Katy, the registered dietitian behind Have Fruit Will Travel, emailed me about a guest post – from South America! She is in the middle of a year-long globe trotting adventure with her husband. We agreed the ideal topic for Katy would be to write about how she is finding healthy food to eat across the world. Vacation pounds can settle in fast, and since travel is her lifestyle at the moment Katy gives some good tips on eating well abroad.
In June of 2014 my fiancé, Nick, and I quit our jobs to travel around the world for a year. We started in Costa Rica, then traveled south to Panama, Brazil and Uruguay and are currently in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Next we are off to Europe and Asia. Since the inception of this plan, the foodie in me has been drooling at the thought of getting to try food from all over the world, I truly believe you cannot experience a culture without experiencing their foods.
As a dietitian though, I was a little concerned: how were we going to make sure we were getting the nutrients we needed and avoid giving into the “free for all” mindset that comes with vacations? After all, this isn’t so much a vacation, it’s a whole year and neither our wallets nor our bodies would thank us for engaging in that kind of eating. Not to mention, a healthy diet is just as important while traveling; it helps to keep your immune system strong (think of all the germs on an airplane or subway), helps prevent your digestive system from getting too out of whack and I just tend to feel better when I eat healthier.
Fortunately, we have been able to find a balance. I keep the dietitian in me happy by making sure we are getting enough of the good (fruits, vegetable, fiber and protein) while still enjoying the occasional indulgence. Filling up on the good has helped ensure that we don’t go overboard with the indulgences. We try not to splurge at the expense of healthy foods and no matter what we try to make sure we get enough fruits and vegetables; even if some nights that just means adding extra veggies to a pizza.
It has only been too easy to keep the foodie in me happy. We have really enjoyed trying the local specialties that bring out the best of each area. In Costa Rica we ate lots of rice and bean based dishes full of veggies. In Bocas del Toro, Panama, there was tons of fresh fish and almost every restaurant had their own mouthwatering ceviche. Brazil made the most of their abundant fruit with acai berries and fruit smoothie stands galore. Here in Buenos Aires it is all about beef, wine and Puerto Cerrados.
A Puerto Cerrado, or closed door restaurant, is basically foodie heaven. Chefs open their homes as tiny restaurants, the locations kept top secret until the reservation is confirmed. There are no menus; instead dinner is several courses, paired with wine, of whatever the chef has lovingly created. We absolutely couldn’t pass that up. So we went, savored every delicious calorie, and cut back elsewhere, opting for lighter foods the next couple of days. Fortunately we are currently staying in an apartment with a kitchen. We have alternated between renting apartments in cities where we have stayed longer and hotels for shorter stays. Here in Buenos Aires we have a hotplate and a microwave- it’s not much but with a little creativity we have been able to come up with some killer, veggie packed dishes. We always try to have cooked beans and grains on hand, as they are cheap, high in protein and fiber and so easy to throw together for a quick salad or stir-fry. We cook at “home” for at least two of our three meals.
When we do go out I keep my dietitian side happy by splitting meals. Splitting meals is not only a cheaper option (so important to us right now) but it means automatic portion control and we both feel satisfied, not stuffed. When we order two meals we both end up eating too much because we feel obligated to finish our meals. We never know when we will be home and don’t want to carry a box around with us for hours.
The best thing we have learned is to always, always have healthy snacks with us everywhere we go. Thanks to all the hiking, sightseeing and exploring cities we spend a lot of time away from home, sometimes longer than we anticipate, and have found snacks to be a life saver. When either of us gets hungry, things go downhill fast. Ever heard the term “hangry?” It is only a slight exaggeration to say healthy snacks have saved our relationship. Eating a quick bite to avoid becoming ravenous also helps reduce the allure that sugar and calorie bombs like bakery treats or gelato always seem to have when I get hungry.
We have enjoyed our travels so far and look forward to whatever food and adventures are next. One thing is for sure, we will face it with plenty of healthy snacks and vegetables!
Katy Bloxsom, RD
Katy Bloxsom, RD, quit her job as a corporate dietitian to travel the world in 2014. However, she will always be a dietitian and is passionate about education and healthy eating no matter where she is or what she is doing. She wants to prove healthy can also be delicious. The world is full of healthy and delicious foods and she enjoys introducing people to healthy eating through novel and interesting foods. She approaches healthy eating with the attitude that all foods can be part of a healthy lifestyle- in moderation. She believes everyone can live healthier by making small, sustainable changes and focusing on healthy food choices.