How to be a foodie abroad without breaking the scale!

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While living abroad, it can be easy to cave into a gluttonous lifestyle. We don’t want to hold back on a single experience, including the amazing foods that reflect the culture we’re surrounded by. Don’t get me wrong, you should ABSOLUTELY take advantage of trying new foods, drinks, desserts, eating styles, but don’t forget how this could affect your health as well.

First time living abroad – food indulgence:

My first time living abroad was in Dublin, Ireland. It was cold, rainy and the comfort foods were endless. Not holding back, I ate a chocolate croissant every morning for breakfast, some take out for lunch, and typically fried fish or burger and chips for dinner.  Naturally each meal came with a cider or heavy beer to top it off and big nights out happened almost every day. Add a few months to this lifestyle, and naturally I gained 8-10lbs in as little as two months! After some serious dieting and regular exercising, I was back to my normal weight, also realizing that all the food was not worth the extreme weight gain I experienced during my time abroad.

Second time living abroad – home cooked meals:

Heredia, Costa Rica was the second time I lived abroad; however, only short term. For one month, I lived with a host family while taking classes at a local university. “Mi mama tica” cooked every meal, with a variety of spreads so I could experience their culture from a very real perspective. Fruit and cereal for breakfast, a packed lunch (sandwich and some fruit) and a variety of traditional spreads for dinner. On the weekends I would travel and indulge in the restaurant and night life. Because I was eating mainly home cooked meals and loads of fruit, I came back to the US about the same weight (maybe a few pounds lighter) as before I left. Learning from my previous experience, living with a host family was truly one of the best ways to keep a healthy diet as well as taste the real cultural foods of this country.

Third time living abroad – happy medium:

My most recent time living abroad was in Barcelona, Spain. Everyone was beautiful, metropolitan and fit! And with reason. The Mediterranean lifestyle enhances their food menus with a plethora of fish, vegetables and wine. There were obviously many places to indulge in fast food, but I was set on eating the local cuisine in a healthy way. For breakfast, I typically ate fruit and eggs, lunch was eaten later in the day (siesta time) which was usually a Mediterranean rice dish or the occasional burger, and dinner always included a salad. As one of the party capitals in the world, naturally we indulged in the night life but mostly with lighter beverages such as wine or sangria instead of beer. My fellow American travelers and I all agreed we had lost a few pounds based on the healthy culture as well as our mission to only indulge on occasion.

Moving to a new place can cause unwanted stress on the body: hopping around hostels, moving around the country, touring every day. Naturally we fall subject to the fast and easy food options while living this nomadic lifestyle. Once settled in your new life, it’s much easier to “live like a local” by cooking for yourself, learning the cultural cuisine and choosing the healthier option off the restaurant menu. Trust me, your body will thank you later!

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