Mark’s Note: Nearly everyday, without fail, I receive a message or two asking how I’m able to eat so much and remain relatively slim and fit. In this article, travel blogging friends of mine Meg and Tony from Landing Standing, share some great tips on how they were able to eat in Asia without putting on the pounds (and in fact Meg lost some weight!).
Now over to Meg.
I have yet to meet one world traveler that wasn’t obsessed with food.
Maybe it wasn’t always this way for some people, but if you are traveling the globe, you are bound to become a foodie. In every country you are introduced to a new cuisine with new dishes, new ingredients, new flavors, new textures It’s impossible not to be enchanted by the magic of food!
This is also the reason why I have yet to meet one world traveler that didnít have a general concern about his or her weight/health at least once on their trip.
When traveling the world, you are experiencing many things for the first time. You want to see, hear, touch, smell, and EAT everything in sight.
In Europe, Tony and I traveled to some countries famous for their food – Italy and France being my biggest weaknesses. Despite my efforts to eat healthy most of the time and exercise when I could, I still left Europe in tighter pants than when I arrived.
Our next stop on our journey was Thailand. In my mind, the buttons on my jeans were about to get even more of a workout. I was obsessed with Thai food back in the states and backpackers would ALWAYS talk about how Asia had the best food in the world.
And the rumors were proved correct.
In the first few weeks spent in Thailand, Tony and I ate our faces off. Curries, mango sticky rice, fresh fruit juices…We had it all.
On one fateful day, I decided to hop on a scale just for general curiosity. Never a good idea.
But to my surprise, I had lost a whopping 7 lbs since arriving in Thailand from Europe.
How could this be?!
How I Was Able To Throw Away My Fat Pants In Asia?
Portions Are Teeny Tiny
Actually, they are probably normal sized portions, it’s just the rest of the world that has it all wrong – Especially America!
But this played a huge factor in losing some extra lbs. When traveling, I am eating out three meals a day and normally restaurants give you much larger portions than you need. Well, not in Asia. In Asia, I am ALWAYS a member of the clean plate club and yet, I never leave a table uncomfortable or stuffed. But I also never leave a table unsatisfied either.
I leave juuust right.
Dairy Is Almost Non-Existent
In France, I didnít think twice about sharing a cheese plate with Tony each and every day.
In Italy, a gelato a day was the norm…
What can I say; I am a sucker for good cheese and ice cream.
One might say these two food groups are my vices. But in Thailand, dairy really isn’t a big thing. Sure, some hotels and Farang restaurants will serve up some yogurt and other Western specialties, and there are always the delicious Magnum bars from the 711’s on every single corner.
But traditional Thai food doesnít really include dairy in the mix. Instead, coconut milk is the substance of choice for soups, curries, sauces, and desserts. And I am not complaining!
Rice Is The #1 Carb
No heavy pasta or bread in this hot climate! Rice is really the only starch you ever see being used in traditional Asian dishes. Even though rice is still considered an evil carb, it has fewer calories than other heavy starches, is gluten-free, and is often only used as a side or accompaniment to Asian dishes, not the main element on the plate.
You Sweat ALL THE TIME
Asia is HOT.
Prior to arriving in Asia, I never thought of myself as a sweaty person. But I swear I sweat like an obese man when I am here. As such, I like to think that calories are literally dripping out of me throughout the day.
Plus, your appetite tends to go WAY down when its hot out!
Dishes Are Nutrient Dense and Healthy
Most of the dishes in Asia are loaded with herbs, vegetables, and spices. As a result, you get fuller more quickly and on fewer calories. And when eating so many veggies, you just feel healthier overall. I call this a win/win!
Aside from straight up eating healthier in Asia, there are a few additional tricks you can try to help be even meaner and leaner on this continent:
Limit Your Intake Of Rice
Sure, rice is served with almost every dish. But that doesnít mean that you have to eat ALL of it.
I usually limit myself to half of the rice portion and if I am not famished when I sit down for a meal, I often won’t even touch my rice. After all, I like saving every bit of room in my stomach for the delicious curry in front of me.
Eat Lots Of Spicy Foods
This also could contribute to why I sweat so much in Asia. I always make sure to load up each dish with extra spice. In my opinion, it’s not a good meal unless I get a workout!
Sweat aside, if you eat spicier food, you eat slower and fill up more quickly. Plus, your metabolism may get a little boost when you’re eating spicy foods!
Drink Juices That Are Low(er) In Sugar
Juices are BIG in Asia. Wine (another one of my many vices) in Thailand is scarce and expensive, so my love for this drink has been replaced by fresh fruit smoothies, not a bad alternative!
In many places, there are fruit juice stands everywhere you walk. Combine the sweltering heat with deliciously fresh fruit juice and you’ve got one darn good drink.
However, some of these juices can be sugar bombs and if you drink too much, you could be doing a bit of damage to your waistline. Instead of always going for the mango or banana juices, why not try a lower-sugar option, such as watermelon juice? It’s equally delicious and has fewer grams of sugar than its cousins!
Drink Lots Of Water
This should be an easy trick for you to master in Asia. As I said previously, Asia is humid and hot, so you are going to want to drink a TON of water throughout the day. Not only will this help you fight off the heat and stay hydrated, but it will help you stay satiated and help you trim down as well.
Your turn: Do you find yourself in overall better health when you are in Asia? What are your tips for staying lean and mean during your travels?
Author Bio: Meg Rulli writes with her husband, Tony, for the blog LandingStanding. ìCarpe diemî is her favorite cliche and also her motto. Meg is a high-energy girl that loves being active (and the naps that follow), spending time outdoors, and eating (A LOT).
Meg and Tony left their jobs in January 2012 to go RTW and try out this location independent thing. They are aspiring entrepreneurs & digital nomads that blog about travel, food, and all things ridiculous. You can follow their adventures on Facebook and Twitter.