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A Guide to Eating Healthy in Vietnam


Vietnam has been well-known for its excellent cuisine. There are so many traditional dishes in Vietnam attracting people from all over the world such as Pho, spring rolls, mixed salad (gỏi), etc. In addition to the taste of food, cuisine in Vietnam also benefits your health thanks to many factors such as the fresh ingredients, the balance of nutrition and vegetarian habit.

Healthy Ingredients in Vietnamese Cuisine


This is an extremely important ingredient that always appears in every Vietnamese meal. People usually have the main dishes combined with at least one kind of vegetables, either eaten fresh or in forms of soup, stir-fried, etc. Sometimes vegetables are also the main dish in the meal since vegetables are cheaper than meat like pork, beef, and chicken. And when eating more vegetables, we can increase the fiber intake for our body.

If you are eating in a street vendor, ask them to dip the vegetables in boiled water to get rid of as much of contaminant as possible.

eating healthy in vietnam herbs

Eating wraps and rolls in a part of eating healthy in Vietnam


Herbs in Vietnam are the types of vegetables that are often eaten raw or added to dishes to enhance flavors or balance the taste. Some typical and popular types of Vietnamese herbs are lettuce, coriander, knotgrass, perilla leaf, cilantro, mint, Thai basil, lemongrass, dill, sorrel, etc. Adding herbs in meals is an easy way of eating healthy in Vietnam because these herbs are sometimes considered as natural medicines for our health.

eating healthy in vietnam 2

Herbs in Vietnam


Beside many kinds of meat, fish is also used for cooking main dishes in Vietnamese meals. Fish is much more nutritious than meat with a lot of Omega 3, vitamin and healthy protein. The fish protein is notorious for preventing diseases such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. In Vietnam, people usually divide fish into 2 kinds: freshwater fish and saltwater fish. Some popular types of fish in Vietnam are catfish, yellowtail catfish, anabas, eel, goby, carp, snakehead, codfish, scad, tuna, etc.

eating healthy in vietnam 3

Fresh fish brought in from daily morning catches

Vegetable oil

Instead of animal fat, the Vietnamese nowadays usually use vegetable oil in cooking because it makes the food taste better and increases nutrition. Vegetable oils have a low erucic acid level, which helps control cholesterol at a stable level. These oils also contain healthy fatty acids such as omega 6 and omega 3, which help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, vegetable oil is a very rich source of vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Most vegetable oils in Vietnam are made from soybeans, sunflower seeds, or coconut. Olive oil in Vietnam, however, is slightly more expensive because of the import taxes. 

eating healthy in vietnam 4

Sunflower, olive, soybean oils are popular in Vietnam


Fresh coconut is known as a specialty of the coastal areas in Vietnam, especially in Ben Tre Province. Coconut water has almost all the nutrients which are necessary for the body, many B vitamins, and minerals. The amount of potassium and magnesium in coconut water is similar to human cell fluids, so it is often used for patients with diarrhea, even for infusion. In particular, coconut water helps remove harmful substances and bacteria to help the body healthy from the inside and outside. This is also the first benefit of drinking coconut water that you will receive.

In Vietnamese cooking, people often use coconut water to increase the natural sweetness of the dishes, instead of adding a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners.

eating healthy in vietnam 5

Coconut is very good for our health

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Nutrition Balance in Vietnamese Family Meals

Vietnamese cuisine focuses on a balanced combination of flavors and ingredients (vegetables, meat, fish, etc.); to create a good appetite on an adequate and balanced nutrition basis. Vietnamese cuisine uses plenty of natural ingredients such as onions, garlic, pepper, mushrooms, and different kinds of herbs and vegetables to diversify the list of dishes.

eating healthy in vietnam 6A Vietnamese family meal

Eating healthy in Vietnam also includes the habit of having many kinds of fruit such as banana, jackfruit, papaya, guava, grapefruit, orange, mandarin, etc. after the main meal as a dessert to provide plenty of vitamins for the body. 

