I've been back in the States now for three months, and my health is definitely improving from all the cycling I've been doing, but my eating has not been as healthy as it could be. I'm not putting myself under a lot of pressure about it, but I'm definitely trying to plan how I can eat better when I get back to Buenos Aires.
I try to stick to a paleo-ish diet at least 80% of the time (No grains, little dairy- a diet of mostly lean meats, fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables). Lately, this percent has probably gone down to about 50 or 60%, because my family eats different things and it's hard not to eat grains when they are in the house.
But it is possible to eat a paleo diet in Argentina, especially in the city, because meat markets and vegetable markets are all within walking distance. I just have to take the time to walk to them. And now that my Spanish is good enough to actually speak with the vendors, it should
be easier. Here is a list of things I am going to shoot for, and things I'm going to try to avoid:
The good list:
1. Meat, of course. Argentine beef is grass-fed, so it is pretty lean. I eat a lot of red meat and my digestion is fine, and my cholesterol is fine. I can order a variety of meat at a parrilla along with a salad and skip the bread. It is easy to get organ meats in Argentina, as well. I love the sweetbreads.
2. Fish- Argentines don't eat a lot of fish, typically, but there are fish markets, and I need to learn a few more types of fish in Spanish so I can pick out some good fish for a quick dinner. Most restaurants have at least one fish on the menu, typically merluza.
3. Salads- when eating out at a cafe, salads usually consist of a list of vegetables you can have cut up and put in a bowl, served with oil and vinegar. You choose from a list- beets, carrots, and lettuce, for example. I definitely need to take advantage of this more often.
4. Nuts. I don't eat enough of these. It's a great way to get some good fat, and make me feel full. They are generally pretty pricey compared to other things in the grocery store, so I tend to avoid them.
The bad list:
1. Pizza. Cheese and bread do not a healthy person make. Carbs, + fat + salt. Avoid when possible.
2. Empanadas. Hard to avoid. They are everywhere, cheap, and fast. Meat and/or cheese filled savory pastry. Some are fried. Ham and cheese is popular.
3. Pasta. There are a lot of home-made pasta shops, so I have to try hard to avoid these as well. Once in a while I will splurge on a special occasion. But a pasta meal makes me feel bad the next day if I am not used to eating it.
4. Pastries. Croissants, facturas, etc. In shop windows everywhere, and popular for breakfast. Not as evil as Krispy-Kreme, but almost.
The once-in-a-while list:
1. Tarts. These are very popular, and although they are made with a dough crust on the bottom, they are usually filled with eggs, and various different kind of vegetables. Squash is popular, as is acelga, which I believe is similar to chard.
2. Milanesa Napolitana. Breaded chicken or beef cutlet, fried, and topped with tomato sauce and cheese. There is usually too much cheese to be healthy, but it is so good, I gotta have it once in a while. And other than the breading, there is not much grain. They usually use safflower oil for frying.
3. Picada. This is a platter of meats and cheeses for snacking. Many come with nuts as well. I try to avoid meats that are processed with salt and nitrates. But it is an adequate choice once in a while, when shopping or walking around on a hot day, with a beer. Since there is so much fat, they are very filling, so a little goes a long way.
4. Yogurt. Argentines love their yogurt, but it's hard to get natural yogurt that doesn't have a lot of stuff added. I can find sugar-free yogurt, but that has aspartame, which I don't think is great on a daily basis. But it helps the digestion, and you can't buy the digestive supplements in pill form like you can in the states.
Like I said, I'm not a diet nazi, but I try to keep myself within the 80% range of a paleo-type diet. I do have ice cream occasionally, or pasta. But the healthier I eat, the worse I feel when I go off the pattern, so I can keep it pretty steady when I am on a roll. With a little will-power, it is possible to eat paleo in Argentina.
This post was written, in part, for affordablecallingcards.net where Julia writes about her expat adventures, as well as on this blog. You can follow her in both places.
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