Whether you’re heading to your local Japanese restaurant or your favourite Thai place, it can be daunting trying to decide on a healthy meal. That’s why we’ve put this handy guide together for a few of your favourite Asian cuisines – we’ll have you hitting up your pre-quitting sugar haunts in no time.
Avoid these: Matcha lattes are on a steady incline in popularity, but these drinks often pack a hefty dose of sugar which can claim over half your daily limit in just one cup! So, skip the sugary lattes, along with any juices or soft drinks you find on the menu.
Order these: Green tea is a great choice – it’s loaded with antioxidants and may even reduce bad breath. Asahi beer is another sugar-free beverage, though it’s important to remember to drink it in moderation due to its caloric content.
Avoid these: Tempura veggies are best avoided, and this is all to do with those trans fats which can wreak havoc on our hormones and cause weight gain. Fried chicken – known as katsu – is also best avoided, for this same reason. The ramen dishes might not be ideal depending on how they’re made. In an ideal situation, they could be made from whole, healthy ingredients, but some restaurants may add highly-processed ingredients and sugars to their broth for extra flavour, so this is something worth inquiring about.
Oder these: Sushi is a pretty safe option, depending on the filling – opt for avocado, cucumber and fish, but not the fried kind! The fermented soybean dish known as natto is another exceptionally healthful option – loaded with nearly double our daily vitamin K2 needs, along with calcium, protein and gut-healthy probiotics, there’s really no downside here. Miso is another healthy fermented food, but you’ll want to check if it’s the shelf-stable kind or the real kind with live bacteria – the latter is what you want, while the former might be harbouring added sugars and excess salt.
Avoid these: Skip the green tea ice cream and mochi – these may be classic desserts, but they’re also harbouring a host of sugars and additives.
Order these: Konjac jelly can be a good option, so long as it’s made traditionally – meaning, minus the sugar. It’s derived from a root veggie and provides a host of benefits, from improving immunity to reducing cholesterol levels and helping with weight loss.
Avoid these: You’ll want to avoid pearl milk tea – this stuff has shot off around the world, becoming a global phenomenon for its convenience, addictive taste and fun "bubbles", but there’s one problem. Sugar. These drinks are packed to the brim with added sugars, and just one serve can send you soaring over the 6-9 teaspoon daily limit. Juices are also worth avoiding, as you probably know by now, these things are loaded with fructose and stripped of fibre, giving our liver the taxing job of metabolising this stuff. But at these excess levels, the result is often the development of visceral fat – putting you on the path to developing obesity, diabetes and liver disease. So, slowly step away from the juice!
Order these: Chinese herbal teas are some of the most nutritionally dense, gut-healing drinks the world over, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find green tea, white tea, ginseng tea and oolong tea on our to-order list.
Avoid these: The fried dim sims and spring rolls are the first foods you’ll want to skip on the menu – these are loaded with trans fats, added sugars and other preservatives which can wreak havoc on your gut. Sweet and sour chicken or pork is another Aussie favourite which happens to be covered in a sugary sauce, so cross this one off your list.
Oder these: Steamed veggie, tofu or lean meat dumplings can be safe options which provide a decent amount of vitamins and minerals – just leave the dipping sauces off your plate. If you’re struggling to find any mains that are sugar-free, check the sides menu – you might be able to find some steamed veggies which are the saving grace for eating out after quitting sugar.
Avoid these: Nostalgic as they may be, you’ll want to skip the mango pancakes – the sugary cream is not ideal for keeping those cravings at bay. Egg tarts and moon cakes also tend to have a fair amount of sugar and additives in them, so it’s worth avoiding these too.
Order these: It’ll be hard to find a sugar-free dessert in most commercial Chinese restaurants, so we recommend calling your local joint up to check what’s on offer first. If all else fails, a nice cup of oolong tea goes down well after a meal!
Avoid these: Thai tea lattes, Thai milk tea and Thai iced coffees are three popular drinks you’ll want to steer clear of – these are overloaded with added sugars and are sure to send your blood sugars into overdrive.
Order these: Thai cuisine is rich in heart-healthy beverages like chrysanthemum drink – this classic is loaded with potassium and may even reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Another health-booster comes from roselle drink, this is bursting with vitamin C and is believed to reduce mouth ulcers – win, win!
