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5 Healthy Habits Everyone Should Learn From Vietnam

Originally posted on LinkedIn by Khushboo Jain Tibrewala 

In just 14 days, Vietnam had me completely mesmerized and in awe of its rich food heritage. Vietnamese cuisine is the perfect marriage of health and taste. Barring a few dishes here and there, most of the traditional dishes are both delicious and wholesome. It was possibly one of my first vacations where I came back fitter!

Now, once you enter the country, one of the first things you notice is that there are not too many overweight people there. This got me very intrigued and I ended up doing some research to understand why? (such a Nutritionist thing to do, right?)

Here’s what I found:

Vietnam has an obesity rate of just 2.1%.

That means just 2 in 100 people are obese.

India, on the other hand has a rate of 23.4%, USA is at 42.7% and UK is at 20.4% 

What are the Vietnamese folks doing that is so different from the rest of the world?

Their food and food traditions are pretty interesting and possibly the number 1 reason for such a low obesity rate.

5 food traditions that make Vietnamese folks so healthy

Small Plates

You will observe that all the restaurants will keep a small bowl and a quarter plate for you to eat in. This feels odd, coming from a country where we do full size 12 inch plates for almost all meals. But the idea behind small plates is to ensure you serve less food at a time, and only take another serving once you have finished what is already on the plate. This makes you eat smaller portions and more mindfully.

Cooking Method

Traditional Vietnamese food is prepared by steaming, boiling or fermenting. The use of oil and fatty foods like cream, butter, lard, milk etc is minimal in the cooking. The predominant source of fat is natural fat that comes in peanuts, meats, eggs and nut milks.

Their dishes will typically have just 1-2 small elements that may have been fried. The most common ones I saw was fried garlic. Other than such garnish, the main dish itself is very rarely deep fried or shallow fried.

Use of Vegetables

The cuisine includes heavy use of fresh vegetables. While they do eat white rice and meat, the largest component of every dish is still vegetables. Just like Indians define their meals by the number of rotis eaten, they, I presume, must be defining their meals by the amount of vegetables.

They also use very unique vegetables and pretty much every part of the plant. They use roots, seaweeds, flowers, parks, leaves, seeds of almost every plant that they have access to. One of the most popular dishes in the cuisine is a salad made with shredded Banana Flowers.

Sharing Meals

When a family or a group of friends go out, they will very rarely order individual dishes for each of them. They always order multiple items that everyone will share and eat. This simple habit makes eating a more joyous activity and ensures you only eat as per your actual appetite. This is something we, in India, have in common with them.

They Eat Unprocessed Foods

I was very surprised to see that there were barely any fast food chains like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, etc. there. Once you spend a few days there, you understand just why. The people there like to eat simple, natural foods and other than the few flour based dishes like the Banh Mi, (which entered their cuisine during the French Colonial Era), most of the traditional dishes use rice. They make rice based pancakes, buns, donuts, spring rolls, and crackers even. Also the cuisine has barely any prepacked condiments, cheese, etc.

These food habits & traditions may seem very basic and obvious in the first read. But that’s the beauty of it. They are simple and basic. If you wish to, you can start practicing these right away, without needing to make too many changes in your daily routine. I really hope this article inspires you to do just that.

Is there any other such cuisine that you would like me to look into? Do leave a comment with your suggestions and I shall do the needful.

All the best!

Stay healthy, stay unprocessed!

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