14 Secrets of the Korean Diet – Why Korean Women Don’t Get Fat

by nylonpink

Korean girls eat A LOT, and they don't get fat. Why is that? Skinniness is highly prized in the Asian culture and Asians are often naturally thin but this doesn't fully explain it. It definitely has to do with the Korean Diet.

You might have heard of the Mukbang phenomenon. Mukbang is a video live stream wherein a host eats epic amounts of food while sharing about the deliciousness of the food with a live audience. Many of the stars of Mukbang are tiny little Korean Girls. The most famous Mukbang Queen is called The Diva and she is the tiniest of them all!

When walking around in Korea, you typically never see any fat people. Unfortunately, this is slowly changing now that American fast food is gaining popularity in Korea. Ultimately, the food eaten in Korea plays a huge role when it comes to staying slim with the Korean ladies.

Some people beleive that genetics are a huge factor that determines Korean women's body composition. However, when Korean women move to the United States, they also tend to gain weight. This is why diet is truly the number one reason why Korean girls can stay fit as a fiddle.

So, without further ado, check out this list below!


1. They love Veggies!

Korean Vegetarian Banchan

When Koreans sit down for a meal, the first thing that it brought out onto the table is an array of veggies each showcased beautifully in small bowls. The ubiquitous cabbage kimchi is always there and the banchan options are endless. You might encounter various cuts of radish kimchi, marinated spinach bean sprouts, fish cakes and more. Banchans are heavily vegetable based.

I always snack heavily on the banchan while waiting for my main course. Inevitably, I'm always partially full on veggies by the time the main course arrives and I usually don't finish it!

So what are some tasty banchan examples? Kimchi, of course, is the most popular. You have a wide variety of types of kimchi like radish kimchi, cucumber kimchi, sliced kimchi, and more. Then, there are assorted pickled vegetables like pickled bamboo, pickled root vegetables, 

Lots of the time you will find sesame spinach, soy marinated black beans, and even a potato salad. My favorite of all time is the chap jae, which is glass noodles in sweet soy sauce.

In the United States, we usually feature a large portion of meat. Why not consider making the veggies the focus and have your meat be more of a side dish?

2. They Walk Everywhere

Most Koreans walk everywhere! New Yorkers and even Parisians understand this, the Korean definitely do, Los Angeles women got to learn! There's even a song called "Nobody Walks in LA", but we gotta change that. Most Koreans don't drive and they walk everywhere, to the subway etc.

I love the app on the iPhone that counts the number of steps that you take in a day. Can you make it a goal to walk 10,000 steps a day?

In Korea, many fitness watches like the FitBit and Apple Watch are extremely popular. Koreans walk so much because of the vast public transport in Seoul, so it's easy to hit those steps within a day. Plus, since the city is so condensed, it's more convenient to walk from here to there rather than taking a taxi.

I hate exercising but walking doesn't feel like aerobic exercise (even though it is) If you aren't really able to walk to work, or to lunch, etc, try adding a nightime stroll in your neighborhood after a meal.

3. They Avoid Fast Food

The Korean diet does not contain a lot of fast food. Luckily, in Korea, you can get delicious food for quick and for cheap so there is no need to turn to fast food on a regular basis. (Fast food is acceptable for a treat, everything in moderation!)

The Westernized palate values sweet foods, but Korean palate is much more nuanced favoring sour, hot and spicy flavors. In Korea, if you want to get a quick bite to eat, you can grab healthy alternatives on the go like kimbap and rice rolls.

Kimbap is a delicious rice roll with a variety of vegetables and meat rolled in. It's similar to a sushi roll only Korean style and of course no raw fish. Kimbap is an excellent way to get healthy calories in, fill your stomach, and not gain weight. 

There are also some Western fast food chains in Korea. However, these chains actually carry healthier ingredients. For example, the Taco Bell portions are a lot smaller and don't nearly have as much mayo-like sauce. Subway also has shrimp subs and more veggies to choose from than the standard American versions.

Its unfortunate that the younger generation of Koreans is cultivating a palate that desires more westernized fried foods and sweets. These kinds of foods are damn tasty but they easily add to your overall poundage!