Avoid these: While they may be the Aussie favourite Thai dishes, pad Thai and pad see ew are best avoided when eating out – this is because they’re often dosed with sugary oyster sauce, refined oils and more sugar for good measure. You might think soups like tom yum are healthy, and while you can make your own low-sugar versions at home, the stuff you’ll find in commercial restaurants tend to go heavy on the additives.
Oder these: The green papaya salad is a pretty nutritious option – but be sure to ask them to leave out the dressing; chances are, it’ll be loaded with sugars and refined oils. Steamed fish is another safe option, and they’ll often be cooked with fragrant herbs and spices for a nutritional – and flavoursome – boost. But, of course, ask them to leave the sauce out. Curries are another dish we love, especially massaman, green, red and yellow varieties. These are usually packed with veggies and proteins, making them a more balanced option than, say, pad Thai. If possible, opt for brown rice instead of white, this will ensure you get a good hit of slow-release carbs and fibre to help balance those blood sugars. Bonus benefit – they’ll reduce sugar cravings too.
Tip: If you’re ordering salad, steamed veggies or any sides – we recommend ordering the rice paper rolls – ask for a squeeze of lemon or lime on the side instead of sauces and dressings.
Avoid these: The grilled pineapple, fried bananas and banana rolls are best avoided – these often have palm sugar added and are your ticket to a blood sugar spike.
Oder these: The mango sticky rice is one of the better options on the menu – though it’s better as a once-in-a-blue-moon treat – but the whole mango is rich in fibre and vitamin C, while the rice and coconut milk provide some nutrients too. Just be sure to check if there are any added sugars.
No matter what kind of Asian restaurant you’re headed to – whether it’s that new Korean joint that’s opened up in town, the Vietnamese restaurant in the city or your friend’s favourite Malaysian place, it’s always important to do your research first. Call up ahead of time and ask if they make accommodations for the low-sugar diet, and do some digging on their websites and online menus. Remember, it’s okay to speak up! Awkward as it may be to decline a dish or ask the waiter if they can leave certain ingredients out, there’s no harm in asking. You’re the only one who can advocate for your health – so if you ever find yourself losing sight of your goals, just look at how far you’ve come and keep in mind your goals for your health and happiness. Ditching sugar is one of the best ways to achieve the following:
- Healthy hair, skin and nails
- A healthy gut
- Improved mood and reduced anxiety
- Lower risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity
- Greater mental clarity and energy
But, don’t forget, it’s never to late to hop back on the wagon, so go easy on yourself and have a good time at your favourite restaurant! And remember – you can still enjoy some of your old favourites with our extensive collection of healthy recipes. If you’re craving that aromatic Thai latte – we’ve got just the thing for you. Here’s a classic recipe from our Gut Lovin’ Desserts eBook – check our cookbook collection out HERE. This is one for those days when you’re after a sweet fix, minus the sugar crash!
- 1 1/2 tablespoons gelatine
- 3 teaspoons lemongrass and ginger tea leaves (or 3 tea bags)
- 1/2 red chilli, small, chopped, or 2 kaffir lime leaves, chopped (optional)
- 2 tablespoons Organic Rice Malt Syrup
- 1 cup Supercharged Coconut Frosting
- 1/4 cup peanuts, roasted, chopped and/or coconut flakes, toasted
- 2 tablespoons Gelatine
- 400ml can coconut cream, full-fat, refrigerated upside down
- 1 tablespoon Rice Malt Syrup or 1/2 teaspoon stevia, granulated.
- To serve: kaffir lime leaves, shredded or lime zest (optional)
- Dissolve the gelatine in 1/3 cup of cold water and let it sit for 5 minutes until it has become gel-like.
- Place tea (in a tea ball if using loose leaf tea), chilli and rice malt syrup in a saucepan with 475ml of boiling water. Leave to steep for 5 minutes, remove tea and chilli to strain. Add in gelatine and whisk until dissolved.
- Pour into teacups or glasses and chill in fridge for 4 hours to set.
- While lattes are setting, prepare the Supercharged Coconut Frosting. Spoon out the top layer of liquid from the coconut cream can and store in the freezer for smoothies or other recipes requiring coconut milk.
- Place remaining firm coconut cream in a bowl and blend with a stick blender, adding gelatine in a thin, steady stream. Add the rice malt syrup and continue mixing until soft peaks form.
- Once the Thai Lattes have set, top with the Supercharged Coconut Frosting and sprinkle with peanuts and coconut flakes. Garnish with shredded kaffir lime leaves or lime zest.
- Use immediately or store in the fridge and consume within 4-5 days.
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