I’m staring at the menu at every restaurant and I have two options: to be safe or to be healthy. Unfortunately, all the safe food is fried carbs and meat, and all the healthy food is fresh fruits and vegetables that will give me food poisoning. The struggle for healthy tourism continues in the grocery store, where there are very few healthy snack options. The only dried fruit seems to be Craisins, and the exercise bars were basically the same as a Snicker’s.
I did find a yogurt with no sugar, hooray! As I picked it up a sales lady tried to get me to choose a different brand. “There’s no sugar” she tells me. But like everything else here without sugar, it was loaded with aspartame. Of course there aren’t any studies proving artificial sweeteners are bad for you … but I still can’t bring myself to eat them. They make food taste like bad chemicals. Anecdotally, most of the poorly controlled diabetics I’ve met drink diet coke or other things with artificial sweeteners. Maybe there’s something there?
The point of all this is to say that it is very difficult to eat healthy here. Even if I could eat fresh fruits and vegetables, sugar is in absolutely everything else, (including plain lattes!). I spent way too long searching in vain for canned fruits preserved in water. I also haven’t found a single flavored seltzer water without aspartame 🙁
In the grocery store yesterday we met an American from Portland who had been backpacking around South America for 9 months now. He drank the water and ate fresh food everywhere he went, and apparently never got sick. Once he arrived in Bolivia though, he drank the water and immediately got sick. Without a doubt the water is much worse here than in other South American countries. Apart from the obvious bacteria and viruses, the rumor around town is there are heavy metals like cadmium in the water.
The happy ending to this healthy tourism story is a combination of bleach and restaurant called Paprika. We’ve been able to wash things with bigger peels in water with bleach (things like the most delicious kiwis you’ve ever tasted), and eat salad at the best restaurant in Cochabamba, Paprika. For a gourmet three course meal that rivals ones I’ve had in the U.S., you pay $10 USD. Most importantly, they must clean their vegetables in bottled water or bleach. From what I read on Trip Advisor and google maps, nobody ever got sick from their salads. We will definitely be going back.