Nutrition in Taiwan

Keeping up with nutrition in Taiwan is going to require some changes to what you are used to back home. Are you trying to continue a healthy lifestyle abroad? Are you keeping an eye on macros, on a diet, a vegetarian, or just trying to avoid unhealthy food?

Raohe Street Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市)Before I came to Taiwan, I was keeping track of what I ate to fuel a performance athlete diet—here’s what you might find if you are looking to keep up a diet in Taiwan!

1. Learning the Menu

When you emerge from your hostel on the first week of arrival, you might notice there is a lot more Chinese than what you might have expected. There is one plus side of the food search here, though—food is never very far away! There are plenty of restaurants and food stalls along the street selling all types of different foods for a very reasonable price.

The only problem, however, is that the menus tend to be in Chinese. It took me a long time to find food when I first arrived—I tried to find places with English menus or where I could see the food and point my way through ordering.

Do yourself a small favor and learn a couple of characters for meats, vegetables, and carbs you enjoy in order to recognize them on some of these street-side vendor menus!

2. Starchy Carbs!

What you think about carbs is probably pretty accurate. Rice and noodles are a pretty big staple here. You might find meals ultimately surrounded by rice or noodles. There are even specialty pasta shops that sell any noodle you could ask for and a ton of bakeries that are chock-full of various breads, pastries, and cookies.

A lot of the snacks you find at the convenience stores are rice-oriented, too. If you’ve had your fill of starchy carbs, you can always grab some tea eggs, tofu, fishballs, or sausages brewing in the convenience stores or delicious soups from restaurants.

3. Vegetables and Fruits

You might notice the vegetables are a little difficult to find as well. They are usually side dishes to a rice and meat bento or fried, sauced, or boiled by a street vendor. Fruits, however, are quite commonly sold by individual sellers along any street. There are also open fruit and vegetable stalls that sell a variety of fresh produce in many areas.

These can be a staple for fresh produce when living abroad, but be aware—kitchen facilities can be limited in apartments. Invest in a rice steamer if your home does not have any cooking equipment and learn to use it! It will be a miracle in terms of fresh, steamed veg!

4. Protein

If there’s one thing Taiwan might run short of, it’s protein. There might be plenty of meats to try, or plenty of different parts of animals, but generally meat is quite small, expensive, and prepared in an unhealthy way. Pork and chicken is probably the most common meats while beef can be quite a little harder to find.

There are also GNC stores that sell protein powders but they can be very expensive. Seafood probably packs the most bang for your buck in this case—it’s usually readily available and prepared in a healthier way than the other meats.

Eggs are also plentiful and a great option for getting a quick dose of protein. Also, if you learn to use that steamer, eggs and fish are great staples to those steamed veggies—set it and forget it!

5. Vegetarian

Being a vegetarian anywhere can be somewhat difficult, but in a foreign country can be even more-so. Not knowing exactly what you’re eating is pretty surprising sometimes—especially when you bite into a pastry only to discover pork floss!

Different areas in Taipei and Taiwan in general can be a huge exception to this due to one of the major religions here being Buddhism. You don’t have to go to far to find a Buddhist restaurant to sate your vegetarian desires.

The vegetarian dishes in some restaurants can be loaded with rice and noodles, however, there are vegetarian buffets that specialize in delicious vegetable dishes, tofu, and taro cakes! Being a vegetarian in Taipei can be a wonderful experience with all these fantastic buffets that are scattered pretty plentifully around the city!

Whether you are looking to continue a certain diet, lifestyle, or hoping not to eat too unhealthily, you can always find delicious food in Taiwan! Learning your way around the different food pitfalls can aid you in continuing a healthy lifestyle but don’t forget to try some of the fun and maybe slightly unhealthy food here—it’s worth it!

 

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