5 Thai Foods That You Think Are Healthy, But They’re Not
June 14, 2022

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Whether you're a working professional, digital nomad, a caring parent or a health conscious individual who's trying to live a healthy and well-balanced life in Bangkok, with food options on every corner, you'd think finding great tasting, healthy food would be easy... right?

However,  if you look a little closer at what's actually on your plate, you may be in for quite a shock.  Recent studies reveal that while not a big problem yet, obesity is on the rise in Thailand.

There's a number of reasons for increasing obesity rates, but the main culprit is always going to be diet. If you're an avid eater of Thai food, here's 5 Thai dishes/ingredients you'll find in food which you probably thought were healthy, but are actually bad really bad for your body.

1. Fruit shakes

Fruit shakes are bad, how's that possible? Well, the fruit or vegetable part of the shake is relatively fine, it's everything else they put inside that's the problem. Most fruit shake vendors will add a ladle or seven of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is what you'll find in carbonated sodas. HFCS is commonly used because it's cheaper to buy, but unfortunately also much worse for the body.

Ever feel tired or sleepy after drinking a fruit shake? That's the effect  HFCS has on your body.

  • Paleo tip : The next time you order your fruit shake, ask the vendor not to add any sugar syrup or evaporated milk. It may not taste as sweet, but it'll be a lot more healthier. Also please note that fruit shakes contain a lot of sugar naturally. Just because it's natural doesn't mean the sugar is suddenly OK. Try to keep your shakes to a bare minimum.

2. Stir-fried morning glory

What? Is morning glory bad for you too? Yes.. but only when it's fried and drenched in white sugar, re-used vegetable oil and excessive amount of sodium. Morning glory itself is very rich in nutriments such as fibre and great for pregnant women as its contains tons of iron. However, as any expat who's been living in Thailand for any length of time already knows, Thais love to put sugar in everything!

As well as the few heaped tablespoons of white sugar,  morning glory is typically fried with low quality vegetable oil and dowsed with iodine salt. The oil they used is actually extremely unhealthy (discussed later), and frying vegetables kills some of their nutritional content.

  • Paleo Tip : Ask the vendor to leave out the sugar and to use as little oil as possible in your next serving. If you can handle it, try eating it raw, just be sure to wash the vegetable thoroughly with clean water first.

3. Most curry dishes contain MSG

Do you love your Penang and massaman curries? If your local Thai curries have a savoury/umami taste you just can't put your finger on, it's probably the Monosodium glutamate (better known as MSG). MSG is added flavouring which is used in most dishes as it's much cheaper to use than actual herbs and spices.

While MSG doesn't affect everyone, typical side-effects people have after eating an MSG infested meal is:

  • Headaches
  • upset stomach
  • Skin reaction, hives
  • Feeling weak and sleepy

Many ex-pats bloggers have complained about MSG in food.

  • Paleo Tip : You can ask the vendor or restaurant not to add any MSG to your meals by saying:

"Mai sai poong choo rot"

Which translates to "don't add any MSG". Be warned though, just because you asked and they nodded their heads doesn't mean they won't add it anyway.

4 . Foods cooked using excessive amounts of oil

When you typically cook food using oil, you'll throw the oil away after usage, because not only is it gross to re-use it, but there are health risks associated with it. Most Thai dishes are cooked in GMO soybean oil (very cheap to buy) which is considered one of the most harmful ingredients you'll find in all processed foods.

Some vendors will even reuse oil several times over which can increase your chances of getting cancer (cancer is the leading cause of death in Thailand too). However, it could be worse, in China they use gutter oil:


  • Paleo Tip : Avoid deep fried foods all together.

5. White rice

White rice will can be found at every Thai restaurant, will usually be the cheapest item on the menu and cover at least 50% of your plate, usually more. Eating excessive amounts of white rice has been linked to type 2 diabetes in Asia and is generally regarded by most as 'filler food'.

Filler food : low cost food of which the main purpose is to fill you up. Filler foods such as rice and bread contain low nutritional value. Rice is great for getting 'full' but doesn't give your body the vitamins and minerals it craves.

  • Paleo tip: Start becoming conscious of what's on your plate and the benefits it provides your body. While a bowl of nice or noodles may fill you up, it doesn't provide your body with the nutriments it needs to perform at its best.

So you're telling all Thai food is bad?

No, most Thai food is healthy and good for you. The issue with the food you eat in Thai/western restaurants and street stalls is the  quality of produce  and  cooking procedures .  This is why most of the food available to you is unhealthy and makes you feel sluggish and feeling bad.

Street food  - if you're paying 40 baht for a plate of green curry or stir fried rice, for that price you cannot expect restaurants to use high quality ingredients or coconut oil for frying. Nor can they use organic spices and herbs and is why they resort to 12 Baht seasoning packets of MSG.

Restaurants  - targeting expats and middle-class Thais could easily choose to use higher quality produce, better oils and throw away the MSG packets for real ingredients, but they won't.

They're already charging you x4-6 the cost of the meal ingredients itself, and they have no incentive to make your food healthier, because it only cuts into their profits or they just don't know any better.

At Paleo Robbie our mission is to fill the gap in the market for people who want to eat great tasting, healthy and nutritiously dense food without spending a fortune. A single meal from our Meal Plan can weigh as much as 1KG with sides and contains no MSG or harmful toxins, while our online Grocery is stocked with wild-caught salmon and pastured meats, organic produce and ingredients that are full of minerals, vitamins and healthy fats that will help your immune system.


Finding great tasting healthy food in Bangkok is a lot harder than you think if you really take a close look at what's being served. While there are restaurants on every corner, there are no official guidelines a vendor must follow to setup a restaurant and start serving food. Often all they need is a trolley, a gas tank and a month's rent paid in advance.

If you found this article helpful or have a friend living in Thailand who may find this of use, please click any of the share icons below. Happy eating!

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