With many dishes that emphasize protein and veggies, Thai food makes a good choice for dining out when following a low-carb diet. Do your homework before you go to your favorite Thai restaurant, though, and go over the menu to find items that fit your low-carb plan. If you're not sure what might work, consult with a registered dietitian to help you make low-carb Thai food selections.
Meal Starters and Salads
With a few modifications, you may be able to enjoy a number of Thai food appetizers. Fried tofu, for example, makes a good low-carb starter if you avoid the dipping sauce. The same is true for the fish and shrimp cakes. Satay, which is a chicken tenderloin marinated in curry and served on a skewer, also makes a good option for your low-carb diet.
A vegetable salad, such as cucumber, ginger or the Thai house salad served with the dressing on the side, makes a good option. To save carbs with your salad, omit the dressing altogether and ask for vinegar and oil.
Some Thai salads feature protein, such as Pia Goong, which is marinated shrimp served with chili, lime juice and lemon grass, and Yum Nua with sliced beef, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and lime. Again, ask for dressing on the side.
Thai Soups for Your Low-Carb Diet
Thai soups are water-based and filled with herbs, spices, coconut milk, meat and veggies. While some soups do have noodles or rice, low-carb diners can go for Tom Kha Gai, a spicy coconut milk soup with chicken. The hot and sour soups, which also make good low-carb options, are filled with either shrimp, chicken or seafood. Gai Dtohm Hed Hohm, a chicken and straw mushroom soup, works as well. Some restaurants feature vegetable soups, which would fit a low-carb plan.
Low-Carb Main Dishes
Curry is a popular Thai dish; go for panang, red or green, to limit carb intake. These curries are filled with veggies and your choice of protein, including chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, squid or tofu. You can even get curry with just vegetables. Stay away from the yellow curry, which has potatoes, unless you're on a more liberal low-carb diet and have the carbs to spare.
Like other Asian-style cuisine, stir-fries also work on a low-carb diet. Thai-style stir-fries include a variety of vegetables and spices with your choice of protein. Pad Prik Basil is a stir-fry with basil, onion, peppers and bamboo shoots served with a brown sauce. Phad Gra Tiam is simply garlic and peppers with steamed veggies.
Most dishes come with rice, so ask for yours to be served without.
Tips and Tricks for Dining on Thai Food
While you may know to stay away from the noodle and fried rice section of the Thai menu, you also want to be aware of potential hidden sources of carbs. For example, the larb chicken salad and some beef salads contain rice powder, which adds carbs to the meal. If you're not certain about your salad choice, ask your server. Also, some Thai restaurants offer tempura, which is breaded before fried and may not make the best choice.