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Tips for eating healthy while traveling
Inspired by countries across the globe
Without a doubt—seeing, learning and experiencing new places (or favored, familiar locations) is one of the main reasons people travel! Also, without a doubt—food is an essential ingredient in this experience, whether it’s a great meal, a visit to a food or wine producer, or attendance at a cooking class! Although it’s possible to incorporate healthy habits while traveling through lots of walking or exercise, it’s not unusual to come home feeling unhealthy from lack of self-care and over-doing it in the name of vacation!
To honor that March is the 50th anniversary of National Nutrition Month, at Oldways, it means we are looking to the past – the healthy old ways of heritage diets around the world – Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American and African Heritage Diets. These traditional diets have as much in common (plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and plant oils) as they do differences (different types of foods and preparations). It’s not just health that they have in common –they’re all delicious! There’s no sacrifice when it comes to heritage foods.
For travelers, here are some global heritage dishes and restaurants that make the case that health and deliciousness can go hand in hand, even when you’re on vacation!
The Mediterranean Diet is well known as one of the healthiest ways to eat. Mediterranean destinations, from Spain and Italy, to Greece, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Morocco are all exciting. Each country has interesting and delicious cuisines, which are deeply flavorful but almost never heavy.
We’re planning to go to Sicily in October, visiting Palermo, Agrigento and Ortigia, a spectacular island section of the ancient city of Siracusa. In Palermo, we never miss Corona Trattoria, where Chef Giovanni Corona specializes in fish and pasta and always wows us with Pasta con Sarde, a traditional Sicilian pasta dish with fresh sardines, raisins, fennel and pine nuts. You’ll notice that it’s not an enormous plate of pasta—instead, it’s modest and incredibly flavorful. Here's a version from the New York Times.
West Africa has become a hot travel destination. At Oldways, we agree—we’re eager to bring a Culinaria tour to Senegal and Ghana, to see and learn new things and to experience the African Heritage Diet at its core. The African Heritage Diet represents the culinary traditions of the African Diaspora – Africa, the Caribbean, parts of South America and the American South – and it has the same healthy plant-based pattern as the well-studied Mediterranean Diet.
Jollof rice is a traditional Senegalese dish and a dish that is found on both home and restaurant tables throughout West Africa. There are many recipes for it, however, classically, it includes rice, tomatoes, onions, peppers and seasonings. Yassa, and particularly Chicken Yassa is another Senegalese dish that is a favorite throughout West Africa. Yassa is a spicy, lemony dish with plenty of caramelized onions, plus either chicken, fish, or lamb.
For travelers, Chef Pierre Thiam’s Harlem restaurant, Terenga, is a place to start before flying across the Atlantic. Chef Pierre is truly an ambassador of Senegalese cuisine and culture, and has also started a food company, Yolélé,to bring the whole grain fonio from Senegal to the United States, thereby helping communities in Senegal with processing and distribution of fonio.
In Ghana’s capital, Dakar, try Chef Chef Selassie Atadika’ s Midunu, a nomadic dining concept featuring what she calls New African Cuisine. You’ll be sure to find her versions of traditional West African dishes.
We love eating in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, enjoying the fresh taste and wide variety of fruits and vegetables in Thai cuisine, and are already looking forward to the Oldways Plant-Based Thailand Culinaria in February 2024, with the Plant-Powered Dietitian Sharon Palmer.
We’ll be visiting markets, learning about Thai vegetarian dishes, seeing historic, cultural sites, taking river cruises, visiting an elephant sanctuary and learning the basics of Thai plant-based cuisine.
To learn cooking techniques and enjoy a great meal straight from the farmers’ market in Chiang Mai, we’ll be going to the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School. The full-day class includes learning how to make a curry paste, a curry, a coup, a stir-fry, one noodle dish and a sweet dessert. Not knowing what we’ll be making, here is the classic Pad Thai from a previous Oldways event in Thailand. Feel free to swap in a different protein, like chicken, or skip the meat all together for a plant-based version!
Latin American Diet
The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica is one of the Blue Zones, one of the 5 places in the world where people live the longest. The way of eating – along with other lifestyle attributes – is a major reason for the longevity. Costa Rican food is both healthy and delicious. Plenty of beans, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and tubers dominate the vibrant cuisine.
Although not on Nicoya Peninsula, the Restaurant Silvestre in San Jose is a perfect place to experience contemporary Costa Rican cuisine meeting the best of traditional cuisine. Fittingly, the restaurant is in a historic house in one of San Jose’s grand old neighborhoods.
For a classic Costa Rican dish, we look to Costa Rican rice and beans – Gallo Pinto – the national dish (check out a recipe here, from our friends at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine). Rice and beans dishes are universal, taking on the character of whatever culture it is being prepared in. In Costa Rica, including at Restaurant Silvestre, it is omnipresent.
The message for travelers everywhere, in Nutrition Month in March (and throughout the year): enjoying great food doesn’t have to mean over-indulging. Flavor and local cuisine can be healthy at the same time as delicious, and you can return home feeling healthier than ever!
Global Recipe: Chinese Cashew Shrimp Stir Fry
Cashew shrimp stir fry is a Cantonese dish, so this is the type of meal that you might expect to ﬁnd in parts of Southeastern China, near Hong Kong. Stir frying, where foods are quickly cooked over high heat in a large wok, or rounded skillet, is a popular cooking method throughout China. This dish is also a great example of how nuts, like cashews, are incorporated into creative seafood, meat, and vegetable dishes throughout China. Here, it is shown served over brown rice.
Join us in Switzerland, September 21-28, 2023
Switzerland is a land of towering landscapes, gorgeous cities, towns and villages, spectacular cheeses and chocolates, and amazing wines. We’ll take you way beyond what tourists typically see as you experience the excitement of the annual Desalpes through the eyes of world class judge and cheese expert Cathy Strange and our friends at Gruyere AOP.
Join us as we experience all that is delicious and interesting about Alpine cheeses, chocolate, food, wine, culture and history in Switzerland. We’ll explore from Zurich to Gruyere to Bern and back to Zurich, with plenty of stops in between.