to traditional white rice.
  • Choose a curry dish with high-fiber veggies. Non-starchy veggies such as eggplant, onions, bell peppers, broccoli, and cucumbers would be best.

This blog was originally published on June 26, 2014. It was last updated on May 6, 2017.

Leave a Comment