Vietnamese Vegetarian Diet

Vegetarianism has always a norm in Vietnamese cuisine, especially for those aiming for a healthy diet. Especially, on the 1st or 15th every lunar month and the first few days of Tet Holiday, the Vietnamese would prefer vegetarian dishes to wish for good luck. That is to say, it is not a major problem when traveling or living in Vietnam if you practice vegetarianism strictly

Several ingredients that are often used in the vegetarian diet are many kinds of mushrooms, vegetables, tofu, grains, beans.

eating healthy in vietnam 7 vegan 5

Vietnamese vegetarian food

Vegetarian food in Vietnam is much cheaper than anywhere in the world, thanks to its flourishing agriculture industry, and most famous and traditional Vietnamese dishes have a variation for vegetarians. There's no need to worry about missing out the chances to try iconic Vietnamese food.

Some tasty dishes for vegetarians in Vietnam

  • Lemongrass Tofu
  • Vietnamese Mung Bean Dumplings (Banh it tran)
  • Pickled Carrot and Daikon
  • Green Papaya Salad
  • Vietnamese Sticky Rice
  • Vegan Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

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Healthy Vietnamese Dishes


Traveling to Vietnam without enjoying a bowl of Pho may be your biggest miss. Pho is a kind of beef noodle soup served with many vegetables and herbs. This is a traditional breakfast of every Vietnamese which can provide sufficient energy to start a new day.

eating healthy in vietnam 8 pho 1

Vietnamese Pho

Spring Rolls

The Spring Roll (or Gỏi Cuốn in Vietnamese) is a combination of shrimp, pork, vermicelli, onion, bean sprouts and mint leaves rolled in the rice paper. When enjoying it, we often dip it into peanut sauce to enhance the taste of this dish. Spring Roll is a fresh dish that provides you with all the nutrients the body needs like protein, fiber, vitamin, etc.

eating healthy in vietnam goi cuon

Spring Rolls and sauce

Fresh fruits

Vietnam is a country of tropical fruits. Vietnamese usually having fresh fruits instead of canned fruits. You can easily find many kinds of fruits such as avocado, mango, papaya, orange, etc. anywhere in Vietnam. Fresh fruits or fruit smoothies provide several types of Vitamins for our bodies. Make sure you peel or soak the fruits in salt water before eating - it's the Vietnamese way to get rid of the excessive pesticide on the fruits.

eating healthy in vietnam 10 fruits and vegs

Fresh fruits at the local market

Bitter melon soup

This is delicious and fresh. Bitter melon soup is so simple but it has many positive effects on our health. The ground meat is stuffed in the middle of bitter melon and cooked in 25-30 minutes.

eating healthy in vietnam 11

Bitter melon soup

Simmered pettitoes soup

This is also a healthy dish that is especially good for pregnant women. The pig’s foot (pettitoes) is cooked in a long time with some ingredients like pumpkin, peanut, green papaya or lotus seeds.

eating healthy in vietnam 12

Simmered pettitoes soup and green papaya

Chicken simmered with Chinese herbs

Chicken simmered with Chinese herbs (or Chinese herbal chicken soup) is a nourishing dish that can be used as a remedy. It can help recover our health during times of sickness. Chinese herbs used in this dish include dried Chinese yam, wolfberries, dried red dates, and some kinds of roots. These (dried herbs) are not easy to come by in a normal market; usually cooks need to go to a Chinese medicine store and buy the ingredients, which are not cheap. That’s why this dish is cooked for only the very special ones on very special occasions.

eating healthy in vietnam black chicken

 Black chicken simmered with Chinese herbs

Some other healthy dishes and drinks which are also popular in Vietnam are green tea, ginseng water, etc.

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Summary of Eating Healthy in Vietnam

As we can see, eating healthy in Vietnam is not difficult. Every dish is designed to provide us with a balance of nutrients, and most of them contain a low level of calories. Enjoying Vietnamese food which is both delicious and healthy is one of your best experiences in Vietnam.

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Find out more about Vietnamese cuisine with us!



Guest - Eleanor Valley on Wednesday, 18 March 2020 21:09

Foods in Vietnam are mainly healthy, as long as you can find a clean street vendors

Foods in Vietnam are mainly healthy, as long as you can find a clean street vendors
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