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Southeast Asia on Low Salt/Low Fat diet possible?

Southeast Asia on Low Salt/Low Fat diet possible?

Old Nov 18th, 2009, 12:31 PM
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Southeast Asia on Low Salt/Low Fat diet possible?

I am on the Ornish low salt, low fat diet and will be traveling in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Bali and Singapore. In the U.S., Asian restaurants are my top choice because they can cook steamed rice and vegetables without soy sauce.

I have been told this diet can be a problem in southeast Asia. I assume the hotels can handle this but that eating out will be more challenging.

Any pointers, thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


RooseveltG is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2009, 03:03 PM
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Get the restaurant in the US to write the kind of diet dishes you like in the appropriate language so that you can use it while you are there. Or ask the hotel in each country to write down your diet requirement.

The only drawback I can think of is that you will not be able to try new food or be adventurous when dining out.
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 06:10 PM
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There are lots of healthy options in Bali. Restaurants that have Western chefs or fusion menus understand low fat / low salt very well. For traditional Balinese / Indonesian food however you may have problems as soy is a major component in some dishes.

Diana von Cranach of Puri Ganesha Villas has devised a cuisine based on "living food" that is both healthy and delicious. The best place to try it is at her restaurant in Pemuteran North Bali, but she also consults at the Como Shambhala. I understand that she now has a restaurant in Sanur but I haven't tried it yet.


Como Shambhala and Uma Ubud are also great options for wellness, whether you stay with them or just take advantage of the spa and restaurants.

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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 12:58 AM
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If you stick with steamed or grilled vegetables and tofu you should be OK in the countries on your list. Dried tofu/tempeh may be a good choice as well. You can flavor these with chilies, lime, ginger, garlic, vinegar, other non-fat and non-salty items. As dairy products are rarely used in SE Asian cooking, you should be OK, but watch eggs in dishes and also coconut milk, both of which have fat. A fried egg generally shows up in Pad Thai, for example. Peanuts show up in many SE Asia dishes, and peanut sauce or peanut oil as well, so overall sticking with plain steamed/grilled and then adding your own condiments is probably best.

There are marvelous fruits on offer, the mangoes will just knock you out, and you of course have to try durian when you are in Singapore and Thailand, assuming it is in season. Watermelon, lychees, dragon fruit, the list is long and delicious. You could pretty much survive on fruit here with some steamed tofu. (Not that I do, but I am sure others could!)

Most of the rice served is white rice, which I understand is not permitted on the Ornish diet, so that may be an issue for you. Finding brown rice in a typical SE Asia restaurant would be hard, IMO. In Bali and Singapore where you can go to upscale health restaurants, you may find it. You won’t find many (or any) whole grain breads in Asian restaurants, but in supermarkets you will find it, so you may want to look there from time to time. At breakfasts in hotels you will find them, and in some Western restaurants.

It is possible that something like hotpot would work for you, although this has a beef or chicken stock as a base, but you can cook with just vegetables.

Indian food probably won’t work for you in terms of avoiding fat because of their heavy use of butter and yoghurt, although it is heavily vegetarian, but in the countries you are going to you won’t find a huge amount of Indian on the menu anyway (other than Singapore).

Obviously avoid foods which are deep fried. However, for items which are stir fried, only a very small amount of oil is used, I don’t know if this is too much for you, you may need to have discussions with the waiter/chef.

I think many sauces other than just soy sauce will be an issue for you. Things like fish sauce have a good bit of salt, and fish sauce is used heavily in the cooking of many SE Asian dishes; in my experience its hard to find a dish that does not have any fish sauce, although perhaps a spoonful in a large-size dish will not make a big difference.

There are a good number of vegetarian restaurants in all the places on your itin, as they are Buddhist/Hindu, plus in the cities you will find them for the health-conscious. They may be your best choice. See something like the Happy Cow at http://www.happycow.net/ for a list.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 05:34 AM
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Cicerone: Thank you very much. Great and helpful response!
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