Healthy Eating on Your Mexican Vacation

The bad news is watch the creamy sauces. The good news is that every corn tortilla you eat provides 40mg of calcium. So how do you achieve a balance while you’re eating festively in Mexico, as I did recently at a four-star hotel in Ixtapa?

Most North Americans know how to avoid illness when they travel south. Drink bottled water, stay away from raw fruit and vegetables peeled by others, leave the lettuce, and, some people say avoid fish and shellfish. If you stay at a classy place, you won’t even have to think about it. For example, all the fruits and vegetables have been disinfected before they are laid out in front of you.

But maintaining fitness in the face of Mexico’s culinary temptations at a four or five star hotel, meals included, takes planning. I go by three basic principles: serving myself small portions, selecting snacks thoughtfully, and avoiding fatty food like carnitas, cake or cookies, and pizza, all readily available in Mexico. Just as at home, fast food is usually fatty food, often made with cheese high in saturated fat..

Of course, not all fat is equally bad. When I want to snack, I munch on shelled monounsaturated peanuts or an avocado, all coming in their natural covers. What could be more Mexican than one of those dark green pear-shaped fruits with the light green insides, many of them grown nearby in Michoacan? At your luxury hotel, you may find the avocado half filled with a creamy or mayonnaise sauce. Eat the avocado and leave half the filling. You may even be lowering the low-density cholesterol level in your blood.

At a hotel that includes meals in the price, you’ll need to control your portions yourself Especially during the first two days of my four-day stay, I found restraining myself almost a game. I always served myself on a small plate instead of a large one, then filled it with my choice of mostly healthy offerings.

At breakfast in your hotel , you can easily avoid eggs if you like because you’ll find other choices. You’ll find a variety of tropical fruit, besides homemade bread and the chance to make your own whole wheat toast. Yoghurt is another popular choice.. Later in the day, if you see lentil soup on a restaurant menu, you’ll be eating a dish Mexicans enjoy and adding to your fiber intake at the same time.: If your hotel does not offer skim milk, you can either buy some yourself and keep it in the refrigerator in your room or get your calcium the Mexican way in beans and corn tortillas. Remember, that the healthiest beans (an important source of calcium for Mexicans) are ones that have not been refried.

But what about those enchiladas suizas, shrimp cocktails, burritos filled with succulent pork, cream soups and other goodies that spice up a trip to Mexico? You can keep thinking small portions, even if you leave food on your plate. A bowl of tasty chicken soup is just as tasty (and Mexican) as the cream soup you pass up. If you decide to go out for a special meal , choose a caldo de pescado (fish) instead of one with mariscos The tasty tomato broth will be the same but you’ll be eating fish instead of shrimp and oysters. And don’t forget the fresh salsa, that cilantro, tomato, onion, chile mixture popular in Mexico that fives almost anything, an extra spark…

At my hotel, each guest is entitled to one “cena especial,” a special supper in a small dining room where instead of eating buffet style the elegant meal is served by a waiter. The portions may seem small compared with those served in a North American restaurant serves, but this is a national difference, not stinginess on the part of the hotel management. The choices include international style cuisine. I started with smoked salmon, ate most of my chicken breast stuffed with wild rice and ended with a small slice of tamarind-topped pie. This one time, let your own personality decide for you. You may be surprised that instead of going for broke, you leave half the sauce on your plate.

Finally, remember to keep drinking fluids whether your vacation consists of walking on the beach, breasting the waves, going on excursions or just sunning. Your all-inclusive package includes soda pop, beer, just about anything you’d want to drink except champagne and whiskey. Since alcohol is a diuretic, non-alcoholic drinks makes a better choice, at least most of the time.

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