Happily Nourished Blog

Nutrition and Culture: Costa Rican Tipica!

Well the past few months have been exciting and busy! I apologize for abondoning you just in time for the holidays! I was planning a wedding last year so the fall came and went before I could barely notice! We left for our honeymoon in Costa Rica just after the wedding and got back just in time for Christmas. I hope you all had an amazing holiday and New Year! My next blog post will definitely be about the New Year and your resolutions, but for now I can’t stop thinking about the food in Costa Rica!

First of all, almost everything we ate was delicious! Even my husband enjoyed just about every meal, and his usual go-tos at home are steak and potatoes or chicken parm and pasta. I’m thrilled that he ventured out of his comfort zone because cooking at home should become much less boring! There aren’t many healthy meals I can make that he’ll actually eat, but that’s all about to change now that we adapted in to the Costa Rican culture for 9 days.

The first time we had “tipica” Costa Rican cuisine was when we ventured out of our hotel on the 3rd night to what the Ticos call a “Soda”. This word basically means diner and we were told that we would find the best local food and experience at any place with this word in the name. We ended up at a place called Soda Viquez in La Fortuna (you can actually find it on Trip Advisor!). Like all of the restaurants and bars in the area, Soda Viquez is outside with just a wooden roof overtop- very cool atmostphere! The menu was large and we had trouble figuring out what everything meant. Our server spoke very little English but she did her best to describe the food and how it would come. The first dish we learned of is called “casados”. It’s actually the word for “marriage”, meaning that the dish is a combination of many foods. You can get casados with chicken, pork, beef, or fish. It comes with the meat, white rice, black beans, vegetables, and plantains. We learned over time that exactly what is on the plate varies a little at each place you go. This place had salad, beets, and mashed potatoes in addition to the meat, rice, beans, and plantains. I know what you’re thinking! It sounds like a ridiculous amount of food. But the portion of each was very small, probably only about 1/4c each of rice, beans, potatoes, beets, and salad and just a sliver of the plantain. Because the meal is so well balanced and in such moderate portions, it is extremely satisfying, and all week we never felt over stuffed!- Well maybe that first night because we acted like we were never going to try another local dish and ordered a 3rd dish to split… shh! We took the leftovers though :)  I was able to take a picture of this meal. It might not look like much but it was very good! The meat is under the pile of sauteed onions. The fried plantain is the dark thing next to the black beans. I am not sure what the heck was in the center, but it was really really delicious!

Over the course of the 9 days, we also tried their beef fajitas (see picture below) and a dish called Arroz cantones (a mound of fried rice mixed with chopped pork, beef, chicken, peppers, onions, and other vegetables. We also had empanadas, lots of pineapple, homemade cheese from a local dairy farm that we visited, tapioca bread, and fresh Costa Rican coffee. All the food is farm to table, so you can just imagine how fresh and delicious it is. You’ve never had a pineapple until you’ve had one from Costa Rica! The coffee was even fresh tasting and so rich and delicious! You can’t drive anywhere in Costa Rica without passing farmland. We saw farms growing everything- pineapples, plantains, coffee, sugar cane.

Overall the Costa Rican food and diet is pretty healthy! Even with all this food, and ordering appetizers and dessert every night, we never felt too full or sluggish. It’s full of fiber and protein, as well as high amounts of vitamins and minerals. Plantains are extremely high in potassium and vit A, as well as fiber and vit C. Between the healthy diet and all the active tours we did over the course of 9 days, we definitely came back a few pounds lighter than when we first got there!

We will definitely be back to this beautiful country! Not only was the food and culture amazing and healthy, but every view was incredible, the wildlife was so interesting and exciting, and the locals are beyond nice and genuinely happy all the time. We can’t wait for our next trip, but until then we will definitely be incorporating some of their staples into our diet! I already jumped at the opportunity to use plantains and made a casserole, sort of a plantain lasagna with pork and black beans. It was delicious! You can also incorporate them into your diet by sauteeing them as a side dish (replacing the starch), make chips to serve with guac or black bean dip, or even mash them! Next time I make the lasagna or any other plantain dish, I’ll post the recipe and some pictures!

