Sticking to your meal and diet plans is difficult enough when you’re at home. The problem becomes more immense when you’re living in another country. Here are three common issues with eating healthy overseas and the solutions for dealing with them.
Problem #1: Many local foods may be unsafe to eat
Food poisoning is no joke and tourists and expats actually do fall seriously ill or die every year from such incidents. Foodborne illnesses are a common issue all over the world, and they can even happen in highly developed countries.
A lot of the time, this has to do with local food safety standards. Other times, you may not realize that the food you’re eating actually contains an ingredient that you are allergic to. You can also get sick if your immune system has not yet fully adapted to the common naturally-occurring pathogens local to our host country.
Always do some research with regards to foodborne illnesses endemic to your host country. In the first couple of months, before you actually build up a resistance to local germs, you may also want to consider using bottled water for drinking and perhaps for brushing your teeth with as much as possible.
Make sure to either prepare your own food yourself or have your meals at places wxhere you have a reasonable expectation that food will be prepared in sanitary conditions. You may also want to observe how street foods are prepared before you buy them to ensure the vendor is practicing safety practices you are comfortable with.
Having updated international health insurance from Now Health International or a similar insurance company can be important for guarding yourself and your family against food safety issues. Be sure to invest in a plan that’s suitable for the conditions you can expect in your host country.
Problem #2: The common foods are totally alien to your home culture and experience
Adventurous eaters may not actually find this to be a problem. However, those on restricted diets and regular run-of-the-mill picky eaters may have quite a tough time understand what to make of many local cuisines. Even familiar items, such as corn, rice, and potatoes, may be different in cultivar as well as texture and recommended preparation from country to country.
This can be an opportunity not just to eat healthier, but also to learn about the culture of your host country. Actively seek out the advice of local friends on how best to prepare local ingredients. You can also generally find nutrition facts related to local ingredients online or from other resources. You can also use Google translate or a specialized app that works with your smartphone to understand the text on labels in your home country.
Problem #3: Your destination does not have enough healthy options
It’s just a fact of life that food choices are severely limited in many parts of the world. For instance, many Westerners are shocked that despite the vast selection of food in Japan, it can be very difficult to find several brands of breakfast cereal that may be taken for granted anywhere else in the world. In some places, fresh, high-quality vegetables may be unobtainable at affordable prices because of infrastructure issues or how the market is structured. In other places, it may be impossible to find meat or seafood on regular days. If you’re on a restricted diet, things can indeed be very tough for you.
There’s no getting around it — you will definitely need to make some sacrifices. While world food markets are becoming more and more fluid and more places today are far more spoiled for choice than they were a decade ago, you’ll just have to accept that you will deviate from your plan, occasionally.
If you can afford it, you can have certain foods and nutritional supplements shipped from home. A better way to go about things, however, would be to learn how the locals eat and try to adjust accordingly. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t stick to a planned diet. There’s delicious healthy food to be had all over the world. It’s a big part of what makes expat life so fun and interesting.