4. They Eat Sweets in Moderation

At most traditional Korean restaurants, there is never a heavy dessert such as cheesecake or creme brulee offered. Usually, dessert consists of fresh fruit, or a delicious and light little bowl of Sikhye - a sweet rice drink. Try substituting a delicious mango for a cake for dessert.

Patbingsu is a super popular dessert in Korea. It's a shaved ice dish but it isn't drowned in artificial colors and sweets like the Americanized Hawaiian Shaved Ice. Patbingsu is topped with lots of healthy ingredients like fresh fruits and azuki beans.

One of the traditions in Korea is to grab coffee after a meal. Yes, Koreans do love their desserts. However, since they drink coffee after they eat, the coffee acts as an appetite suppressant, which makes them not gorge on delicious sweet desserts. It's a win-win!

I especially love Sujeonggwa, Korean Cinnamon punch. It's the perfect end to a usually fiery Korean meal. It's usually served iced and ends the meal with adelicious sweet note without adding tons of calories.

5. They Eat Fermented Foods at Every Meal

Korean women eat fermented foods at almost every meal because kimchi is a staple food. Fermented foods are good for you because they balance your gut and provide lots of vitamins and minerals. This has a plethora of health benefits, including a healthy immune system, increased happiness, glowing skin and even weight loss!

Kimchi is full of acid and vinegar which makes you feel full. A study published in 2011 by Nutrition Research showed that the obese patients shed weight and body fat when kimchi was added to their diet.

Fermented foods also have a lot of beneficial pro-biotics that grow naturally during the process. These are excellent for your gut bacteria and keep your health in check. Also, since vegetables are high in fiber, they keep your stomach feeling full longer.

Plus, they just down right super delicious!

6. They Eat More Seafood - especially seaweed

We all know that we should add more fish and seafood to our diet but have you considered seaweed? Seaweed is a common ingredient in the Korean diet. Marinated seaweed is a popular banchan dish, as is Miyeokguk, Korean Seaweed Soup. Miyeokguk is a common start to many Korean meals and it is also a popular birthday dish. Also, it is served to new mothers after giving birth because of its myriad of health benefits.

Seaweed is also rich in vitamins and minerals. Plus, the seaweed acts as a natural seasoning since it already has a lot of naturally occurring salt. Of course, seaweed also has a lot of fiber, which is excellent for digestion and makes your stomach feel fuller faster.

You can also easily add more seaweed to your diet by snacking on dried seaweed. Other ideas include adding powdered seaweed onto your salad dressing or topping rice, veggies or meat with furikake - a delicious Japanese seasoning made of fish, seaweed, and various seasonings.

Forget Kale - Everyone should go mad for seaweed!

7. They Love Their Tofu


Source: Instagram @mikaaaa_jp

One of the most famous Korean dishes is Sundubu Jjigae. Sundubu is a silken tofu stew served in a fiery sauce served as a main course. Tofu is also offered in the banchan side dishes that start the meal and it's included in most of the Korean stews.

Tofu is a popular protein for vegetarians, it makes you feel super full as if you are eating meat. It's also jam-packed with protein. A serving size of beef has almost twice the calories of the same serving size of tofu.

Tofu has gotten a bad rap in some cases because of islack of taste. That's ok because tofu magically takes on the flavors of whatever you are cooking. Here are 15 delicious ways to eat tofu.

8. They Drink Tea instead Soda

The first time I tasted Barley Tea I thought it tasted like dirty water, I wasn't used to drinking cold, unsugared tea. I have since grown to love the taste. This is served with almost every Korean meal. Soda is not commonly enjoyed with a Korean meal, it's more of a special treat.

Barley Tea has numerous health benefits such as improving your blood circulation, helping with digestion and sleep and providing antioxidants. There is also no sugar like there is in fruit juice, soda or an ice blended coffee drink.

An 8 oz cup of tea only contains 2 calories so you drink as many cups throughout the day as you like.

9. They Avoid Processed Foods

You'll rarely see processed foods at a Korean meal. Korean meals are mostly made from scratch so it's never really a concern.

The Western diet is so jam packed with processed foods. Foods are usually processed with chemical ingredients so that they have a longer shelf life. You'll definitely see these artificial ingredients in most junk foods and packaged cookies and crackers and more.