Check back soon for a post about the New Year!

To Bread or Not to Bread

Good Morning! Well at least it was morning when I began this post.  I’m having an annoyingamazing day at the courthouse waiting to see if I’m selected for jury duty (I know, SO much fun!) so I figured now would be a good time for my first blog post.

A couple times in the past few weeks I’ve had to discuss with clients the common “health” trend of cutting out bread (strangers also LOVE to ask me about this), so I thought this might be a good starting topic.

Cutting out bread is a sort of “sub-diet” stemming from the ever-so trendy Low Carb/No Carb diet. The main thing that you need to remember when beginning this sort of plan is that a carbohydrate is a nutrient. This nutrient is 1 of only 3 nutrients from which we can obtain energy. Yes, energy in the form of the dreaded calorie- don’t forget that without calories, we would quite literally be non-existant. The other 2 nutrients that supply energy are protein and fat. Our bodies require the proper balance of all 3 of these nutrients in order to function at its best and most efficient. The problem is that our society tends to over-eat on either carbs, fat, or both, and under-eat on protein, which is why the latest weight-loss diets recommend lowering your carbs and increasing your protein. For those who over-eat on carbohydrates, this is good advice, however your goal should be proper balance of all nutrients in the most whole food version possible (as opposed to processed/refined), not elimination of any one nutrient. Eliminating carbs completely can and will backfire, causing irratic blood sugars, extreme fatigue, eventual binge eating, and most likely giving up. It’s not sustainable, and you’ll gain all the weight back plus more.

A Little More on Carbohydrates: There are 3 main foods that are considered carbohydrates-Starch (breads, grains, pastas, potatoes, beans, etc), Fruits, and Vegetables.  When talking balance, you should aim for your daily intake to include carbohydrates from all 3 of these foods. This ensures that your intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals is adequate. Other reasons for this include an efficient metabolism, steady blood sugar, and steady energy (remember about 30 seconds ago when I warned you against the elimination of carbs? It’s all related!). Your total carbohydrate intake from all 3 types of food should equal about half of your calories- which should be adjusted up or down depending on your physical activity level and weight management goals.  To accomplish this, aim for 3-6 servings of starch, 2-3 servings of fruit, and 2-3 servings of vegetables per day in addition to protein and fat. I know those daily serving suggestions may sound absurdly high for someone expecting to cut down on carbs or watch their calories, but keep in mind that a serving size is much smaller than the general population believes and that vegetables have more water than carbs anyway.  Exactly how much carbohydrate (and calories) you should consume daily is very individual, so if you’re unsure of whether or not you’re getting the proper amounts, you can use food logs like My Fitness Pal or Lose It to track your intake and help you figure out what your personal nutrition goals should be. Or even better, you can schedule a Nutrition Counseling appointment with me :)

Back to Cutting Out Bread: Since bread is only one source of starch, you can absolutely eliminate bread and still maintain a healthy diet. This being said, eliminating bread completely is not necessary for the maintenance of health or for weight loss.  If you are going to cut out bread, just be sure your day includes at least 3 servings of another starch, and try to incorporate whole grains. Examples of healthy non-bread starches and their serving sizes are:

  • 1/2c whole wheat pasta, cooked
  • 1/3c brown rice, cooked
  • 3 oz potato or sweet potato (approximately 1 small or 1/2 med sized)
  • 1/3c beans or legumes
  • 1/3c cooked whole grains (quinoa, wheatberry, farro, barley)
  • 1/2c corn or green peas
Based on American Dietetic Association Exchange Lists. http//www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/fd_exch.htm#7
If you do plan to include bread in your diet, be sure to buy 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain for the extra fiber and nutrition and to help avoid blood sugar spikes.  Serving sizes of bread products are:
  • 1 slice bread
  • 2 slices light bread (low calorie)
  • 1/2 english muffin
  • 1/4 bagel
  • 1 light waffle (not the large belgian style!)- I really like Vans Whole Grain Light Waffles
Based on American Dietetic Association Exchange Lists. http//www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/fd_exch.htm#7
Hope this helps clear things up for you! Please comment with any questions, or schedule an appointment for more in depth information  :)