We want to raise healthy kids and we have decided we will do whatever it takes to teach them what is a healthy diet. One of our biggest achievements is that both of our kids do not eat sugar, I mean refined sugar in the form of cakes, candies, muffins, processed food. Our kids are learning constantly so it is very important to show them what we want them to copy. If you do not want them to eat sweets and sugar, stop doing it as well. Become a role model for them and it will be much easier. We did it and you can do it as well. Just take one small step at a time. Let me take you through a short journey of what we did as an inspiration. And we are constantly moving our standards higher and higher.
When we moved to Thailand 4 years ago, I fell in love with Thai cuisine immediately and I didn’t even realise that I’ve stopped cooking European dishes. I couldn’t resist buying fresh watermelon or mango every day passing by the street fruit vendors. I was eating rice daily, I ate pasta and potatoes only occasionally. As a result, I started to feel better, my digestion improved, I was not feeling full and bloated constantly and my energy level increased as I didn’t have to deal with heavy food on the daily basis.
And here is the secret why I started to feel much better:
- Asian food is full of vegetables
- fresh fruit is all around
- small portions of meat
- vegetarian/vegan option of the same dish is available or you can choose also fish if you do not want to eat meat
- dairy and bread are available but are consumed mainly by expats
- Asians LOVE sugar – I DO NOT recommend to follow this point 🙂
I’ve started to listen to my body and didn’t force it to eat dairy and meat anymore.
And here is a complete list of changes in our eating habits
Drink a lot of water
It is very hot and humid here in Bangkok, so it is quite natural I feel thirsty all the time. I prefer to drink drinking or mineral water without ice and not cold if possible. It was not always like that. When we moved here I fell in love with iced sweetened and flavoured teas. I couldn’t resist having my lichee green tea. Even now I crave it when I see the tea stall but I can manage to pass by. It is not easy though.
I gave up coke as well. After a heavy dish, I usually ordered coke to help my gut with digestion. As my diet changed and I stopped feeling super full after my lunch or dinner I started to drink less and less of this poisonous drink. Occasionally I get wild when eating outside and I opt for a glass of soda.
As a result, I reduced my daily sugar intake just by quitting drinking sweetened drinks that are just not healthy for our bodies.
Eat healthy snacks
It is so easy to find junk food everywhere and super hard to find healthy snacks. I had to start preparing them at home. I have to admit it is easier to buy a bag of popcorn or chips full of MSG (monosodium glutamate), salt, artificial flavours and sugar than to prepare a healthy hummus or energy balls at home. When our son started to eat solid food, I had to think about some healthy options. Here are some tips what you can start munching on right away:
- dried fruit and nuts
- yoghurt with fruit
- fresh fruit
- small veggie salad
- energy balls, I’ll share my favourite recipe
- apple slices with almond or cashew butter
- veggie sticks with hummus
- veggie homemade chips – like kale, sweet potato, zucchini
- chia pudding with fruit
Eliminate your sugar intake
Stop drinking coffee with sugar
I remember drinking coffee with two spoons of sugar couple of time per day. How could I drink that? Anyways, that time I couldn’t imagine drinking my morning cup of coffee without sugar, I thought it would be disgusting. Then I reduced the amount of sugar to one spoon and realised it is not that bad at all. I was curious how would the coffee taste without any sugar. And here we go. After a couple of weeks, I’ve just stopped sweetening my coffee. Now I enjoy the full taste of coffee and I like to try new brands, it is not the same coffee every day anymore. There are plenty of coffee shops around Thailand you can try special brands of coffee, bitter, sweet, sour, strong, mild…just try it out. I’ll tell you why I like the ristretto coffee the most in a separate blog post. Stay with me 🙂
Stop drinking Sweetened drinks
See above, just switch to water or unsweetened option and your body will thank you.
Smoothies can comfort your sweet cravings
Of course, you will miss sugar at first. Sugar is a drug and more you eat it the more you crave it. It is scary! You need to help your body to feel happy and full of energy and provide healthy options, like shakes. Here in Thailand, it is so easy to find different types of fresh fruit you can just throw into your blender, add some nut milk, super powders and chia seeds and here we go. Healthy, sweet drink is ready to start your day with. Please just do not add any refined sugar in your smoothie. If you need to add some sweetness, you can opt for:
- adding more bananas
- adding couple of dates, my favourite are medjol dates
- adding honey or maple syrup (opt for high-quality ones
Remember, too much of healthy stuff is can be also harmful, so do not go crazy with a number of dates, sugar or maple syrup.
