Family vacations are usually the time to let it all go, giving in to food cravings and splurging on the many guilty pleasures available! It doesn’t have to be that way, we can find a balance between enjoying new and favorite foods without over-indulging. This is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, to follow your goals wherever you are in the world. Healthy choices are available; it’s just a matter of training yourself to be tuned into the choices available. My family and I just returned from a week’s long vacation to the Dominican Republic. We decided to do an all-inclusive resort, because with 2 teens, and my son who is 21, we needed a place with many options available throughout the day/night. We chose the Riu Bavaro Palace in Punta Cana! It was a very clean, friendly atmosphere, with a myriad of food options. There were buffets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with 4 specialty restaurants. The buffets have numerous international options, along with several traditional American selections. I was pleased to see healthy options available, along with the typical decadent choices, like fried foods, cream dishes, and desserts. There was a vast array of vegetables, and delicious tropical fruits at every meal. Various items were grilled, like the fish, chicken, and meats. There were always a variety of beans, along with other starches like roasted potatoes or rice. Paella was also served at many of the lunch and dinner buffets.
A highlight of the trip was meeting, and discussing the food options available with the Executive Chef of the resort, Edgar. He was also very friendly and accommodating, freely discussing his culinary background, and other questions that I posed to him about the food options for guests. Edgar explained that he was internationally trained as a chef, and now heads the food service at this riu resort in Punta Cana. I asked him specific questions about healthy options available for guests. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:
Edgar: “ We use vegetable oil in most of the cooking with less use of butter. Most of the butter is used for the desserts and pastries. Olive oil is available at the salad bar.”
Edgar: “Typical spices include saffron, curcumin, coriander, cilantro, and sofrito. Sofrito is a mixture of thyme, salt, mashed garlic, parsley, onion, green pepper, cilantro, tomatoes, tomato paste, and vinegar. It is added to many dishes to enhance the flavor and color.” “Sugar is only added to the sweets and dessert, it is not added to the natural juices made from fresh papaya, banana, and melon.”
Edgar: “Yes, guests can ask for special meals, based on their diet needs. We can accommodate for many health concerns if they reach out ahead of time. We will provide separate food choices apart from the buffets to accommodate specific diet concerns.
Edgar: “Red snapper, mahi-mahi, grouper, shrimp, lobster are very popular and used locally at the resort and around Punta Cana. They are usually grilled, or used as part of a stew.”
I enjoyed discussing food options with Edgar, even though there was a language barrier, which kept our conversation short but thorough. The main reason for the discussion was to let readers know that there are healthy options available all over the world!
When you are away on vacation try to keep the mindset of adding color to your plate at every meal. Also, remember the 80/20 rule, keeping healthy choices for 80% of meals, and splurges for 20% of choices. Learning balance is the best way to continue on your wellness path without feeling deprived!
When it comes to buffets, many people are challenged to control their intake because of the copious choices available. Try to stay focused! Head straight to the salad and vegetable area 1st. Fill up ½-3/4 of your plate with vegetables and fruit. Limit yourself to a smaller portion of starch and protein. Stick to 1 plate and eat slowly savoring the delicious flavors. Stick to a small portion of dessert or practice the 3-bite rule. Take 3 bites, and leave the rest. Trust me, it's the 1st 3 bites that satisfy the craving! The more you practice these principles, the easier it gets, and the more you benefit. Learn to enjoy your travels without derailing your wellness goals. Let me know your thoughts? ...Happy Travels!
2 medium green peppers, seeds removed
1 red sweet pepper, seeds removed
4 medium onions, peeled
5-6 Aji gusto's, or sweet habaneros (not the spicy)
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp vinegar
Peel garlic, onions, and chop all ingredients. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and thoroughly blend ingredients to an even consistency. Place the mixture in a jar and refrigerate up to 2 weeks, or freeze for later use. Add to soups, stews, beans, and rice dishes.
Recipe Source: Epicurious
Janet Brancato is a Registered Dietitian based out of Glen Rock, NJ. She works with clients online, over the phone, and face to face.