Eating Healthy In Latin America, Part Three: Less Expensive Local Options   1 comment

One of the joys of traveling is enjoying the local food. I mean who wants to go to Cartagena, Colombia and eat at KFC. Well, OK some do. But for many more travelers enjoying the local food is a part of the adventure. Eating locally, off the beaten track, in both Costa Rica and Colombia are inexpensive ways to find great food. Now my caveat is that I am not a meat eater. So, this post is slanted to the fast that both countries are rich in everything I eat. The fish and seafood come from within a two hour radius. The vegetables and fruits are generally grown within an hour’s drive from the vendor or grocery store. And the breads and pastries, my downfalls, are less sugary and rich in natural ingredients.

In Costa Rica, there are hundreds of sodas, small neighborhood convenience stores or eateries serving “comidas rapido,” local fast food, from burgers to sandwiches to chicken or fish dinners and everything in between. These are the places where I love to eat breakfast or grab something for lunch. I cannot attest to the empanadas, which come with chicken, beef or cheese and are a local favorite. I like to get the gallo pinto (rice and peas), eggs and toast. Sodas are inexpensive, some with tables and chairs and many with just a window serving food to the street, with meal prices ranging from $1 to about $7 US.

In Barranquilla, Colombia the restaurants of the Las Flores barrio are my favorite. Many locals go for a nice typical dinner. I once met a teacher and his class of twelve or so students celebrating one student’s birthday at one of the restaurants. Las Flores restaurants are like shanties with a kitchen on the first floor close to the river, where the fishermen bring their catch, and the dining areas on the second and possibly a third floor. Prices for fish, usually fried, salad and patacones usually run around $5 to $6 US.

Local restaurants cater to people who have grown accustom to the micro-organisms in the water. So when eating salads, I drench them in lemon juice which is a great bacteria and chemical cleaning agent. I do not use ice, except in Costa Rica, where the filtration system, especially in cities and developed areas, are more to my comfort. In Colombia my system has not adapted yet, so I do not drink fruit punch or anything cold made with local water or contains ice.

Arepas and bollos are two of my favorite street foods. Though my costeno friends, people from Colombia’s coast, hate to hear me say it I really like arepas made by paisas, people from the cafeteria departments of Colombia. Early one morning friends and I were driving from Manizales to Risaralda. We stopped at a line of roadside food stands, ordering for arepas and coffee. A wonderfully pleasant lady complied putting a few of these thick round corn meal cakes on the grill. After about 10 minutes she slathered them with butter and handed them to us hot with a slice of cheese and a cup of coffee. The cost for the three of us was around $5. I was in heaven. Bollos, a kind of corn mush boiled in corn husks, are made sometimes sweet with cocoa and/or sugar or containing chicken, fish, vegetables or beef, these thick fast food dishes are served on the streets and in the super markets alike. Bollos can range from $.50 to $2. Bollos are prepared with boiling water. I have not had any problem eating them. I love bollos with fish or plain. They are filling and flavorful.

When I buy local fruits and vegetables, especially from street vendors, I know that there is a greater potential for herbicides and pesticides to get into my system. The standards are different. I wash local fruits and vegetables in vinegar and water thoroughly before eating or cooking. Also, eating out often can invite a variety of oils into my system that has my face looking like that of a teenage boy. The problem seems to be that restaurants and road side stands use a grade of oils, grassos, that are often of not high quality. During my extended stays, a week or more, I try to stay in places where I can cook. This gives me more control over the amount of oil I am taking into my system. I have also learned to eat heavier during the day and drink something hot after meals so my system has a better chance of getting rid of the oils I am consuming. And though I am in misery over it, I have also learned to eat less bread and pastries which are heavy in the oils that my system does not tolerate well. Keeping the heart unhealthy and system clogging oils to a minimum helps me retain the benefits of the fresh seafood, vegetables and fruits I am eating; keeping me young in body and spirit longer.

Posted June 20, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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One response to “Eating Healthy In Latin America, Part Three: Less Expensive Local Options

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  1. Hi, Wayne. Sounds like you are enjoying your travels. Many thanks and regards,
    -Sue Parisien

    Suzanne Parisien

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