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Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle in Korea

June 20, 2013


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Ok, so this isn’t really fully a TL;DR on Korean culture and might not be fully relevant to you, but some people might be interested in different food lifestyles in Korea. You can get by eating Korean food just fine. It’s lovely and delicious, but you might be interested in trying a different lifestyle, for different dietary purposes, like our own. We’ve found Korean food to be a bit too…carb-heavy, and that lead to us getting a little softer than usual. We told you that we dropped carbs to lose weight, so here are more of the specifics on how we got by.

We mentioned two key phrases that got us by: Bap Baeh-Jusayo “No rice, please” and “Hwang-Jay Diet-uh” which is…you know, I’m not too sure what hwang-jae means. Diet-uh means diet, that much I know, but Hwang-jae? Not sure. I just learned that phrase and it worked perfectly well when we’re at restaurants and trying to avoid carbs.

We also took a lot more responsibility in preparing our own food, primarily for the low carb purposes, but also because we’re just trying to eat healthier ingredients as well. White sugar and white flour are great tasting, but not all too great for your body. So we started using different sugars like Xylotol, for example. We use a lot of flax seed, chia seeds, coconut flour and coconut oil, almond flour, protein powder, textured vegetable protein, and such. These products aren’t easy to find in Korea, and when we do find some of them, they’re RIDICULOUSLY overpriced. So we order lots of stuff online.

Also, yes, I know there’s lots of debates about what ingredients are good or not. Some ingredients seem healthy, but then one blog will say that they’re not healthy, and another blog will say something else. The point is, we’re trying to avoid foods and ingredients that we know aren’t all too great, you know? So much food is so processed, and you just don’t know how good it is for you. Sure, some people might eat it and be healthy tanks. For us, though, we’re feeling a lot healthier and more energized after taking more control over what we eat and what ingredients go into our foods.

We talked about our spinach smoothie, which is more of a lumpy, and it sounds gross, but we actually REALLY LIKE IT! When Martina was last in Canada, she went to an alternative food course, and learned some cool recipes, the spinach smoothie being one of them:

Healthy Green Breakfast Lumpy


1 whole organic apple chopped (if non-organic peel it first)
1 lemon chopped (peeled but not seeded)
1 large handful of spinach chopped
6 additional leaves of sturdy greens (ex: kale, collard greens)
1 heaping tsp of peeled fresh ginger
3 cups of cold water


1. Dump all of it into the blender and blend on maximum speed until no longer super chunky.
2. Drink it immediately or seal it in an airtight container for one day.
3. Feel like a better person because you drank down a bunch of healthy green slop

Another thing we’ve started doing is something that we heard about a lot before but were too hesitant to try. I think the English word for it is “exercise” or something like that. People go to these rooms called “gyms” and they lift and push heavy things, or they walk on the spot on machines that let them walk without going anywhere. It sounds silly, and we refused to do it for the vast majority of our married life, but over the past couple of months we’ve given in and tried it out. It’s not that bad, you know? We feel like we’re looking better than before, and our bodies are getting somewhat tighter, and we can see and feel muscles that we didn’t know existed before. It’s weird.

After the gym we make protein shakes:

Berry Soymilk Protein Shake (For One Person)


1 (200ml) juice-cartoon of chilled Yonsei Soymilk
1 scoop of unflavoured natural Whey Protien powder (Now Foods)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp raw cacoa powder
2 heaping tbsp berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or a mix is fine)

Additional Options:

1 tbsp of honey/sugar (if the smoothie is too dull tasting for you)
2-3 ice cubes to make it less thick
1 banana (very carby but makes it more delicious if you don’t care about carbs)
1/4 cup of cool brewed coffee (adds your morning kick)


1. Put all the ingredients into a blender and stir. Let it sit for 1 minute for the chia seeds to expand.
2. Blend on maximum power! VROOM VROOM!
3. Drink it all. It’s easier to drink it in one shot.
4. Yell at the person next to you “BRO YOU EVEN LIFT?!”

Some of you follow us on Twitter. If you don’t, you should! We do cool things on Twitter, like last night when it was 3AM and we made coconut pancakes. We made a Vine video for it. Here’s our recipe for it:

Low Carb Coconut Pancakes


1/2 cup coconut flour
3 tbsp coconut sugar Xylitol (or normal sugar)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt


6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup milk (or almond milk if you want)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Additional oil for the pan


1. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and slowly add the melted butter.
3. Add the egg mixture to the coconut flour mixture and stir well to combine. Let it rest for 1 minute until the coconut flour absorbs the liquid.
4.Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat and brush with vegetable oil. Most important part: SMALL pancakes or they will fall apart when you flip them! I use about two big tablespoons of batter onto the frying pan and spread into a circle.
5. Cook until bottom is golden brown and top is set around the edges. Flip carefully and continue to cook until second side is golden brown. Remove from pan and keep warm in tin foil plate or on baking sheet in oven (170c).
6. Eat them mofos any time of day. It’s better really late at night, when you feel like a crazy person for making pancakes at 3AM.

