Learn How to Eat Healthily in Bangkok

May 23, 2013
By

dh1

Ever since I started juicing at the start of this year, my whole outlook on what I eat has changed. I originally intended to supplement my diet with fruit and vegetable juices. But, in the process I started thinking twice about consuming fast food and basically anything that is deep fried or coated in sugar. During my research I realized that my body just didn’t need this food in order to survive. That goes for coffee too. I no longer felt tired and so there was no longer a need to drink copious cups of coffee during the day. I never really intended to become a “health freak” but juicing opened the door to a different way of living for me. I guess I went a step closer to this last weekend when I accepted an invitation to join a raw food class in Bangkok.

People have this misconception that Thai food is among the healthiest of food around the world. That might be true to an extent as some ingredients are renowned to be natural remedies for many ailments. However, as a whole, I think that the Thai diet can cause more problems than it solves. Particularly if you mainly eat street food like myself with the deep fried snacks, sugar coated desserts and MSG laden main dishes. The last year or so I had stopped cooking for myself and mainly ate Thai street food. That was great as I love Thai food, and still do. But at the end of last year I realized that I had been coming down with the flu and other ailments more often than before. Thinking about it, I could see that my diet had little in the way of fruit and vegetables. That is why I started to juice as a replacement for some meals.

dh2

I have now been juicing for about four and a half months (see here). This has been going very well, but lately I have been thinking about some alternatives to juicing for breakfast. That was why I was really happy to receive an invite from Jennifer Robertson to join her raw food class in Bangkok. Two of her courses caught my attention, “Breakfast” and “Thai”. But, as I had been looking for an alternative to my first meal of the day I decided to join her for the former class. Jennifer taught us how to make non-dairy nut milks, crunchy raw cereals with a long shelf-life, non-dairy fermented yogurt, a healthy pudding and the highlight, a pancake that hadn’t been cooked.

Before I attended the class, Jennifer sent me a form with various questions. One of them was “What percentage of your daily diet would you say consists of raw food?”. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I only have one cooked meal on average. I usually have a vegetable juice for breakfast, a normal meal for lunch and a smoothie in the evening. I guess you could say that more than 70% of my food intake is raw. So, what is really meant by “raw food”? According to Jennifer, the term describes the use of plant-based nutrition sources including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds to produce meals with a high nutritional value. As very little heat is used in preparation for these meals, most of the vitamins, minerals and enzymes are retained. Best of all, no colouring, flavouring and certainly no preservatives.

somtam

Jennifer’s classes take place in her spacious apartment on Soi Chidlom. Class sizes are limited to no more than ten people. When we arrived we were given an information pack about raw food and also the recipes for the food that was going to be prepared. Unlike Thai cooking classes that I have attended before, Jennifer taught “demo-style” for much of the time but we had plenty of opportunities to help with the preparation. She also taught in a style that was both enjoyable and easy enough to understand for newbies like myself. Questions were welcome. The highlight, of course, was the sampling of all the food that we were helping to make. My favourites included the yoghurt made from coconut meat, a mango pudding made with chia seeds and a surprisingly delicious “raw” pancake.

It was great to tap into Jennifer’s vast knowledge about the different ingredients and where we could buy them in Bangkok and online. Other participants of the class also gave their own tips from their experiences. Since I attended the class,  I have made  cashew and almond milk which was flavoured with ingredients like cacao and sweetened with raw honey or coconut palm sugar. Tonight I also made my own soy bean milk from scratch. Next I’m going to make the mango-coconut pudding with chia seeds. I also want to have a go at making the yoghurt. Some of the ingredients I have found in Big C and Tesco Lotus. But for some of the more specialized items like chia seeds and Himalayan salt, I will have to visit the health stores in Bangkok such as Sunshine Market and Radiance Wholefoods. Another good source are the regular Farmers Markets. My next blog will be where to buy and eat organic/raw food in Bangkok and the rest of Thailand. Please post your own suggestions in the comments.

For more information about Jennifer’s raw food classes in Bangkok, please visit de.hydrated website or their Facebook page. Her next class looks very tempting. It’s a twist on some of the popular Thai food dishes such as som tum, spring rolls and pad thai.

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25 Responses to Learn How to Eat Healthily in Bangkok

  1. Adrian Halliday
    May 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I find Bangkok a very hard city to live in healthily, if you live on a budget. I don’t think you should feel ashamed of wanting to be more healthy Richard!

    • Richard Barrow
      May 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      I think it is coming easier all the time as more people become interested in living a healthy lifestyle in Bangkok. Tomorrow there is a Farmers Market at KVillage.

