You've decided to dine out, and the new Thai spot around the corner tempts you. Here are a few reasons why you should try Thai tonight.

The flavours harmonize. At the heart of Thai cuisine is a balance of five flavours - spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. You'll savour these harmonious tastes across the courses of a Thai meal - from spring roll, soup, or salad to curries, noodle dishes, and rice platters. Chili pepper, garlic or ginger pack the spice, and lemongrass or lime often provides the sour twist. Coconut milk or brown rice syrup stir in sweetness, and fermented fish or soy sauce will stand in for salt. A hint of bitterness might come from dark green vegetables or chunks of bitter melon.

"Family style" may shrink portion size. At Thai restaurants, you'll often see tablemates sharing their food. This is known as "family style," and it is the normal way to eat a Thai meal. Family style is also the most natural way to partake of the five-flavoured balance of Thai food. Also, sharing food might mean you will be less likely to overeat. You will be given an empty plate on which to scoop small portions of each dish that has been ordered at your table. That is, unless you ordered a noodle dish, which is considered an individual rather than shared dish. Coincidentally, noodles are also one of the only Thai foods to be eaten with chopsticks instead of fork and spoon.

Beneficial foods abound. A Thai restaurant menu overflows with healthful options. For instance, Thai salads are not your usual pile of greens topped with dressing. A Thai salad will often be a sweet fruit - mango or papaya - shredded and spiked with spicy chili and sour lime. Soups blend sweet-and-savoury ingredients like coconut milk and lemongrass or galangal root - which lends its zest but may be too fibrous to eat! Be aware, though, that coconut milk has 40 grams of fat per cup, most of which is "bad" saturated fat - so if that soup has more than a little bit of coconut milk, a clear soup might be a healthier call. There should be several clear broth soup options on the menu.

Main courses served with jasmine or white sticky rice will be offered with a meat or tofu and a variety of colourful, wholesome vegetables, including fragrant leaves of basil. And sauces made from peanut, chili, or fish sauce complement each course. Scan the menu and seek the more wholesome options - like, say, fresh spring rolls instead of fried ones, or satay skewers of lean chicken instead of beef.

Amy Toffelmire