Eatin’ healthy (and cheap)

Eating cheaply on the road involves doing pretty much the same thing as eating cheaply at home: don’t eat in restaurants, cook for yourself, make rich friends who take you out to dinner. But eating healthily, according to your personal iteration of healthy, can be harder.

Unfortunately for vegans, celiacs, and other people with highly specialized diets, food you can eat is probably going to be expensive if you can find it at all.  You will likely have to make all meals yourself.  Vegetarians will have a slightly easier time of it, particularly, as in India, in countries where vegetarianism is common.

Dieters or those counting calories will have a truly difficult time.  Most of the rest of the world (outside North America and Western Europe) doesn’t like or want diet sodas, bread-free meals, or low-fat entrees — your new friends abroad are more likely to press a delicious meal on you because they think you are too skinny than help you find Sweet n’Low.

Eating healthy abroad is easier than you think.  For one thing, there are regular markets with fresh fruit, vegetables, and even fish and meat available at least one day a week in every town I’ve ever been to.  Shop and eat the way the locals do to save money and eat well.  The majority of meals eaten by non-North Americans are prepared from scratch (no pre-processed foods), using fresh local ingredients.  It’s the Hundred Mile Diet by necessity.

Also, emulate your new friends and savor your meals; North Americans in particular have a tendency to rush eating, gulping food and moving on to the next thing.  Take time to enjoy each bite and the company you’re eating it in and you will both eat less (cheaper and healthier) and have a better time.  When cooking, make only enough for you (and your friends!) to eat, to avoid wasting food or throwing anything away for lack of refrigeration; if you do have leftovers, offer them to guests at your hostel.

Rather than worrying about getting organic food or restricting your diet, relax and enjoy what’s available.  Eat a balanced diet, particularly if you’re doing a lot of exercise/walking (lots of protein!), and buy food in supermarkets to bring with you as snacks so you are never stuck buying ice cream from that little boy on the bus screaming “Heladoheladohelado!”  A lot of other countries don’t snack the way North Americans do, but fresh fruit (peelable or washable only), small bags of nuts or chips, and the like go in a day pack and keep you proteined.  The food stands inside Tikal are about four times as expensive as buying a chocolate bar at the supermarket in  town.  Although remember: part of eating healthily is splurging now and then, eating treats, and enjoying life.

 Also, what about The Bottled Water Dilemma: constantly buying bottles of water is money-consuming, a pain and bad for the environment, but if you’re in a country where the tap water isn’t safe…  Consider carrying a small backpacking water filtration system with a viricide to purify fresh water wherever you are.  A small initial expense could leave you with fresh, pure water wherever you are.

I don’t have a problem with eating food from home, either; if you have a craving for McDonald’s, go for it.  Just not too often.  And it’s usually way more expensive than a street vendor, which is more delicious and often better for you.  Unless you get dysentery.

    Posted by | Comments Off on Eatin’ healthy (and cheap)  | September 15, 2008
    Category: General

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