      • Adrian Halliday
        May 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm

        On a budget it is still tough I feel. Eating healthily means either eating at home or in a decent restaurant since as you say in your blog, most street food is incredibly unhealthy despite the misconceptions to the contrary… And eating at home requires decent cooking facilities which cheaper apartments are lacking.

        But anyway, progressive thinking is the first step and it’s good to see that it’s coming to BKK. Thanks for sharing! Glad to know it’s not just me having that experience with street/foodcourt/cheap restaurant foods.

      • keith
        August 30, 2014 at 2:16 pm

        Hi ARE you still operating thanks Keith

  2. Nancy Singharuksa Hambly
    May 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

    With street food/small Thai eating places they do cook from real food but they spoil it with added MSG and SUGAR in everything! such a shame! And in most of these places don’t think they purchase their meat and vege with quality in mind.
    For example simple grilled meat on skewers and sticky rice…..can’t taste the meat for all the sugar and all sorts in it…shame.

  3. Lee Craker
    May 24, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Some foods are very good raw, carrots for example. The difficult thing for me – And yes, street food can be very unhealthy in Thailand, but also there is a large misunderstanding of what healthy foods are here in Rural Thailand. My Dr. tried to explain high blood pressure and eating to my wife. And bless her she tries, but the traditional style of eating here is so bad for you.

  4. Cooper János Horváth
    May 24, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I have every day at least 1 “raw food” day. This post is very helpful, thanks!

  5. Jan Detlefsen
    May 24, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I find no problem eating healthy in simple restaurant (I find the concept of “Streetfood” a bit odd). Just need to learn how stuff is prepared and how to order the way you want it. Thailand is awesome for healty food even on a budget, the whole range of ‘yums’ ‘laabs’ and soups is awesome, plus there is always tons of veggies on the table. If you don’t find that you are doing it wrong.

    • Richard Barrow
      May 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      There is certainly a lot of good food out there. One advantage of street food is that you can stand by the cook as she prepares the food and ask her not to add so much sugar or MSG etc. Hopefully as more people in Bangkok become more interested then it will be easier to find healthier options. At the same time maybe the prices will come down too. I am working on a list of places in Bangkok and Thailand where you can buy organic/raw food. Feel free to post your tips here.

      • Lee Craker
        May 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm

        Yeah, I was vegan for several years a long time ago and that journey made me realize the words “healthy food” has many many interpretations. I’m 62 and the last few years high blood pressure is a problem, along with weight gain if I don’t work out hard enough. It is difficult anywhere, not just in Thailand, to find prepared foods or boxed with zero salt and zero sugar. Combing high salt (soy product) and mega sugar, then deep fry it in oil and I just cant eat it, if I want to live a while longer

        • Jan Detlefsen
          May 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm

          I think the issue with unhealthy diet are eating patterns, it’s not a lack of healty food options. For example the culture of constantly eating something makes people obese, it’s quite common here to eat 5 times a day or more, those are then called ‘snacks’ but its still food intake. I did lose a lot of weight just by regular excercise and giving myself a break from this pattern by sticking to 600 cals on two days a week. Works wonder.

      • Giada
        May 27, 2013 at 12:19 pm

        Hi Richard,

        I work for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Program in Bangkok, called the CSA Munching Box. We started this initiative in June 2012 and now have over 400 ‘subscribers’ who get a weekly delivery of organic fruits and veggies. We work mostly with small scale farmers around Thailand and help them throughout the whole cultivation process, from getting heirloom seeds to capacity building training and access to a stable market and income. We deliver by bicycle around central Bangkok (low carbon footprint) and work with local artisans as well who also supply our customers with bread, eggs, and dairy products. Let me know if you’d like more info about us 🙂

        • Richard Barrow
          May 27, 2013 at 10:12 pm

          That sounds so cool. Thanks for sharing. Would loe to learn more.

          • Giada
            May 29, 2013 at 10:38 am

            Shoot us an email, we’d be happy to send you a Munching Box 🙂 csa@raitongorganicsfarm.com

          • Richard Barrow
            May 30, 2013 at 7:04 am

            Thanks, but I live in Samut Prakan. I don’t think your bicycles go that far.

          • Giada
            May 30, 2013 at 8:36 am

            The bikes don’t get that far, but the truck does 🙂 We already deliver to some subscribers in the area.

