There is a world of healthy eating out there. The beauty of being health-conscious is that you don’t have to fit into a particular box; you can choose to live this lifestyle any way you see fit. Perhaps you want to try being vegan for a month, or you want to be plant-based on weekends, maybe you want to be vegetarian for lunch, and so on and so on. There are a myriad of ways to incorporate healthy eating into your life without feeling restricted or constrained. You need to find the formula that works for you. It’s best to take a relaxed approach to healthy eating, as research shows this will lead to more sustained and long-term success. To help you find the right course, let’s look at several different healthy eating options that abound in Bangkok.
Types of Healthy Eating
Let’s begin with some definitions of the various kinds of healthy eating regimes and dogmas that are common and widely understood across Thailand.
Plant-based A whole, plant-based food diet is based around two concepts: whole food and plant-based. That's why it's often referred to as the 'Whole Food Plant-Based’ (WFPB) diet. Whole food refers to natural foods and ingredients that have minimal or no processing. Plant-based excludes all ingredients and products derived from animals, such as meat, milk, eggs, honey, etc. Instead, the focus is on foodstuffs that come from natural sources, like plants, nuts, legumes and seeds.
Vegan The term ‘vegan’ was coined in 1944 by a small group of vegetarians who broke away from the vegetarian mainstream. Veganism is a lifestyle choice that excludes the consumption and use of animal products; they strive to eliminate the exploitation and cruelty of animals. As such, followers of this regime do not consume any products of animal origin, in addition to food, this includes things like leather shoes, cosmetics tested on animals, beeswax candles and so forth.
Mangsawirat (vegetarian) The word ‘mangsawirat’ is a combination of the words ‘mangsa’ (meaning ‘meat’) and ‘wirat’ (meaning ‘exemption’). Thus, mangsawirat means: the exemption from meat or not taking meat for pleasure. Mansawirat (aka vegetarian) is a broad word signifying any type of vegetarianism in Thailand. This type of food regime is somewhat complicated, there are four predominant types:
This one focuses on eating vegetables, fruits, milk and eggs. This type is equivalent to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet in the West.
This one is similar, with a focus on eating all vegetables and fruits, but in addition, these followers don’t consume any milk or eggs. In other words, equivalent to a lacto-vegetarian or ovo-vegetarian diet in the West.
This one is equivalent to being vegan in the West, whereby followers don’t eat any animal products and consume just vegetables and fruits.
And lastly, we come to ‘Je’ (or ‘Jay’); roughly translated as ‘pure or Buddhist vegetarian’. These people focus on eating only vegetables and fruits, not consuming any eggs and milk, along with honey and five pungent vegetables and herbs: garlic, onion, Chinese garlic, Chinese chives and tobacco. This diet stems from ancient Chinese beliefs in medicinal science, whereby those five kinds of vegetables will potentially destroy the power of the body’s five elements – fire, water, earth, wood, metal. Put another way, this diet strives for harmony in mind and body.
If the previous section left you a little confused, let us try to clear things up by introducing yet another option – flexitarian! As mentioned earlier, nobody likes being told what to do, and the beauty of our society is that we can all make our own choices when it comes to nutrition, amongst other things. This helps explain why the Flexitarian Diet has become so in vogue the past few years.
The Flexitarian Diet helps people reap the healthy benefits of vegetarian eating without imposing strict rules regarding animal consumption. In essence, people can choose when to dip in and out of eating meat. That’s why the name of this diet is an amalgam of the words ‘vegetarian’ and ‘flexible’. As mentioned in the previous section, vegetarians completely eliminate meat and most animal products, while vegans completely restrict all animal-derived food products. Since flexitarians eat occasional animal products, they’re not considered strict vegetarians or vegans, but instead, reside in some grey area in-between. A flexitarian follows these basic principles:
Eat predominantly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes
Focus on protein from plants, not animals
Incorporate animal products from time to time
Eat natural, not processed foods
Limit added sugars, salts and oils
The Flexitarian Diet is actually more of a lifestyle than a diet; it has no strict rules or daily recommended calorie intake. Being flexitarian is a popular choice with people looking to eat healthier as its focus is on what to include, not restrict. Indeed, the plethora of plant-based food delivery services in Bangkok are perfect resources for people following this lifestyle. Such delivery companies help followers adhere to their goal – eat more nutritious, plant-based foods and less meat – without any fuss or hassle.