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8 Traditional Vietnamese Dishes With A Healthy Twist Your Family Will Enjoy

Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its vibrant flavors, fresh ingredients, and nutritional benefits. By making a few adjustments, you can enhance these traditional dishes to make them even healthier without sacrificing taste. Here are eight traditional Vietnamese dishes with a healthy twist that your family will love.

1. Pho with Zoodles and Lean Protein

Pho, a beloved Vietnamese soup, typically features a savory broth with rice noodles, herbs, and either beef or chicken. To make it healthier:

  • Swap the noodles: Replace traditional rice noodles with spiralized zucchini noodles (zoodles). This lowers the carb content and adds more vitamins and minerals.
  • Choose lean proteins: Opt for chicken breast or tofu instead of fatty cuts of beef. These choices reduce the saturated fat content while still providing ample protein.
  • Enhance the broth: Use a homemade broth with less sodium and more vegetables. Incorporate mushrooms, carrots, and bok choy for added nutrition and flavor.

2. Fresh Spring Rolls with Quinoa

Goi cuon, or fresh spring rolls, are typically made with shrimp, pork, and vermicelli noodles wrapped in rice paper. To give this dish a healthy twist:

  • Use quinoa: Substitute vermicelli noodles with quinoa. Quinoa is a complete protein and provides additional fiber.
  • Increase the veggies: Add more fresh vegetables like bell peppers, cucumbers, and avocados to boost the nutrient content.
  • Ditch the pork: Replace pork with leaner proteins like grilled shrimp or chicken breast, or go vegetarian with tofu.

3. Bun Cha with Brown Rice Vermicelli

Bun cha features grilled pork, vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and a tangy dipping sauce. To make it healthier:

  • Choose brown rice vermicelli: This option is higher in fiber and nutrients compared to regular vermicelli.
  • Lean cuts of pork: Use pork tenderloin or ground turkey instead of fatty pork belly. Marinate with herbs and spices to keep the flavor intact.
  • Increase the greens: Serve with a generous portion of fresh herbs, lettuce, and pickled vegetables for added vitamins and minerals.

4. Banh Mi with Whole Grain Bread

The Vietnamese sandwich, banh mi, is a fusion of French and Vietnamese culinary traditions. To make it healthier:

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  • Whole grain bread: Use whole grain or multigrain baguettes instead of white bread to increase fiber and nutrients.
  • Lean proteins: Fill your sandwich with grilled chicken, tofu, or tempeh instead of traditional cold cuts and pâté.
  • Healthy spreads: Use avocado spread or hummus instead of mayonnaise or butter. Add plenty of fresh vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, and cilantro.

5. Vietnamese Pancakes (Banh Xeo) with Extra Veggies

Banh xeo are savory pancakes filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts. For a healthier version:

  • Whole grain flour: Use a mix of whole wheat flour and rice flour to increase fiber.
  • Add more veggies: Incorporate more vegetables into the batter and fillings, such as bell peppers, spinach, and zucchini.
  • Reduce oil: Cook the pancakes with minimal oil using a non-stick pan, and opt for heart-healthy oils like olive or avocado oil.

6. Ca Kho To (Caramelized Fish) with Less Sugar

Ca kho to is a dish of caramelized fish cooked in a clay pot. To give it a healthier twist:

  • Reduce sugar: Use less sugar or replace it with natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.
  • Healthy fish options: Choose fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or mackerel, instead of catfish or other less nutrient-dense options.
  • Add vegetables: Incorporate vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions to the dish for added fiber and vitamins.

7. Vietnamese Salad (Goi) with a Lighter Dressing

Goi is a refreshing salad made with a mix of vegetables, herbs, and proteins like shrimp or chicken. For a healthier version:

  • Use a light dressing: Make a lighter dressing with lime juice, a small amount of fish sauce, and no added sugar. You can also use a yogurt-based dressing for a creamy texture.
  • Increase the vegetables: Use a variety of fresh vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, and radishes.
  • Lean proteins: Stick with lean proteins like grilled shrimp, chicken breast, or tofu.

8. Chè with Reduced Sugar

Chè is a traditional Vietnamese dessert that comes in many variations, often featuring beans, fruit, and sweet coconut milk. To make it healthier:

  • Reduce sugar: Cut down on the sugar or use natural sweeteners like honey or agave syrup.
  • Use coconut milk sparingly: Replace regular coconut milk with a light version or use a combination of coconut milk and almond milk to reduce the fat content.
  • Incorporate fresh fruit: Add more fresh fruit such as mango, kiwi, or berries for natural sweetness and added vitamins.


Vietnamese cuisine is naturally healthy with its focus on fresh ingredients, but these twists can make traditional dishes even better for your family. By making small changes like swapping ingredients or adding more vegetables, you can create delicious, nutritious meals that everyone will enjoy. These healthy twists not only enhance the nutritional value of the dishes but also introduce new flavors and textures, keeping your family excited about eating wholesome meals together. Enjoy the vibrant and healthy tastes of Vietnam right in your own kitchen!

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