  6. May 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Richard,
    Thank you for the nice article and also for sharing your food journey. Our diet and eating habits are definitely the most important input we can make in our health. We are starting a brand new company in Bangkok based on organic food and organic products. The name is Dr G Organics and we call it Bangkok’s 1st Organic Lifestyle Boutique. We are making organic food and skincare products and we are teaching about organic lifestyle. We will offer workshops in thai vegetarian cooking with organic food, making organic skincare and cosmetics, thai herbal ball (for muscle, joint and circulation problems) and urban gardening. We will also offer organic veggie takeaway meals, organic raw wildflower honey and other organic and natural products.
    We would like to invite you to come by to see our new space. You are also welcome to join one of our classes when we start next month. We are located in the back of Soi 49 in Thonglor.
    Thanks again for your lifestyle blogs.
    Jovan & Dr. Grissanalux
    http://www.facebook.com/DrGOrganics, Twitter: @DrGOrganics

  7. Anjali
    June 1, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Hi Richard
    Nice to read the blog. I was in Bangkok for the first time this past month (May) and I had two conflicting feelings about food there.
    One was a lot of pain of smelling all the meat cooking in the streets as I’m strict vegetarian for my whole life.
    The other was first discovering the juice bars where I could get a daily wheat grass shot (which I can’t do in India where I usually live) and Rasayana Retreat in Sukhumvit Soi 39.
    After discovering Rasayana I ate there daily. It has a nice raw vegan cafe. Again something we don’t have in India.
    I realized that I was there to learn something about how to prepare my own raw foods. In fact, I ate only raw food the entire 2 weeks stay in Bangkok because I couldn’t find anything else suitable for me.
    In Khoasan road I found a nice little vegan cafe called Ethos. But I do recomment Rasayana and they also have raw food preparation classes sometimes.
    That sounds very interesting what Giada is talking about. If I come there again I’ll contact her.
    What is a farmer’s market? Is it only organic or is it a good place to get organic? Is it only fruit and vegetables?
    Thanks
    Swadika

  8. June 11, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I like it whenever people get together and share opinions. Great
    website, continue the good work!

  9. July 2, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Hi, Richard!

    Have you read Norman Walker’s book “Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices: What’s Missing in Your Body”? As juiceaholic I can tell you, this book will take you on the next level.

    It’s the most complete work about juice therapy, there is a lot of concrete information about ilnesses, and what juices can help in concrete situations.

    Regards, Georgy.

    • Rebecca Harrison
      September 9, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Georgy,

      Thanks for the recommendation of the book by Norman Walker – I started it this morning and haven’t put it down!
      I’ve been juicing for a few years, having recently moved to Samui, I really want to get back into it and encourage other to do so too (friends etc – not preaching to the masses).

      I look forward to reading about the recipes he suggests.

      Thanks again,

      By the way, excellent blog Richard… How’s the juicing going?

      Rebecca

      • Richard Barrow
        September 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm

        I’m still juicing Rebecca. It’s been about 20 months now and thanks to guava juice every day I have never had the flu despite working in a school. Never had a day off too. Having vegetable and fruit juice every day keeps me healthy.

  10. David Walters
    August 6, 2014 at 9:52 am

    [5/8/2014 10:54:05] Dave: Thai food is generally healthy, but they manage to ruin it with copious amounts of sugar and oil. It’s not just the MSG that I worry about as well, but the pesticides they use here and the lack of Government regulation involved in well pretty much everything. As with everything it comes down to Education and even the Western world is so far behind on what they should know about their food.

    I run a Kindergarten and luckily for me I can decide what goes on the menu and how things are cooked. Everything is fully organic and we have gluten free options, which is great but it means nothing to the children, so we now educate children on what to eat and generally the kids are great. Educating the parents is often the hardest part, as many children come to school with a breakfast of Taro fish snacks and Lays.

    We just did a topic on juicing at school and the kids made their own juices. The children guessed how much of the fruit or veg would produce water and then tasted different juices by themselves before trying their own mixture. I love juicing myself and raw foods are so important. It’s so hard to get the right amount of fruits and veg in each day. Would be great if you have any ideas for us Richard. I follow your Blog and Twitter and its been amazing watching your popularity grow. Your articles are very informative. Please check out our school at http://www.beyc.co.th or our facebook page(www.facebook.com/BEYC2011)and see what we are doing too. Suggestions are always welcome.

  11. Viktor
    March 16, 2015 at 11:34 am

    I think you guys are lucky being in BKK. Even in the city it is hard to live healthy, but you gave a fantastic example. Nevertheless, trying to live in rural Thailand with the next tourist area 60 km away, it can be hard. Our “Expat Community” consists of 3 persons. Also, the healthiest choice within a range of 30 k is a 7-11 (!) and of course the local Sunday-morning market. Living remotely is very tough and this you can see mostly in obese children and cancer patients. I wish there was a healthier choice down here in the South. But keep up the good blogging, definitely going to share the page with some friends staying in BKK! Kopkunlaw!

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