Why are processed foods so bad? Processed ingredients such as high fructose syrup have been linked to obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more. These artificial ingredients have also been doctored to be highly tasty and addicting, are high in carbs and low in nutrients.

You're on a slippery slope once you start eating too many processed foods, you start to crave artificial ingredients over vitamin packed, delicious, all natural foods.

10. They Eat Well Balanced Meals

As mentioned before, Koreans usually eat just a little bit of meat with their meals. Although Korean BBQ is hugely popular, it isn't the typical daily meal. Even when having Korean BBQ, there is usually a huge spread of the vegetable-focused banchan, along with various greens for wrapping the meats. Finally, there is usually a healthy tofu based soup served alongside the meal.

The Korean Diet is heavy on vegetable and tofu. Pickled veggies and fermented food, seafood, healthy carbs like rice. How can you add more of these healthy pieces into your diet?

11. They enjoy homemade food

I used to have an ex-boyfriend who was Korean and man could his mom cook! Her cooking was better than any Korean restaurants. Most Koreans grow up with a mom is a masterful Korean food cook and they grow up with palates desiring this type of food. I have a friend who hates eating out at Korean restaurants because they are never as good as home cooking.

Many Korean women are taught how to cook from a young age and can easily whip up a quick and delicious home cooked meal at home. Kimchi is easily purchased at the store, although Korean moms will usually make a batch for their kids to use at home.

Cooking in a traditional Korean family is almost like bonding; this is where mothers can pass on traditional family recipes to their sons/daughters. Also, cooking during the early Korean times was a definitive way to get a guy (winning their hearts through their stomachs). 

It's better to cook at home, you'll know exactly what's going into your food and avoid all artificial ingredients.

12. They Eat Lots of Soup and Stews

korean stew

Source: Instagram @feronarcissism

Many of the most popular dishes in Korean consist of stews: kimchijigae (kimchi stew), doenjang-jjigae (bean-paste stew), Soondubu (Tofu Stew) to name a few. All these stews feature just a very small amount of meat. The stews mostly consist of vegetables and tofu and a fiery sauce. These stews are served with a selection of banchan and rice. I personally find that the hot spicy stews fill me up super quick! It's a perfect, ultra healthy meal

13. They Don't Eat Bread

Oh man, I love myself some bread, but Koreans never eat bread at their meals. Instead, rice is the featured carb. Experts might say different, but I believe that white rice is NOT at all fattening. Walk around Tokyo or Seoul for a day. All these locals eat a full bowl of rice with every single meal and no one is overweight.

Bread is highly processed. Most of the time, bread also has a lot of sugar in it to react with yeast in order to rise the dough. Rice is...well, rice! It's pretty much in it's natural state, so you're not eating any extra processing and are able to digest it much easier. Plus, there isn't sugar in rice (minus the carbs that are naturally in the grains).

Bread is definitely ok with moderation but if you eat a lot of it, try replacing it with a healthy salad.

14. They Eat a Minimal Breakfast

What is the typical American breakfast? Two eggs, hash browns, sausage and sliced bread = heart attack central if you ate this every single day!

What is the typical Korean breakfast? Actually, Koreans don't have a traditional breakfast, mostly they just eat more of what they would eat at any other meal. Commonly rice, soup and a selection of banchan.

Most of the time, breakfast consists of a nice clear soup with a few vegetables and very little meat in it. The vegetable stocks they use is usually fish based. Then, they will accompany the soup with a fresh bowl of steamed rice followed by a few banchan selections. Even though it's not a super heavy breakfast, the Korean breakfast is still very hearty and filling and extremely healthy at the same time.

It's important not to skip breakfast to try to lose weight. It's best to eat a hearty breakfast, than a slightly lighter lunch and a small but filling dinner. This is because most people are much less active in the evening, and won't get the opportunity to burn off the calories from a heavy dinner.

The Typical Korean School Lunch

Loved this video from Youtuber Red Dragon Diaries sharing over a week of typical Korean school lunches in Busan, Korea. He's a teacher at an elementary school and I'm soooooo jealous of the homemade food that he gets to eat daily. 

Should I go teach in Korea just so I can eat the food?

So he says that the meals only cost about 2.50 bucks per meal. These are extremely healthy, natural foods with little to no processing.

