Korean vs. American Diet

As some of you may know from my two “What I Ate in Korea” posts, I travelled to Korea this summer for a little less than two weeks. Now, being me but also really anybody, food is a huge factor during travel because many countries have traditions and behaviors regarding food.


Every time I’ve visited Korea, I was always surprised by how many skinny and thin people there are in Korea. Note: I said skinny and thin, NOT slim and lean. A lot of people have written posts about how Korean people are so skinny, however, skinny does not always mean healthy. Healthy is not a single size but it comes in different sizes and shapes. In fact, the skinniness and thinness of Koreans many Westerners look enviously may be very unhealthy. As much as obese and extra fat may be harmful, anorexia and anemia can be equally as dangerous.


So I wanted to preface with that before I go into the meat of my post. This post is NOT to say that the Korean diet is healthier than Americans. Remember: skinny and healthy can be two disjoint things. I was appalled at the greasy and fried and fattening foods that skinny girls were eating, but found out that they don’t finish all of it and only eat a few bites, or if they finish all of it, that’s their only meal of the day. So remember: this post is more about comparing the two food cultures rather than show one’s more healthier than the other.

A typical Korean meal set up by my sweet grandmom – this served 7 people – which for American standards is too small.

With that long disclaimer out of the way, here are the few things I’ve noticed and picked up whilst I was in Korea:


WALK WALK WALK | Koreans walk a lot. Because of the dense population centered around Seoul, it’s much more practical to walk or use public transportation (which is so much better and organized than US public transportation) than to drive your own car and get stuck in traffic. Not only the traffic, but the parking spaces are limited and small so a lot of people walk even though they have a car. All my aunts and uncles and grandparents walk even when they have cars because it’s just more convenient! So even while using public transportation, you still walk A LOT more than walking in the parking lot to your car. And many times, let’s admit, we try and park at the closest parking space. Walking to the nearest metro station or bus stop, you’re still walking quite a lot.


In addition to walk a lot in general, Koreans LOVE to hike. When I go to restaurants or take public transportation, I find groups of Koreans in their hiking gear, poles, and backpacks either eating after their hike or going to and from their hiking destination. South Korea is a pretty hilly country once you get out of the busy Seoul, so during the weekdays, retired elderly go hiking while in the weekends, you see people of all ages bringing their families to hike.


Also, last note about walking – Korean people think simply walking as a exercise. While a lot of us Americans thinking running or lifting weights at the gym for two hours is exercise, Koreans simply walk. I see a lot of people walk either in the early morning or late night when it’s cooler in their sports clothes speed walking. You may say it’s mild or lame, but hey, walking consistently every day is better than hitting the gym once or twice a week.


IT’S ALL ABOUT PORTION SIZE | We’ve all heard it before, American portion sizes are HUGE. In Korea, even the yogurt containers are smaller. I was really sad when I picked up plain yogurt and saw that it was half the usual size I eat. However, I noticed that after I ate it, I wasn’t that hungry but my mind wanted more. Due to habit, I was used to eating more, but physically, I didn’t need more.


Even if the restaurant portions weren’t big, Korean people just ate less. They ate rice, the food item we Americans are all so scared off (#carbsareNOTbad). They ate carbs, they ate protein, and some fat. But overall they just ate less in general.


I know I only have two points, but by being aware about my portions sizes and walking at least 15,000 steps a day, I definitely lost some weight that I gained unnecessarily over the school year.


Do you have any cultures or traditions that you know of that differ from the American diet?





2 thoughts on “Korean vs. American Diet

Add yours

  1. Very interesting blog post, though I think you lean towards the Korean lifestyle better, which by all means is good. I love Korean food and years ago when I was introduced to the culture, the portion size did throw me off guard, but I am well adjusted now. I do love how you emphasize portion size because whether one is eating health or unhealthy food, PORTION is important. I love to walk too, it’s free, and raises my heart rate at a slow and gradual way, which is best for me-though yoga is still my #1 lol-. Thank you for the insight, and I hope to see more of your posts.


    Betty 🙂


    1. Hi Betty! Thanks for the sweet comment. I do admit that I have some bias toward Korean food lol. Every time I go visit Korea in the summer I get surprised at the portion size but then slowly adjust. It’s much harder after coming back from Korea in the US because the restaurants have huge servings and I don’t want to waste the food or my money!!! Haha yes – that’s why I love running – since it’s free. I do need to get back on practicing yoga though. I haven’t been doing it for a long time and my body wants a nice long stretch.


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