Cakes and celebrations
We were not able to stop eating cakes when we arrived here. And to be honest we were not really planning to do so. It just came with time. We’ve realised we are eating a lot of sweet cakes during the weekends and we didn’t want to consume them in front of our son, just in case he would like to try them. So we have started to order one sweet treat for me and Michal. There were some special occasions when we ordered two cakes and we have figured out we cannot eat the whole thing. From all of the sudden, it was too much of sugar for our bodies and we couldn’t even eat the whole portion.
The less sugar we eat the less we crave it.
It can be very tricky no to eat sweets during festive seasons and when you visit the grandparents with kids. Especially it is hard to convince them that we do not want to feed our kids sugar. You can ask them to follow your rules and you can even put them on the paper and let them know what alternatives they can offer your kids as treats. I’ll share with you what we did exactly later.
Replace sugar in your homemade food
You can add bananas, dates, honey or maple syrup in your smoothies. Also, nut milks are naturally sweet. I use coconut milk for cooking and I add a bit of honey to the tomato sauce recipes to balance the flavour.
Eat more veggies every day
Thai food is full of vegetables. We eat salads one or two times per week and sometimes even for a snack. We also make sure that there is some vegetable on our morning plate. Our kids love dahl, vegetable curries and vegetable soups, so I prepare them quite often.
- eat salads more often and add some super-food ingredients in them
- increase the portion of vegetables in each dish
- add green leafy vegetables to your smoothies
- have veggie sticks or chips as a snack
- with the main dish that contains less vegetable, just have a small side salad with it
- in a restaurant you can order an extra salad for you family to share
- order vegetables as a side dish instead of rice, pasta or potatoes
Avoid fast-food restaurants
Bangkok is full of restaurants with food from all over the world. Why would we eat french fries or burgers in a fast-food chain? We usually choose the closest Indian or Japanese restaurant. Here are some tips how to avoid them:
- I prepare healthy snacks at home
- I choose restaurants with healthy meal options
- I prepare a fruit box for my husband to take with him every day
- I prepare lunch boxes for my husband and I eat at home 🙂
Eat less meat
Meat portions in Asian dishes are much smaller. And it is because of the vegetables that are part of almost each dish. I like this balance and now I do the same when I prepare our own recipes at home. Here in Bangkok, you can even choose the same dish in a vegetarian option where the meet is replaced by tofu, or you can have a pure vegan option.
What do I do:
- I cook more vegetarian dishes, like dahl, vegetable curries
- I choose tofu instead of meat in curries
- I add more vegetables to the dish and I add less meat
- I add some beans to vegetable dishes instead of meat
- I opt for vegetarian option of the dish or I have a fried egg with it
Consume fewer dairy products
Consuming less diary was a huge thing for my digestion and overall feeling. At first, I didn’t know I’m lactose intolerant and I figured it out by just not buying the dairy products as here they are not in such a good quality as in Europe. I’ve started to use coconut milk in my recipes instead of cream or sour milk and I’ve started to feel different, not bloated and without a heavy and burning stomach. Then we went back home for a visit and of course, I had some of our favourite local dishes full of cream and other dairy products. Oh my, I was feeling terrible, I couldn’t even breathe after having this heavy dishes. I was wondering what happened and the answer came quite quickly. Milk and dairy products are just not right for me.
- use coconut milk for cooking instead of a cream
- drink almond, rice, oat milk and I add them to our morning shakes as well
- drink coffee without milk
- still eat a good quality greek yoghurt without sugar from time to time and my body seems to be fine with it
Please take it easy and start with one thing at a time. Be patient and you will see it is easier than it looks like. Especially the sugar elimination part. It might be the most challenging part but as you will reduce the sugar daily, your cravings will soon disappear. Or you can go cold turkey and you can stop eating sugar from one day to another. It depends on your preferences and how your body works.
If I need to choose only one thing, to begin with, I would choose: Eliminate your sugar intake! Go ahead and start right now.
So which step is going to be your first one?