He shares with us 9 examples of cafeteria lunches from his elementary school. Here goes!

Meal #1

This meal has sides of pork with hardboiled quail eggs, dried seaweed, kimchi, sauteed veggies, soup with radish and squid

Meal #2​

The main in this meal is Bimbimbap, looks like it's just spinach and bean sprouts along with the sauce. Sides include: Mini pizza cups with corn, kimchi, fresh tangerines. The soup is made up of bone broth, seaweed and tofu

Meal #3​

The sides here include two servings of greens, Regular cabbage kimchi plus radish kimchi. The main is a fall off the bone stewed chicken and soup with radishes and collared green like veggies

Meal #4​

Meal #4 has yummy rice topped with tons of goodies and a gochujang like soy sauce mixture. Sides include sliced apples, kimchi, mini chicken nuggets in a salad with dressing (the closest you’ll get to processed foods), and soup had mushrooms and clams,

Meal #5

Here we have fried fish, assorted nuts soaked in soy sauce  (soft and tender and they taste awesome), kimchi again, marinated spinach, and chicken soup with some roots and lots of tasty greens.

Meal #6

Meal #6 = Sides include: fish cakes with quail eggs and noodles, dried marinated fish called myeolchi-bokkeum (like small dried sardines) and radish kimchi. The soup is soondaeguk, pork in broth with Korean style blood sausage.

Meal #7

Here we have fishcake with squid, more seaweed, kimchi, and pan seared tofu. The soup includes roots, sprouts and little pieces of meat.

Meal #8

The delicious sides for Meal #8 include pork or Daeji Bulgogi, acorn jello, kimchi, ricecakes, and a soup containing seaweed and egg

Meal #9

Last but not least, this lunch includes a nut-based gelatin, seaweed, kimchi, fried mushrooms with squash  with a sauce similar to sweet and sour sauce (Korea's take on Chinese food). Finally, there is soon dubu jjigae, this one’s filled with seafood, in this case mostly clams

Summary of Findings

It was super interesting (and mouthwatering) to go through each and one of those meals! Here are the patterns that I found:

    • Seafood is featured in every single meal! Definitely not the case in westernized meals
      • Kimchi is served at every single meal, providing lots of healthy fermented food goodness.
    • A big bowl of soup is served with each and every single meal. This is super different from the typical Western lunch. Also, the soup is super different from many of the more popular cream based soups of the US such as clam chowder and cream of mushroom.
    • As mentioned before, meat is more a side than the main course. Several of the lunches featured here didn't even include any meat.

    TheTypical American School Lunch

    Typical American School Lunch

    Source: http://www.fooducate.com/

    I think these pictures speak for themselves. Which meal do you think is healthier?

    Want to know how Korean women don't get fat? We wrote all you need to know on how to lose weight on the Korean diet and lifestyle. #diet #health #healthy #weightloss #nutrition #travel #korea
    14 reasons why korean women don't get fat - Pinterest

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    Yun July 28, 2018 - 6:51 am

    I thought western life is a dreamy life. then I see this article,
    I stick to love living here in korea than in america. I am a korean.
    Why don’t they change a meal more healthy?

    nylonpink September 4, 2018 - 5:54 pm

    I agree, I love living in America, but the food is way better in Korea! I’m jealous of you!

    Joyce August 30, 2018 - 7:06 am

    Those korean meals look really delicious and they’re good for those people who are health-conscious.

    nylonpink September 4, 2018 - 5:44 pm

    They are super delicious and healthy at the same time, which is amazing!

    Alessandra K October 13, 2018 - 1:26 pm

    Everything in Korea looks so yummy! Should I try these kinds of foods in order to lose weight though? I’m sure these foods are super healthy and good to maintain your weight, but I’m afraid I won’t lose some weight 🙁 I really want to try strict diets but I know they aren’t maintainable for life, I’m so confused as to what I should do

    nylonpink November 5, 2018 - 3:57 pm

    Hi! I don’t believe that simply adding Korean food to your diet would cause you to lose weight, but if you adopted the principles of Korean eating for your lifetime diet, eating mostly vegetables and tofu for your main meals, and adding the meat as a side instead of a main, and avoiding bread, it would definitely make a difference! What does your diet look like now?


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