What Are the Best Heart Healthy Choices at Vietnamese Restaurants?

Q:  I was recently placed on a low-sodium, low-fat diet after I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.  What are the best dishes to choose at a Vietnamese restaurant?

Good nutrition and lifestyle are an important part of heart health.  In general, it is best to choose whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and heart-healthy fats.

Vietnamese cuisine is traditionally rich in seafood, rice, fresh vegetables, tropical fruits and herbs.  It is relatively low in saturated fat but can be high in sodium due to the addition of sauces or dressings containing fish sauce.

Nước chấm, a common Vietnamese condiment or dipping sauce served with most meals, is made from a combination of fish sauce, lime, sugar, vinegar, chilies and garlic.  Although Nước chấm is low in calories, it is high in sodium and should be used sparingly.

To reduce the amount of sodium in a dish, ask that sauces and dressings be served on the side and consume sparingly. To reduce the amount of calories in a dish, avoid fried menu items and ask if sautéed vegetables and meats can be sautéed in less oil.  Potentially Low-Sodium, Low-Fat options at a Vietnamese Restaurant.

  • Goi (Salads) – Vietnamese cuisine has a healthy emphasis on vegetables and herbs, so most restaurant menus will include many varieties of colorful, flavorful, and vitamin-rich salads. Ask for dressings on the side and use sparingly to help reduce sodium intake. 
  • Goi Cuon (Salad Rolls) – Fresh Vietnamese spring rolls contain a mix of vegetables and herbs, and seafood, pork, chicken or tofu as the protein.  The rolls are wrapped in thin rice paper and are served fresh, not fried.  They are usually served with a variety of dipping sauces.  Use dipping sauces sparingly to help reduce sodium intake.
  • Bun – Vermicelli (rice noodle) salads served with shredded and grilled meat or shrimp are low in fat and calories but can be high in sodium, depending on the amount of fish sauce used in the recipe.  Ask for less fish sauce or Nước chấm to help reduce your sodium intake.
  • Bo Nhung Dam (Beef Fondue) – A surprisingly healthy dish, Vietnamese Beef Fondue is not cooked in hot oil but rather hot vinegar broth.  The absence of the hot cooking oil helps to reduce the fat and calories of the dish, and the presence of the vinegar helps give the dish a tanginess that requires less seasoning from high sodium ingredients.  

It is important to consult with your doctor or dietitian to determine your recommended daily intake of calories and nutrients.  Healthy Dining’s team of registered dietitians makes it easy for individuals with sodium restrictions to eat out with Sodium Savvy menu choices hand-selected to meet stricter sodium criteria.  Next time you go out to eat, use the personalized search on HealthyDiningFinder to find the perfect Heart Healthy menu choice for you.