Food & Cuisine

Is it possible to lose weight in Costa Rica, the carb-laden land of rice and beans? Are you doomed look like a mound of sand while sunbathing on the beach? Is contracting the random parasite the only hope of ever feeling your hip bones again? There is no need for dieting in Costa Rica. Chayotes and picadillos to the rescue.

While The Parasite Diet is certainly effective, it is not particularly easy to contract due the abundance of potable water in this country. And it is a miserable way to go, requiring you to stay indoors and restricting you basically to one room of the house, if you make it in time. If you know what I mean.

Actually, Costa Rica is a great place to eat healthy and lose weight. If you decide to live here, you might even be able to keep it off. If you are just visiting and you wolf down a Big Mac combo meal on the way home from the airport, maybe not.

Here are 4 reasons Costa Rica is a good place to diet, but remember you need some exercise as well:

Costa Rica fruit market1. Fresh fruits and vegetables are inexpensive and abundant. Since they are often sold by the side of the road, pulling over and rolling down your window makes buying fruit just like going through a drive-thru, if that is your customary way to obtain food. Pineapples, papayas, and watermelons are enormous, sugar-sweet, and sold year round. Mangos and cantaloupes are seasonal, but when they are “in” they are everywhere! Most larger towns have farmer’s markets on the weekend where you will find tables piled high with vegetables. Some US vegetables might be missing (like sweet potatoes), but their absence is compensated for by many local vegetables that may quickly become new favorites. And there is still a type of sweet potato called “camote”—it just isn’t very orange inside and the taste might vary a bit from what you are used to.

2. Picadillos! This is a local dish made up of finely chopped vegetables combined with a small amount of meat. Some local and lo-cal favorites are green beans and carrots or chayote with a bit of ground beef. Season your picadillo with lots of garlic and fresh oregano from your neighbors yard and YUM! Eat the whole pot-full if you like. Speaking of chayotes…

chayote picadillo

Chayotes stacked up in a supermarket

3. Chayotes! This vegetable is a dieter’s best friend. The chayote looks a bit like a big, green pear and grows gourd-like on a vine. They are prolific and therefore always inexpensive—you can buy 3 for less than $1.00 if your neighbor doesn’t give you a bucket full for free. An entire chayote (6” long) has only 39 calories. Peel it, remove the seed, and then chop it up into small cubes and saute it for the aforementioned picadillo. Or steam slices, coat them in egg and fry in a pan to make “chancletas.” Add them to a broth-based soup, blend them for a creamy curry soup, or bulk up a salad with steamed and chilled chayotes. Just don’t eat them raw. That’s weird.

Cattle in Costa Rica

4. Lean meats. You know those ribeye steaks marbled with fat that you can buy in the States? You can’t buy those here. Why? (Well you can but you pay an arm and a leg for it but ask me and I will tell you where you can get that type of beef cheaper than North America) Because our cattle roam a range that gets pretty sparse toward the end of the dry season. No feed lots for beefing up (get it?) the cows here! Our Brahmas are range-fed, roaming in search of green grass, just trying to stay alive until they can get to the slaughterhouse (the irony!). You may have to work to tenderize the meat a bit, because IT IS LEAN. Having said that it is actually better for you as it is grass feed versus gain feed, but that’s a whole different subject. I believe the pigs are raised in confinements, however the pork is still relatively lean. When I buy ground pork, I have to add fat to the pan to keep it from sticking.

People walking the beach in Costa Rica

So, whatever diet you are doing—Atkins, Paleo, Keto, South Beach, or counting points with Weight Watchers—Costa Rica is your friend. It doesn’t hurt that all those beautiful baked goods you see in the bakery window have no flavor whatsoever. Just a heads’ up. Baking is not a Costa Rica forte in my opinion.

Remember along with the great options in food to help lose weight, don’t forget to enjoy the outdoors and get your body moving. Take a long walk along one of the great beaches here. Go for a hike in the rain forest or maybe even attend a yoga seminar. Just do it.

Now make yourself a fresh fruit smoothie and head to the beach! After swimming a couple of laps, lay down on your towel and…wait! Are those my hip bones I feel?

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