Benefits of the Expat Diet

Open air markets are common throughout Latin America.

Open air markets are common throughout Latin America.

We have reaped several health benefits since adapting our eating habits to our expat lifestyle. For one thing our digestion is better. My wife used to be gluten intolerant. That is longer noticed. She also used to react to onions and tomatoes we bought in the U. S. That has not occurred in Latin America. All the chemicals used in fresh and processed foods in the U. S. are not evident in locally produced foods.

There is no shortage of places to eat while on the go.

Tasty foods are readily available while on the go.

Our diet is defined by the foods most commonly available. In Panama, rice and beans were a staple, and chicken was the typical entrée at dinner. Fish was also in ready supply which we ate a few times each month even though neither of us are big fish eaters. We lived away from the big city in Panama, and produce vendors would drive right to our door.

We are city dwellers now in Mexico, and the variety of foods available is more like what would find in the States. Mexico also has big box stores (Costco, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart). However, we have no need to shop in bulk. Our six monthers lifestyle dictates we not stock up on food. What we cannot eat we will have to give away in a few months, so we only buy what we need.

Panaderías provide a variety of fresh baked good.

Panaderías provide a variety of fresh baked good.

We buy fresh baked goods, fruits and vegetables as needed because local panaderías and produce stands are ubiquitous, and their prices are lower than at the supermarkets. We have learned about many new food items. We use chayote, guayaba, guanabana, cherimoya, and varieties of melons and citrus fruits we never knew existed. Utilizing these foods has allowed us to economize, too.

A mango on a stick makes a great quick snack.

A mango on a stick makes a great quick snack.

More common fruits like pineapple, guava, and papaya are plentiful. Of course, we have aguacates (avocados), and thank goodness! Fresh avocado on salads, with rice and beans, fresh guacamole with totopos, or just eating it out of the peel with a spoon is so yummy!

We practice a lifestyle we will take with us everywhere we live, whether in the U. S. or abroad. Since we do not have a car, we do not load up. We buy what we need when we need it. No more impulse buying, especially snack foods and candy. We walk to and from the store as part of our daily exercise routine, and we shop at open air markets for fresh produce.

Whole or grated artisan cheeses are commonly available.

Whole or grated artisan cheeses are commonly available.

We knew about economizing and eating fresh before. Were we just too busy to incorporate these habits into our busy working lives? We now take life at a more reasonable pace, and we have found that to be a pleasant change.

living in Mexico

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43 comments on “Benefits of the Expat Diet

  1. Now I’m hungry!! Beautiful post, about all the wonderful foods you’re encountering in this grand adventure!

  2. Oh Boy! Im so excited to be surrounded by so many more healthy choices and opportunities to lead a healthier lifestyle! Every time we have visited Panama or any other South or Central American country I have always felt a very big difference in how I felt. I believe you’re right about how the lack of chemicals in the local fare makes a tremendous difference in so many ways! Life is good! And your Mexico Adventure looks great! Cheers!

    • Holly, I know your time is getting close to move to Panama, and I was thinking about you while I was composing this story. I have no doubt you will enjoy tasting and using some of the exotic fruits and vegetables you will encounter. I hope you will write about them, too. – Mike

  3. Angeline M says:

    What a wonderfully refreshing lifestyle.

  4. Angela says:

    Nice…Reminds me of my home country in the south pacific (Kingdom of Tonga).
    As a lady, you just feel so much more adventurous gathering from your own farm/garden and going out the markets, buying fresh produce/ingredients, like how they do on the cooking shows on TV.
    What a sense of pride preparing your meals, not to mention feeling and looking Healthy…. Bliss.
    Organic is so the way to go.

  5. Yum. This tundra dweller is a bit jealous of the variety of your veg and fruit. During the winter, I have to be happy with baby kale and a clamshell of grape tomatoes from the always exotic Costco. I’m going to have dreams about those mangos with chile sprinkle. Mmmm.

  6. mkesling63 says:

    So just a healthy direct diet from the farmers helps. That is interesting.

  7. I agree, eating fresh food straight from farmers is the best!! On my travels I always try and buy local produce and have found that it is way tastier than the store bought variety.

  8. How gorgeous are those carved mangoes on sticks! I love the way they have taken the time to make them beautiful (or even more beautiful than if you just shoved them on a stick). Like your wife I don’t do too well eating onions – I now know the cure, move to Mexico (or maybe grow my own?)!

    • The locals like the mangos with chili powder sprinkled over them. They’re quite salty that way. I tried it, and I think I’ll stick with the plain.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. – Mike

  9. Marty R. says:

    Hi and thanks for reading about Granada, Nicaragua. I may be going to Mexico-not sure where-in April so will check out your blog.

  10. melbestel says:

    It’s wonderful to hear someone talking so articulately about not wasting food and only buying what’s necessary.

    • Thank you. I am so much more aware of how much food is wasted in the U. S. based on old habits. Not only do we eat better now, we save more, too. In our working lives we were always too busy to be concerned with doing food right. Sad, but true.

  11. sr says:

    I stopped by after seeing your visit on my page. I envy your local food markets. As you may have read, produce and Namibia do not mix. Everything comes from South Africa. But I’m going to keep trying…maybe I’ll even get a market set up some day. Enjoy!

