What do you think of when you think Colombian food? If you're like I was about a month ago, probably nothing. I assumed they had empanadas (most Latin American countries do), but otherwise I was clueless. I was thrilled to discover ajiaco, bandeja paisa, and sopa del platanos while traveling throughout the country though. I was also pleased to find there's one food Colombians may just love most: bread. Actually, it seems that bread is perhaps the most universally popular food... almost as popular as it is on countless diet "do not eat" lists.
So, how is it then that one can delight in all the delicious breads of the world while relaxing on a well-deserved vacation and not return home with too much extra baggage? It's simple, really. Just forget about the vacation part of it; not necessarily because of what it actually means, "a respite spent away from home or business in travel or recreation," but because of how its definition has evolved, "a period of excess everything--most notably sugar, alcohol, and inactivity." [an arepa de choclo (sweet corn bread) and café con leche] I get that all this talk of moderation is annoying. Trust me, I do. But I'm also aware that many of us are trying to maintain our weight (and hopefully our health). No matter how glorious it may be to "vacation," finding we've come back softer and heavier takes some of the fun out of it. This is how I keep travel fun: [changua (a creamy breakfast soup made with milk, egg, cilantro, and bread)]
Visit food markets. As I mentioned in on Holly's blog, fresh produce is generally cheaper when in season and it tastes a whole lot better. Try a new fruit or vegetable, and if you're able to prepare food for yourself, stock up. Be sure to try some delicacies as well (they just may be healthy) and count the tastings as a meal (one of the three) while you're at it. Soak up as much culinary culture as you possibly can! And the best part is, you'll unexpectedly be exercising as you do. Speaking of... [pandeyuca (yuca cheese bread) with caldo de costilla (a broth-based soup made with beef ribs, potato, garlic, onion, and cilantro)
Walk, walk, walk. Or swim. Or ski. Or bike even. Being in a foreign place is the perfect opportunity to explore actively. If you'd like, you can even keep up a bit of your fitness routine. It'll be more exciting practicing yoga (or whatever it is you do) somewhere new. I promise. Oh, and if you have a favorite pair of dancing shoes, don't forget to pack them. Going out for a night of dancing is always a great time.
[two fresh-out-of-the-oven roscónes (soft, sweet bagels filled with arequipe)]
Be on vacation. I know I said I don't like the word, or at least the way we use it, but try to remember why we do it. CNN recently reported: about 57% of working Americans had unused vacation time at the end of 2011. To that, I say, please take what you have earned. Get away (even if it's just to the next town over), disconnect (read: do not check work e-mails), and focus on having the fun you deserve with friends or family. This is your time to mentally relax and recharge. After having done so, you will surely return home feeling better in every which way. Not to mention that you'll happily find yourself more efficient at work post-break. And, you know what? If you've diligently followed these tips and still notice you've gained a couple of pounds while traveling, try not to worry about it. After a few days of eating healthfully and working out again, your body will settle right back where it was. Look back at the photos from your trip in the mean time. Yep, it was most definitely worth it.