I’ve recently made the decision to change my eating habits in Paraguay. Since I’ve arrived my diet has consisted of meat, flour, (i.e. empanadas, pizza, pan de queso,) fried goodies, (bollitos de queso, milanesas, French fries,) and postre, (mainly Dulce de Leche and ice cream!) While all of it has been delicious, and has certainly been an expansion of my food knowledge of the world, it has also been quite harsh on my stomach, and definitely hasn’t helped me to feel “healthy”. Anyway, I was beginning to get frustrated with the overload of unhealthy foods, and the underwhelming amount of vegetables I was eating, so I decided it was time to stop gorging on foods that were new and enticing, and move back to some classic favorites; zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant, salads, and Brussels sprouts, (still can’t believe I found these here!)
So I started by bringing my own lunch to the office every day this week, rather than some days ordering in from the Mestizo which is a Paraguayan food place right near work, (that’s bound to bring in some Milanesas Napolitanas, Empanadas, or Spaghetti and meat of some sort!) My lunch was either steamed, sautéed, or roasted veggies and a healthy helping of salad. It was delicious, and people at the office looked at me with a mix of amusement and horror to note that that was my lunch! I have to admit I would like to look for some healthy grains to throw into the mix, but aside from Rice and Pasta, I just don’t know if they exist here!
I have also, through the process, learned what it means to eat “healthy” to a Paraguayan. A coworker of mine, upon a recent visit to her Médico was told that she needed to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into her diet, she told us with complete horror and disdain. Every day since, she has been bringing her fruit salad, (which Paraguayans chop up so fine you can’t even tell it’s fruit anymore and which I’m not totally convinced doesn’t have copious amounts of sugar in it,) and a “salad” which consists essentially of cabbage, mayo, and a LOT of salt. I guess it is good she is trying to mix in the “healthy” things, but I’m pretty sure mayonnaise cancels out any health benefits the food might have previously had.
Overall, I feel much happier to be taking control of my diet, rather than feeling like I have no choice with all the foods presented to me. I can live in a meat-focused world and still choose to eat what makes me feel happier and healthier. Who knew?