If you’re looking to maintain healthy blood pressure, eating out can be tricky when so many of our favourite dishes are so high in sodium. Thai food, thanks to ingredients such as fish sauce, curry paste and shrimp paste is high among those that the sodium conscious eaters need beware!
As you may know, excess salt in the diet can increase blood pressure, an important risk factor for heart disease and stroke. And according to Health Canada, 80% of Canadians consume too much sodium (more than 2300 mg a day). Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death in Canada, after cancer and a healthy diet that limits daily sodium intake to 1500-2300 mg each day is key to maintaining healthy blood pressure.
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When opting for Thai food, 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.
When so many Thai dishes are fried in generous amounts of oil, it’s not only sodium levels that you need to be mindful of. Calories too will sneak up on you quickly! For example, there is plenty of rich coconut milk in many curries, soups and desserts, which isn’t easy on the waistline at 275 calories per half-cup. Similarly, Thai dishes specifically can be heavy on the starchy carbs and light on lean protein (think Pad Thai), which quickly bumps up the calories in a meal.
That being 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. 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.
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