VietnamFood & DrinksA Guide to Eating Healthy in Vietnam

A Guide to Eating Healthy in Vietnam

Vietnam is well-known for its excellent cuisine. Many traditional dishes, such as Pho, spring rolls, mixed salad (gỏi), attract people worldwide. In addition to the taste of food, cuisine in Vietnam also benefits health thanks to many factors, such as fresh ingredients, the balance of nutrition, and vegetarian habits.

Healthy Ingredients in Vietnamese Cuisine

Vietnamese Vegetables

This is an essential 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 the form 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 our body’s fiber intake.

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

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


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


Besides many kinds of meat, fish is also used to cook the main dishes in Vietnamese meals. Fish is much more nutritious than meat, with many Omega 3, vitamins and healthy protein. Fish protein is notorious for preventing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. In Vietnam, people usually divide fish into fresh and saltwater. Some popular types of fish in Vietnam are catfish, yellowtail catfish, anabas, eel, goby, carp, snakehead, codfish, scad, tuna, etc.

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The Vietnamese eat both fresh fish and dried ones

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 rich source of vitamins A, D, E, and K.

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


Fresh coconut is a specialty of the coastal areas in Vietnam, especially in Ben Tre Province. Coconut water has almost all the nutrients necessary for the body, many B vitamins, and minerals. The potassium and magnesium in coconut water are 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 keep 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.

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Almost every part of the coconut can be utilized for cooking

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 and provide adequate and balanced nutrition. It uses plenty of natural ingredients such as onions, garlic, pepper, mushrooms, and different kinds of herbs and vegetables to diversify the list of dishes.

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A Vietnamese family meal

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

Several ingredients often used in the vegetarian diet are mushrooms, vegetables, tofu, grains, and beans.

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Vietnamese vegetarian food

Vegetarian food in Vietnam is much cheaper than anywhere in the world, thanks to its flourishing agriculture industry. Most famous and traditional Vietnamese dishes have vegetarian options, so there’s no need to worry about missing out on the chance 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

Check out Vegetarian Restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnamese Dishes for Eating Healthy in Vietnam


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

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Vietnamese Pho

Spring Rolls

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

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A balanced meal in each roll

Fresh fruits

Vietnam is a country of tropical fruits. Vietnamese usually have 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 in Vietnam 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.

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Fresh fruits at the local market

Bitter melon soup

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

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 regular 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 on very special occasions.

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Black chicken simmered with Chinese herbs

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

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 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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