Ok, last recipe we’re going to share, because this seems like a crazy ass long post about recipes, and I’m sure it’s going to be hella sucky to read. This last recipe here is for pizzas we make on our own, and they’re freaking delicious and we like them more than other pizzas we get. Yes, it could be because our standards of pizza have really degraded from being in Korea for so long, and good pizza is hard to come by here, but I’d like to not think that. This pizza, to us, is delicious, and healthy, so give it a shot!

Low Carb Pizza Crust


1/2 cup flax meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp oregano or Italian spice mix
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs


1. Mix everything but the eggs in a bowl.
2. Add the 2 eggs and stir until a dough forms. I find using my hands are a lot easier to use than a spoon or whisk.
3. Using parchment or a silicon pad on a cookie sheet, flatten the dough to the thickness you want. You can use a cookie roller but you need to grease it. I use my hands to just press and spread it thin.
4. Bake at 350 degree (F) oven for 12 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven, add pre-cooked* toppings, and then return to the oven. Use the grill setting until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown, 2-5 minutes.
6. Eat that pizza and look at the person next to you and be like “I KNOW RIGHT? THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN IT SHOULD BE!”

Side Notes:

*I cook chicken breast cubed with eggplant while the crust cooks. I also make homemade tomato sauce with garlic and I drain the excess liquid so the crust doesn’t get soggy. In order of operation I do tomato sauce, shredded cheese, chicken and eggplant and crumbled feta cubes. After the pizza comes out I use the drained liquid and pour it onto since the crust is very crispy and dry.

Ok, that’s it. It’s a lot more information than we thought we’d be sharing about our lives and how we’re trying to live healthier.



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Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle in Korea


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  1. Paleo and gluten-free diets are nonsense. There is nothing wrong with gluten, its just that some people cannot digest it, but if you aren’t gluten sensitive or allergic and can process gluten there is nothing wrong with eating gluten. Eating gluten free will not make you lose weight, its just that you will not be able to eat a lot of high carb foods hence fewer calories and losing weight. Paleo diets are even more ridiculous because our digestive systems have changed so much, trying to eat the way people did that long ago will make you sick. There is nothing superior in health or nutrients in any Paleo diet.

    You don’t need a gimmick to lose weight, just lower your sugar/carb intake to a healthy level (no carb isn’t good for you either), make sure you are getting enough vitamins and protein and do some exercise. The issue is finding filling foods with low carbs and for most people find AFFORDABLE foods. It is more tricky in Korea for sure but hey, seems lots of people are on diets and I’ve heard of diet restaurants that have no rice and sell lots of chicken breast and sweet potatoes with cherry tomatoes-type meals. Don’t know how affordable they are.

    Point is please don’t stress trying to keep to some ridiculous gimmick diet. This is more a general comment because I don’t think Simon and Martina are doing anything wrong, just a general comment about some of these fad diets I see going around.

    2 years ago
    • I agree. During the summer, I worked at a place where we sold 100% free range, 100% organic hot dogs with weird toppings. There weren’t any hormones or preservatives, but in order to bind the hot dogs we have to infuse the dogs with gluten. It is still a very healthy hot dog, but it needs the gluten. The buns we sold also had like 1% gluten. 99% was potato flour, but it had to be there.

      The number of people on gluten-free diets got me grouchy. I had some people who were legitimately allergic to gluten and some who weren’t. The one’s who were allergic ate veggie dogs because the vegetarian ones were made of soy. Also, they’d avoid the bread and just have a dog with veggies or chili.

      But the ones who wern’t ate the regular hot dog with the bun…I just couldnt understand that. If you aren’t allergic to gluten, then eat the food. A lot of products have gluten in them. Even soy sauce. Gluten isn’t going to hurt you.

      I learnt from a coworker that gluten sensitivity is really recent. This is mainly because of more junk food and the more junk you eat, the more your system adapts to gluten. If you eat too much junk food that has gluten then yes, your system may have a negative effect, such as digestion issues.

