With tempting sugary deep-fried treats around every corner, staying healthy in Thailand can seem like an impossible task. However, keeping active and eating healthy isn’t as difficult as it looks. Check out our top tips below so you can stay in shape (or begin a healthier lifestyle) whilst you teach in Thailand with XploreAsia:
If you’ve come to teach in Thailand with no previous experience of the country, the food can look, taste and smell a lot different to the food you might be used to. It is all delicious, but it can be hard to tell which meals are better for your health.
The classic dish papaya salad is of course a healthy option and authentically, uniquely Thai. Despite being filled with vegetables (and occasionally shrimp), the dish does often contain some sugar and fish sauce (which can be very high in sodium). If you want to make it healthier by excluding these ingredients, just tell the seller that you would like “mai won” (“not sweet”) but be warned: without this sugary addition the spice levels make it not for the faint of heart. Another classic salad, yum ma-muang (green mango salad) is harder to find but comes without so much heat and is a great alternative for vegetarians.
Another option is to have stir-fried vegetables (pad pak) or single veggies such as morning glory which, when paired with rice, can be a full meal by themselves. Vegetarians (and vegans) living in Thailand can find themselves feeling limited, but almost every street stand will be able to whip up something like this and for dishes that do contain some fish or meat, you can use the phrases “mai sai blahblah” or just say “mai ao” (“don’t want”) whilst pointing to individual ingredients.
For those wanting to make sure they get some protein in, dishes such as cashew nut chicken, chicken soup or the straight-up chicken and rice (khao man gai) can make for affordable, clean meals to help build muscle and avoid excessive amounts of sugar and oils.
For vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, Thai fruits are also great alternative to the salty and sugary 7/11 snacks and when you teach in Thailand can be great things to nibble on during break times. Fruit is never difficult to find and can be seen at most markets and supermarkets, sometimes in handy snack-sized portions, and can be very different to the fruit we see back home. Will you be brave enough to break open a durian?
Rice and curry shops (in Thai: ran khao kaeng) are also a great alternative as they offer a lot of variety. They are normally found as street stalls but can also be spotted in food courts. The idea is to choose one or more of the toppings to eat with rice. To find out more about rice and curry shops, check out this blog post.
When you teach in Thailand, especially if you have younger classes, you might find yourself running around the classroom on a daily basis so chances are you will be getting some exercise accidentally, but it’s always a good idea to get some more in. As much as the heat might seem like a deterrent, there are plenty of ways to get exercise here in Thailand without breaking too much of a sweat. For example, taking walks around your town or city is not only good for you, but can also let you notice places and sights that you might otherwise miss taking public transport (just stay away from those newfound fried chicken stands!)
If you want something more intensive, a good old-fashioned jog around the many parks and open spaces is always a great, free option. Due to the heat, it’s probably best to time your jogs into the evenings or early mornings. Remember to bring a water bottle and possibly a few of your new friends along to keep you motivated.
As you’ve come to teach in Thailand, why not try something quintessentially Thai? Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport and if you took our in-class TESOL you likely already had a taste of it during your orientation week. Muay Thai gyms normally offer personal training sessions which are around an hour long, but if you’re not feeling so brave you can always contact your local one and ask to arrange a group session perhaps with some fellow teachers.
Health isn’t just about the body. Meditation helps to refocus the mind and alleviate stress and cluttered thinking patterns. As Buddhism is the main religion here in Thailand, there are plenty of temples to visit to take a moment of quiet reflection. Although temples in the center of Bangkok might not do the trick, those slightly off the beaten track can enjoy a bit of peace and tranquillity.
As well as recharging your batteries, learning the ancient art of meditation is another great way to immerse yourself in another aspect of Thailand. It’s an ideal opportunity to learn more about the rituals within and the history of Buddhism, a religion that has a lot of influence on contemporary culture.
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