Go to Google, and search central america foods. Does Dairy Queen in Baton Rouge appear as the first result on the map? It does for me, but this post is not about Blizzards, Dilly Bars, or my personal favorite, the Brownie Earthquake. Forget I even mentioned Dairy Queen (if that’s possible) and think ahead to your next trip to Central America where your cravings will be for colorful fresh fruit. Although fruit is plentiful and cheap in Central America, don’t expect to find many of the dieter-friendly foods that are so common in the U.S. While in Nicaragua, I traveled around the country quite a bit but never encountered egg whites, turkey bacon, skinny lattes, Skinny Cow (healthier version of DQ), 12 grain bread,100 calorie packs, or baked potato chips. citibank site down . My rude awakening was when I went into the largest grocery store, Pali (which is owned by Wal-Mart), looking for a high protein cereal like Kashi. The closest I could find was corn flakes. Everything else screamed sugar coma. I did eventually find bran in a smaller specialty store that also offered the first whole wheat tortillas I had seen in the country, but it was over $6 a box!
Menus can be even more challenging to navigate than the supermarket if you plan on sticking to your State-side habits. Not only are they often in Spanish, but you won’t find calorie counts or Weight Watcher’s point values so there’s no point in looking. Instead, spend your time learning a few key words that will help you experience the unique foods and flavors of Central America without completely compromising any healthy habits you wish to hold on to as you travel. Here are four that I use all the time.
Sin Azucar – “Sin” in Spanish does not send you to confession. It means “without” and with “azucar” meaning sugar, sin azucar is a great phrase to know. I’ve heard that Costa Ricans are addicted to sugar, and it’s common to see them with cheeks bulging from Bon Bums (lollipops.) Most smoothies, even if they are made with sweet, fresh fruit, have added sugar, and I was shocked to see plain sugar syrup added to milkshakes at the Costa Rica version of Dairy Queen, Pop’s. I think that cookies ‘n cream ice cream mixed with whole milk is sweet enough.
Pan Integral – Pan means bread and integral means wheat. White bread seems to be served 90% of the time, but I’ve learned that it never hurts to ask if they have pan integral, even if it’s not listed on the menu. I do this at Simon Says which serves wonderful garlic toast with their salads. But unless you ask, you’ll get white. Finding whole wheat tortillas is far more challenging so I’ve learned to wrap white.
Aderezo Aparte – I’ll let you figure out which word means dressing and which word means separate. While most restaurants in Central America don’t have a huge selection of salad dressings, I’ve found that most of them have vinegar, salsa, and plenty of hot sauce on hand if you want to add fat-free flavor to your greens. If you’re in Costa Rica, ask for Lizano, a low-cal salsa/sauce that I would choose if I had to live the rest of my life with only one condiment. Knowing how much I fancy Dijon, that’s a big statement. After learning that Lizano is not as commonplace in Nicaragua’s restaurants, I even began to carry a bottle around in my backpack!
Coke Light – While a bottle of water is my go-to travel beverage, every afternoon I start to crave carbonation. As in Europe, Diet Coke is better known as Coke Light in Central America. Sadly, don’t expect to drink many fountain sodas as cans and bottles are used by almost every establishment that serves soda. Fun fact, soda is called “gaseosa” in Central America. Would you like gas with that?
Bonus Feature: To learn how to lose weight in Central America, read the funny article below by Christopher Sanford for the Seattle Times in 1994.