      I had one customer that was Paleo. They said they had a day off from that diet… still don’t understand why… They were healthy looking, but still didn’t understand them…

      2 years ago
  2. I think that why you’re losing weight is also an important factor, no matter where you are. My dietician helps me to lay out a diet very similar to what FrenchDorito describes, and for similar reasons- it’s a healthier way to lose/avoid weight (and I get the same reasoning from doctors about simple carbs vs. complex carbs, by the way.) I’m a diabetic, so this is just routine for me. Most of my friends without chronic health conditions, however, just want to lose a lot of weight quickly! When you stop eating carbs entirely, it forces your body to draw on it’s fat reserves (so you lose weight) but this also places a lot of strain on important body organs.

    2 years ago
  3. Simon & Martina,

    Could you recommend some low-carb convenience store drinks here in Korea? Besides mineral water?

    2 years ago
  4. Oooh, some of these really sound good! Thanks for sharing the recipes, Martina!

    2 years ago
  5. Deb

    Ayo guise! TL;DR question here:
    How viral do viral songs/videos get in Korea? You know, songs like Somebody That I Used To Know, Party Rock Anthem, Call Me Maybe etc etc, and videos like Bed Intruder, Annoying Orange, Harlem Shake, and what not. I’m really curious about it because Korea has this huge internet culture but at the same time it seems like they don’t really get involve with Youtube and stuff. Thanks!!

    Deb from Singapore ^^

    2 years ago
  6. my parents eat a similar veggie smoothie! they call it the glowing green smoothie. I personally think it’s somewhat nasty. ^_^ that’s great you guys are being healthier! I know how hard it is. good job guise!

    2 years ago
  7. Actually, the whole world except for North America uses the metric system. ^^

    2 years ago
  8. my friend from the UK always talked about weight in stones… which is even more mind boggling than KG.. :P

    2 years ago
  9. Oh, I have a question for a TL;DR that sort of relates to this: Doctors, Illness, Hospitals, etc.

    Like the lovely Martina, I have a chronic health condition (sniff)… I used to travel and stay in India a lot when I was younger, but now I am finding the health care there is not doing it for my health stuff. My only experience of health care in Korea has been through Kdramas… which is a lot of fancy rich people hospitals… so I am sure not very accurate.

    Also I noticed in Kdramas a lot of times people get rushed off to the HOSPITAL (not the doctor’s office) for things where I would say… “go rest and drink some water” for here… is that all kdrama or do people use hospitals more than N. America (of course you crazy Canadians have nice universal healthcare… unlike us poor pathetic Americans.. sniff sniff). Speaking of that, does Korea have any kind of government provided health services?

    I am wondering though… how comprehensive is Korean health care? When/why/how often do people actually go to the doctor? How is the cost and any government programs? What’s a REAL hospital like inside? (Though hopefully you guyse haven’t had to go to one). What about complimentary care/food/etc? Is that commonly used by “mainstream” docs in addition to throwing some meds at you?

    2 years ago
  10. Ok, whoot whoot. Thanks for sharing this. I am currently trying to do what you guyse are already accomplishing (sigh dramatically) but unfortunately my partner in crime is on the TOO think side rather than on the “Let’s diet together!” side… so I am in this alone. Boo hoo. Sadness. But I need encouragement. So it was nice to see your video and what you guyse have been doing/eating.

    2 years ago
  11. YES MARTINA THANK YOU FOR THE RECIPES FINALLY IVE BEEN BEGGING FOR LIKE NEARLY A YEAR SINCE THE OTHER WEIGHT LOSS TLDR. I’ve been drinking alot of “green smoothies” recently and I actually find them quite delicious now xD Use banana (like 1/2 a banana per one large handful of greens) so it’ll basically mask the taste C: DEFINITELY WILL TRY OUT THE PANCAKES. And then I’ll work up the will power to finally start Atkins cuz I’ve been wimping out since I’ve broken it like 2 times already OTL

    2 years ago
  12. I’m Canadian and I kind of just alternate xD I use pounds when talking about like… a pound of potatoes or something, but, I use kg when talking about someone’s weight. That might just be me thought…

    2 years ago
  13. Ironic that I’m watching this while making crock pot mac ‘n’ cheese. Hehh…

    Thanks for sharing some recipes — the pizza crust sounds great! I’m going to try it for sure, since I’m out of premade crusts anyway.

    2 years ago
  14. Dear Martina and Simon

    I assume that in Korea most people are slim and healthy due to their diet (You know eating a lot of healthy things like sea food, fish and sea weed and of course RICEEE –>cause you obviously can´t live without rice) But I would be really interesting to know if poeple in Korea do a lot of sport and if that´s the case what the most popular sports are. Additionally to that it would be great if you could tell us about traditional sports like for example taekwondo. I don´t know if taekwondo is that popular in Korea but here in Austria there are more and more people interested in it.

