If you want to enjoy the benefits of the best diet, Hawaii style, you’re going to have to pick and choose carefully among traditional Hawaiian foods. In some cases, you may be able to modify them to make them healthier. Let’s look at some popular Hawaiian foods, and whether they’re a good choice for dieters, better avoided, or can be modified to be more weight-loss friendly.
This is good practice – because if you’re going to take off extra pounds and keep them off, you will be developing the capacity to think critically about your foods, read nutritional labels, and find substitutes for dishes you once enjoyed. You don’t have to deprive yourself – there are lots of healthy and tasty choices still available, but you’ll need to learn to identify them.
Spam – Better Avoided
Well, this first entry will have folks from the mainland shaking their heads, but in Hawaii, Spam is a very popular food and over five million cans are consumed each year. Hawaiians consume more Spam per capita than any other US state, and Spam dishes are found on almost every restaurant’s menu, including McDonalds and Burger King.
Spam is consumed fried, barbequed, and in Spam musubi, a popular dish made of rice balls and dried seaweed mounting a piece of spam meat on top, similar to sushi.
However, the salt, sugar, and potato starch found in Spam are all best avoided when you’re losing weight. Spam is also high in fat, particularly saturated fat. Although a limited amount of saturated fat can be okay, Spam contains large amounts, and is definitely not a good choice for people with cholesterol issues.
Saimin – Modify
Saimin is an Asian-style noodle soup, so widely available that even McDonalds in Hawaii offers it. While the broth is okay, especially if you make it with low-sodium broth, the usual wheat-flour noodles really aren’t going to be helpful for weight loss. If you replace those with shirataki noodles, you’re getting back on track to a healthy dish.
Shirataki noodles are made from a yam-like Japanese vegetable and have almost no calories, yet are known for their ability to make you feel full and satisfied. They contain large amounts of glucomannan fiber that has been shown to help level blood sugar. Perfect for dieters, especially those trying to avoid carbs from gluten, and a great pasta alternative too.
Saimin is normally offered with many possible toppings. Choose the ones that involve non-starchy vegetables and/or lean meat, and it can be a healthy diet meal.
Poke – Good Choice
Poke is raw seafood cut into bite sized chunks and marinated in a variety of sauces. Normally it contains Shoyu, a type of soy sauce. It may also contain chopped green onions, chopped nuts, seaweed, or sesame oil. Poke is a tasty and healthy diet choice because it’s high in protein and low in carbs.
Manapua – Better Avoided
Manapua are fist sized, steamed dumplings stuffed with pork, chicken or other fillings. They’re tasty and convenient, but high in carbs, so they’re not a good choice for supporting weight loss.
Malasadas – Better Avoided
Okay, if you’ve ever had one of these Portugese style doughnuts, you know I’m not going to tell you they’re a good part of a weight loss program. Deep fried (fat!), rolled in sugar, and made of wheat flour, they’re high carb all the way. The gourmet versions, stuffed with ice cream or cream fillings, have even more sugar to sabotage your weight loss goals. Avoid these – and the places they’re sold.
Tropical Fruit – Good Choice
All is not lost in terms of delicious Hawaiian foods, though. We have a bounty of tasty tropical fruit that can be enjoyed in fruit salads and smoothies.
If you avoid added sugar syrups, and perhaps add a little extra nutrition to your smoothies with vegetables, yogurt, chia seed, ground flax or coconut oil, tropical fruit is generally a good diet choice and can be particularly helpful when you’re trying to detox from a diet with too much sugar.
Hawaiian Plate Lunch – Modify
It’s going to offend some, but plate lunch, that staple of every Hawaiian menu, just isn’t very healthy. Typical Hawaiian Plate Lunch includes two scoops of white steamed rice, a generous (huge) scoop of macaroni salad (heavy on the mayo), kim chi (fermented vegetables and seasonings) and a serving of protein such as chicken katsu, beef, pork, fried mahimahi (fish) or lomilomi salmon.
If you avoid the macaroni, drop the rice down to one small scoop, and keep the kim chi and protein, you’re on the right track. While you don’t have to eliminate carbs completely while dieting, mounds of them won’t get the job done – and Plate Lunch is a LOT of food, too. Eat a little less than it takes to make you feel full, and take the rest to go.
I hope you’ll find it a little easier to enjoy the best diet, Hawaii style. If you are visiting us in beautiful Hawaii, be sure to try out some of our traditional dishes.