  12. Before I went vegan, I was a frozen food junkie. Everything I ate came in a box and was nuked. Now I do my best to eat only fresh food. It’s better in every way except for the fact that I actually have to cook now.

    • I get that there are times when one might prefer not to cook. Fortunately, both my wife and I are each willing to take the lead cook role when the other doesn’t want to cook. We are not completely vegetarian, but we are gravitating in that direction and we eat almost no processed foods anymore.

  13. lk25 says:

    onething which I want to say is It’s Awsome Yaar(friend). And these roadside fruits and vegetables are also common in Asia also..Keep posting these interesting stuff

  14. Wow! I am full of envy. I want to experience the world, have been over much of Europe, and visited Japan. South America is next on my list. Raising teens takes up my time now, but someday…..Thank you for visiting my blog. I have been gluten and dairy free for a number of years and already found that farmers markets and whole foods are best for me. I look forward to following your adventures.

    • I love perusing the healthy recipe blogs, and yours jumped out at me. And like you I finished raising two children before striking out to see the world. There is still time! Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

  15. Beth says:

    I’ll bet you don’t have Haas avocados either… and that’s a good thing! I like other varieties better. I had a Fuerte tree in my back yard when I lived in San Bernardino… avocados on/in/with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or just opened up, sliced, and eaten with a touch of salt. I love those suckers. In fact, I was opining this morning over whether or not I could make a ham and cheese strata with avocado… I guess I’ll have to find out if it can hold up to 50-55 minutes in the oven and whether or not the water content would be a problem. Hmmm… Anyway, eat whatever varieties of avocado you have and eat some for me!

    • I am not sure what the variety(s) of avocados are around here. They don’t have “Grown in Chile” stickers on them, so I’m pretty sure they’re all local. The currently sold variety I have seen have the thick, rough skin like Hass. Now I’m curious. We go through about one per day average. Time to buy more. 🙂

      • Beth says:

        The Hass variety is a cross that was created by a Californian, I believe. They’re just the easiest to mass produce because of that thick skin. Fuertes are shaped longer, have thinner skin, and the skin never turns black (it stays green). Fuertes are nuttier and smoother. Love, love, LOVE! If I ever move back to SoCal, I’m planting some avocado trees in my yard! Here are some varieties: http://www.californiaavocado.com/avocado-variety-browser/

  16. syntk says:

    It’s good to know that your wife’s intolerances went away. My body doesn’t like gluten (or any grains, for that matter), though my body loves bread and grains when we go to Germany — go figure!

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  19. Vanessa B says:

    Great reminder for those of us in the US about incorporating ethnic foods into our diet for healthier options instead of sticking with what is unfortunately synonymous with “American” cuisine!
    Also a sobering mention of how processed foods are making their way around the world into cities and beyond, and the health statistics in LDC’s (Less Developed Countries) are starting to follow suit with ours.
    Great read, great photos!

    • Thank you for adding your comments! It is unfortunate that many other countries are following the bad precedents being set in the U. S. with fast foods, processed foods, and genetically modified foods.

  20. tanyamurchie says:

    I connected to your blog today and have spent the last hour reading all your posts. Love your blog!!!!! The way you write, descriptions etc makes a person want to be part of your adventure. I admire you and Florence for doing exactly what you want, your sense of adventure. One comment particularly made sense to me, “why would I be bored in my retirement?”, boredom is for those people who have had NO interests outside of work.
    My husband and I are living (he working) in central Mexico and I can relate to your enthusiasm about the food and the people. Mexican people are truly special, kind and giving. We also love shopping at the local markets and pastelerias. Fresh, delicious food which is far superior to what we would buy in a grocery store in Canada. We anticipate living in Mexico for 5-7 more years, although location will probably change. However our choice is not go return to Canada. I agree, one can have a great quality of life for far less money. Who knows….. Costa Rica, Panama or maybe we will just stay here in Mexico.
    Enjoy your many adventures and keep blogging.

    • It sounds as though we are kindred spirits in some ways – choosing to live abroad not only because we can but also because we want to. I am glad you found my blog site, and I look forward to perusing your site as well. And thank you for your kind compliments.

  21. Refreshing to read about you and your wife’s experience with food as well as the overall lifestyle you both follow. Seems like a healthy food relationship all around. Ditto on other comment about mango pic!

  22. We love the fresh food in Mexico. The avocados, mostly grown in Michoacan, are amazing. We will eat just an avocado for breakfast with a little bit of soy sauce

    • Ha ha, great timing! I just returned from the grocery store with a fresh bag of avocados to find your message! My guacamole recipe has evolved nicely, although I also enjoy just sitting down with a fresh avocado half and a spoon for a snack. Yum!

  23. reocochran says:

    Buying fresh from local markets is such a great reminder of how we all can become thinner. Leaner, meaner, ‘fighting machines!’ Smiles, also enjoyed the photos and details in this post, Mike!

    • Mike Lince says:

      Thanks, Robin. I think learning to eat healthier has been one of the best long-term benefits of traveling abroad. We have come to appreciate good food no matter where we are in the world. – Mike

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