    -from a fellow NASTY :S) –> that´s a smiley with a moustache ^^

    2 years ago
  15. Oh wow. My life has just drastically changed. I never knew.
    At least I’m not one of those people who mispronounces Nevada. I hate that almost as much as I hate hearing Illi-noise.

    2 years ago
  16. This might be a stupid qustion, but what site does Martina say she gets her ingredients from? I’ve played it back a couple times, and for the life of me can’t quite catch it! Love the post btw, just the boost I needed (getting bored of eating the same old stuff everyday… never did I believe I could be having pizza and not have to feel guilty afterwards!) <3

    2 years ago
  17. Funny, I was watching the video thinking “Oh there is nothing crazy about what they eat!” But then again I am a big health food nut. I totally understand you guys, eating healthy and working out change the way you think “normal” should feel. There has been plenty of times where I go on a three day junk food craze, and I feel just icky and regretful afterwards. It is like someone hit a slow button.

    I would love to see your recipes! I probably couldn’t do many of them since I am a pescetarian but i still like seeing what people do. (or maybe modify them)

    2 years ago
  18. Dear Simon and Martina,

    I loved reading all the recipes and hearing you guys talk about them, and I love the sound of the coconut pancakes and really want to try them, but does it work with almond flour? I’m just curious since I’m allergic to coconut…. I was hoping that it would turn out just as yummy to do that, and if you guys had tried it?

    2 years ago
  19. So I don’t know if anybody answered you for this already, but I’ll post it anyway. I asked my Korean friend what the meaning of 황제 was. She says it means emperor and that when you say “황제 다이어트” it is actually referring to a meat-only diet. The reason it is called the emperor diet is because a meat-only diet seems less harsh compared to other kinds of diets, in other words, it’s a luxury diet. So that would be why people stop badgering you to eat rice after you say it, because they believe you are on a meat-only diet!

    As for what else you could say to get people off of your backs, if you wanted to be more accurate with things, there are a few things you could try. She said that there are no diets in Korea that cut out rice, so you can’t simply say you’re on a specific type of diet. She suggest the best ways (if you didn’t want to continue saying you’re on a meat-only diet) would be to say you cannot digest rice well(1), you can’t eat carbs(2) or that your doctor told you you can’t eat white rice(3). Because you are foreigners, people are less likely to question you about it, although it will still sound strange to them.

    (1) “밥을 소화를 잘 못 시키겠어서 밥은 안 주셔도 돼요”

    (2) “탄수화물을 먹으면 안 돼서요”

    (3) “건강 상의 문제로 흰쌀밥은 의사가 먹지 말래요”

    I say try them out and see what reactions you get as compared to the “황제 다이어트” and just go with whatever works best for you out of the four. I hope I helped!!

    2 years ago
  20. Please share more recipes! I’m trying to do a low carb diet, but as an asian, rice has been an essential, and living in America, bread and pizza are so hard to be without. So i really really love the recipes you have on this post.

    2 years ago
  21. My friend (who is here in Korea with me) is deathly allergic to flax seed..:(

    2 years ago
  22. Hello Simon, and Martina
    I have rewound and replay the video several times but I can not seem to catch the site you use to order your flours.

    2 years ago
  23. Yes!!! I’m from North Carolina and go to college in SC. How do people not know how to say that!

    2 years ago
  24. TLTR Question:

    How is the culture around Taekwondo and/or Hapkido in Korea? Do the majority of koreans usually practice martial arts? or at leats do they know th basic? It is commun to learn it since a young age? or it’s like similar to “western” and you start like “extracurricular activity” as other sports?

    I ‘ve read this same question a couple of time here and I find it really interesting, so I’m supporting it !

    2 years ago
  25. Mmmmmm!!! I can’t wait to try those coconut pancakes! And that piza crust sounds awesome!

    2 years ago
  26. At least it’s a bit reasonable but the battle cm vs inch… why do they use inchs?

    BTW, my name is Carmen, too ^-^

    2 years ago
    • I work in healthcare in the U.S. and we use metric measurements, celsius, etc at work…. so I know the proper weight of a newborn baby in kg, the normal temp of a newborn in celsius, but the normal weight for adults and their temp in farhenhiet. (omg I can’t even spell it… murrrrgh). Then a parent will ask.. “what was my baby’s weight today?” and I am all befullded because it is WAY to hard to convert from KG to pounds and ounces. Ugh Ounces. Why why why. I wish America would just just off the metric cliff

      2 years ago
    • I can’t tell you why the US choose not to use the SI system (especially considering how much I use it as a USA science major) but I can tell you why we haven’t changed it. Status quo. Everything would have to be completely redone from highway signs to food labels. It would be an extremely hard change to implement and many people would be unhappy.

