Lower Calorie, Healthy Vietnamese Food

Find out what to cook at home or order in a Vietnamese restaurant

healthy Vietnamese food
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Looking for healthy Vietnamese food to make at home? Or do you need to find low-calorie Vietnamese food at your favorite restaurant? Vietnamese fare is usually filled with fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables. So there are plenty of diet-friendly options to choose from. But diners who are counting calories should be careful to select the best preparation methods to keep their diets on track.

Healthy Vietnamese Food Dos and Don'ts

The next time you visit a Vietnamese restaurant, scan this quick list of menu items to choose and menu items to avoid before you place your order.


Vietnamese Food Dos: These menu items are likely to be lower in calories.

  • steamed or simmered dishes
  • lean roasted meat or fish
  • salad rolls, spring rolls or summer rolls
  • Canh chua soup
  • Vietnamese bouillabaisse
  • La sa or laa pho soup
  • grilled vegetable skewers

Vietnamese Food Don'ts: These menu items are likely to be higher in calories.

  • caramel sauce
  • spare ribs
  • fried dishes
  • deep-fried spring rolls
  • dishes that contain peanuts (or ask for them to be omitted)
  • xao gung (pork, shrimp or chicken with honey sauce)

Healthy Vietnamese Food Tips

Need more help navigating the Vietnamese food menu? Here are a few more tips to make your meal more healthy.

  • Grilled vegetables on skewers are a good alternative to traditional barbecued spare ribs.
  • Caramel sauce is typically listed as nuoc duong thang on Vietnamese menus. This sauce is high in sugar and high in extra calories. Dishes that have been simmered may sound healthy, but the addition of this sugary sauce makes them less so.
  • Look for soups that contain lots of vegetables to increase your fiber intake. They will help you feel fuller and prevent you from overeating on other foods during your meal.
  • When eating family style, you experience a wider variety of foods, but just be careful about portion control. Choose a roast, rice or noodles, a simmered dish and/or a steamed dish to share among the entire table. Leave off the deep-fried choices, though.
  • If you're curious about specific Vietnamese dishes that you find at your local grocery store, check the Vietnamese Food Guide at Calorie Count. It provides specific nutritional information including calorie counts for popular prepared dishes.
  • Check the menu of your favorite Vietnamese restaurant before you visit.  Make a healthy choice about what to order before you go. Then when you arrive at the diner, don't even open the menu.  You're more likely to eat healthy if you make a low-calorie decision in advance.
  • Share with a friend or family member.  The best way to decrease the calories in any restaurant meal is to share the food. Vietnamese food is especially easy to share. So split the plate when it arrives or ask your server to split it ahead of time.
  • If not one wants to share your meal, take half home for another day. Ask your server to put half in a take-home container before the food is brought to you or ask for a container right away so you can split your meal before you begin eating.

Make Healthy Vietnamese Food at Home

If you like to cook, try making low-calorie Vietnamese dishes at home. It can be a great way to include new vegetables, fish, and fruits in your weekly menu.  Need a few ideas?

Try any of these healthy Vietnamese recipes.

And remember, no matter which healthy Vietnamese food you decide to cook, portion control matters most when you're trying to lose weight. Make a healthy dish and eat a moderate portion to slim down and keep the pounds off.

*Edited by Malia Frey,  Weight Loss Expert

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