The thought of treating yourself to a meal at your favorite Thai restaurant may fill you with a sense of self-improvement. The use of fresh ingredients, herbs, spices, and vegetables is what gives Thai cuisine its reputation for healthfulness. But many of the menu’s starters and main courses are anything but healthy, including surprising amounts of sugar, oil, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

SUMMER ROLLS

Some people consider summer rolls to be a healthier alternative to traditional fried egg rolls since they are made with lean pork or shrimp combined with veggies and rice noodles and wrapped in a thin sheet of rice paper. Originally from Vietnam, these dishes are now found all around Asia and even in certain Thai restaurants. Order a summer roll instead of a spring roll, or you’ll end up back in the deep fryer.

Satay

These meat skewers, grilled and drizzled with a spicy peanut sauce, are a great source of protein and taste without a lot of fat: There are fewer than 300 calories in a serving of the entrée.

Tom Yum

Lean meat and mushrooms are slow-cooked in a broth flavored with lemongrass, cilantro, and other herbs to create a filling and nutrient-dense soup that’s also low in calories. You can’t go wrong with any bowl of tom yum, but the ones containing shrimp or a variety of shellfish are the greatest.

Coconut Soup

This soup is comparable to chowders and cream soups in terms of fat and calories. Choose something different unless that’s all you’re going to eat.

Grilled

Thai cuisine has a lot of grilled meats, and grilling is one of the healthiest ways to prepare meat. The dry heat of the grill prevents the oils from penetrating the tissue and instead draws the fats out. Grilled items are a must for any Thai meal, so make sure to include at least one in your order.

Massaman Curry

Similar in texture to the more substantial curries from India, this style of curry is typically made with crushed peanuts and potatoes. However, massaman often contains a lot of high-cal coconut cream like other Thai curries.

Sweet Coconut Rice

Although it has fewer calories than the pies and cakes served in Western restaurants, this dessert is not for those watching their weight. All the rice adds is processed carbs, the coconut milk is loaded with fat, and the sugar rush puts you over the calorie limit.

Mild, Medium, or Hot

Please ask the chef to increase the spice level if you’re able to handle it. Capsaicin, one of the classes of phytochemicals found in peppers, has been demonstrated to break up congestion, decrease cholesterol, and speed up the metabolism, all of which help to cut down on excess fat. In fact, capsaicin was proven to kill pre-mature adipose tissue cells in a study conducted in Taiwan. What’s the harm in working up a sweat at the dinner table, anyway?