      2 years ago
  27. ahahah this reminds me of my mom!!
    she thinks none of us at home are full up if we don’t eat rice for one day!! and we’re all like ‘mom…you raised us in England…we’re used to not eating rice for every meal!’

    2 years ago
  28. so I see that you guys are into smoothies! I had a roommate my freshman year who was HUGE on green smoothies. One that we cam up with together is the following: (one person serving)
    handfull of spinach leaves
    1 green kiwi
    half a banana
    and a 1/4 to 1/2 cup soy milk( unsweetened)
    blend and taa daa~! It’s really delicious^^
    I need to start making more smoothies again since it’s getting hot here in Texas~

    2 years ago
  29. Going off of you question: Is there really such a gap in wealthy and non wealthy as the Dramas seem to show? Do wealthy Koreans really think they can’t be around poorer Koreans? Do wealthy Koreans really have guys in suits that will hunt down their children and drag them back home if needed?

    2 years ago
  30. I got hungry even though I was eating while watching this…. AAAND that also caused me to barely hear anything x)

    2 years ago
  31. Xylitol is not coconut sugar. it’s a sugar alcohol made from the wood sugar Xylose. Odds are if you are in the states, any xylitol you get will be made from corn cobs or sugarcane bagasse (the byproducts of corn-syrup and cane sugar respectively)..

    2 years ago
  32. Xylitol has nothing inherent to do with coconuts though it could be made from coconut byproducts. It’s a sugar alcohol derived from Xylose (a wood sugar). The most common sources of xylose are corn cob and sugarcane bagasse which means xylitol is a byproduct of the byproducts of the corn-syrup and cane sugar industries. It is highly toxic to dogs and like all sugar alcohols can cause severe intestinal discomfort in people. It’s not coconut sugar.

    2 years ago
  33. Good tips + good laughs = TLDR

    2 years ago
  34. Guys, can you do a language segment? Seriously, I’m learning so much from you – like banchan, gugsu, soju, makkoli, e-mart (haha) – but a lot of the time you say stuff really quickly, or just gloss over it. You did a video a while ago about stringing together phrases, that would be awesome as a segment!

    2 years ago
  35. I’ve seen crack heads cook (I was working in a harmreduction shelter in canada). It’s moreso they tweak out and leave the stove/oven on. Pretty scary! But they moreso don’t cook, usually crack fills them up.

    I don’t cut rice out of my diet, I do more of a Dash – low fat, high fiber, lots of veg, low sodium diet, which has worked well for me. Is brown rice an option at restaurants? How about low sodium?

    2 years ago
  36. TLDR idea: Do you think you could have Leigh do a segment on student life in Korea? I am curious to know about the differences between American schools and Korean schools from the student’s point of view.

    2 years ago
    • I am also very curious about student life! I know you two didn’t o to college there but I guess you could ask around? Is it true that it is a lot more “hardcore” than in North America? I’m debating going to college in Korea and I just want to make sure the school system wouldn’t be too much for my American self to handle! Thanks so much for all of the videos! You guys are so funny and I find myself looking forward to Mondays and Wednesdays every week!

      2 years ago
  37. Thank you, thank you, thank you! As someone who’s looking into teaching in Korea in the near future and is trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle, this will definitely help. Question, however… Is there such things as English-speaking gyms over there? Is it hard to get a membership and/or are there any major differences between the North American standards and Korean standards for gyms?

    2 years ago
  38. As a person who is always struggling with the weight battle, it is always nice to hear from others who are fighting the same fight and winning. The fact that this ties in with other things I am interested in gets me really excited to go out and try some new things. Thank you guys sooo much and I can’t wait to try out some of these recipes. :)
    Oh and if nobody else said it, 1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds Martina.

    2 years ago
  39. 안 녕 친구

    I have a question that I can not seem to answer on my own. Why when I look up info on Korean actors and actresses do they give their blood type? This has been bugging me for some time, I hope you guys can help me. Hope you guys had a great Thursday and happy almost TGIF ^_^

    2 years ago
  40. WILL DO. But speaking of packing things in suitcases, I plan on being in Korea longer than just a year and was wanting to ship books and a few other things to myself, is there anything that you guise use that’s cheaper than FEDEX or USPS?

    2 years ago