7 Changes to Make Your Meals Healthier

Eating healthy can be hard if you eat out a lot, eat street food, and eat fast food. It’s always healthiest to make your own fresh meals at home. Why is this? Because street food or fast food often contains unhealthy ingredients that you aren’t even aware of.  When you cook at home, you can control the quality and freshness of your ingredients.

“In Asia, street food is both delicious and cheap, but the drawback is that it can be unhealthy for you,” says Nikki, a certified health and wellness coach with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York and a freelance Pilates instructor at Museflower Retreat & Spa Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Nikki explains that street food uses very cheap ingredients, which are not the highest quality and possess lots of MSG, processed white sugar, and vegetables oils for deep frying.  If you really love street food and can’t give it up, try to go for healthier choices like fresh fruit from the fruit cart, grilled salt-covered fish stuffed with lemongrass, and fresh coconuts and fresh papaya salad rather than deep-fried snacks like fried bananas, fried taro, fried chicken wings, and fatty braised pork leg.

“Fast food (like popular chains and pre-packaged meals) are cooked with very cheap oils that can’t withstand high heats, lots of artificial flavors, MSG, and preservatives, and a lot of added low-quality processed white salt and white sugar. They use the cheapest ingredients to maximize profits and factory-farmed meat loaded with hormones. Fast food is mass produced and not made with care, the way your mother would cook for you at home,” says Nikki.

Other unhealthy ingredients to be aware of in fast food and processed foods are high fructose corn syrup, white processed salt, and highly processed non-organic dairy products, which are full of MSG and artificial flavors.

Tania Ho, founder and owner of Museflower Retreat & Spa, Chiang Rai’s first all-inclusive vegetarian wellness retreat, is a certified Hado program operator, a holistic program that measures the bio-energetic levels of negative energy and toxins in a person’s body.

Tania found that while giving Hado counseling to a few of her clients, their results showed an energetic presence of different kinds of herbicides or pesticides as pollutants inside their bodies. One of these clients was someone who doesn’t cook at home and eats out often, and another of these clients was someone who loves to cook at home and eats lots of vegetables.  So how could they both have different lifestyles but similar toxicities? The link between the two is that both people did not actively look for organic vegetables or organic restaurants. So besides using healthy cooking ingredients, people should try buying organic produce as much as possible to avoid consuming and absorbing pesticides and toxins.

“With online shopping and more and more organic shops opening, it’s becoming easier and affordable to buy organic products. But even with organic products, consumers should still read the labels to check what kind of ingredients are present. Avoid products or sauces with MSG and artificial coloring,” recommends Tania.

Museflower Retreat and Spa’s dining room Soul Food Corner is known for its delicious and amazingly flavorful vegetarian cuisine, made from the freshest produce and eggs picked the same day from the property’s on-site organic farm.

“Guests always comment on the delicious taste and flavor, and often say they don’t realize there’s no meat in the food because people usually expect that vegetarian food is bland and boring.

“A lot of people think that salt and sugar are bad for you so they try to be healthier by cutting it out completely, so they end up eating very bland food every day,” says Tania. “But we can improve the flavor of the food by choosing what kind of salt and what kind of sugar we use.”

With these healthy tips from the Museflower kitchen,  you can make simple switches in your own cooking and diet to make your food healthier and even taste better.

Adds Tania, “Simply switching to healthier, natural, and organic substitutes can improve the flavors in our food as well. Eating without feeling guilty or judging ourselves is important too. Moderation is the best approach for me, and eating should be a pleasurable sensory experience (rather than a guilt trip) that reminds us to be in the now and enjoy the present moment.”

For more information about wellness cooking and workshops in Chiang Rai, click here.