Cambodia Teaches us about eating well
While we’re at home struggling with this week’s juice cleanse and whether or not to try the Paleo diet, Cambodians are going about their day as they always have: they visit the local market each day for fresh seasonal ingredients. They’re eating a whole food diet of lean protein, fruit, vegetable, and whole grains. They’re largely unfamiliar with artificial ingredients and processed foods and it shows in their waistlines and ability to never seem to age.
Eating well in Siem Reap, Cambodia
When you go on holiday, eating well is a huge part of your experience. You certainly don’t want to deprive yourself of regional delicacies and local desserts, and thankfully in Cambodia you don’t have to. Enjoy your food! Eat all the local foods you want; the Cambodian diet has a thing or two to teach us about eating well and living fully.
Cambodia’s 6 Valuable Practices to eating well
1. Replace Soda
It is so important to stay well hydrated in tropical climates like Cambodia, but not everyone likes drinking plain water all day — especially if you take part in physical activity such as yoga offered at Navutu Resort’s Wellness Retreat in Southeast Asia. Instead of ordering a soda with lunch, go local and try a coconut juice straight from a chilled and drilled coconut. Even compared to other juices, coconut water has less sugar, fewer carbohydrates and calories, and more potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium.
2. Eat seasonally and avoid processed foods
Cambodia doesn’t have much of it’s own restaurant culture yet, and that means most of your food is homemade with fresh local ingredients. Take a cooking class to see for yourself: you should be able to recognize and pronounce each ingredient. Processed foods and artificial sweeteners haven’t caught on in a big way outside of corner shops and minimarts like 6-11 (Cambodia’s nod to our infamous 7-11 chain), so you won’t be missing out on any special Cambodian delicacies if you steer clear of these types of shops. Staying within the bounds of the local market will ensure that no high fructose corn syrup sneaks its way into your meal.
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” -Brillat-Savarin
Many health specialists agree that we all need to cut back on our dairy consumption. Dairy has been scientifically linked to skin blemishes, weight gain, gas and bloating, and even cancer. Lucky for Cambodia, dairy isn’t a component of the typical diet here. There are plenty of creative and convenient dairy substitutes floating around the markets and restaurants in Cambodia. You may find yourself going dairy-free for days without making an effort simply due to a general lack of availability.
3. Change your milk
You’d be surprised how many restaurants at home sneak cream into their soups needlessly. In Cambodia where milk isn’t so available, soup is made with coconut milk instead of cream. Use coconut milk in your coffee instead of whole milk. You may even find you don’t need to add as much sugar as you would with dairy milk.
4. Change your cheese
Swapping some sort of plant-based spread for a dairy-based one is easier than you might think – especially in Cambodia where they’ve been hunting for substitutes for ages. Try spreading hummus all over your wrap or sandwich instead of cheese. Ask for a side of avocado to dress up your burger, fajita or taco rather than the perfunctory melted cheddar or sour cream.
5. Satisfy that sweet tooth
For dessert, opt for a fruit-based smoothie instead of ice cream or baked goods. If you’ve just got to have your ice cream fix, try frozen yogurt or ice cream made from a base of of bananas or coconut milk instead of cream. Both are popular options on the streets of Siem Reap and Cambodia’s larger cities.
6. Slow down
Most importantly, make sure you give yourself time. You’ll hear people saying everything happens on Cambodia time here. Once you touchdown you’ll see what everyone means: life moves at a slower pace here. Much slower. Things happen when they happen, and getting upset won’t change a thing. Accept what you cannot change and instead, embrace the relaxed pace of life in Cambodia.
This is true of your activity schedule as well as your meals. Be sure to take time out of your day to just sit down to eat, whether you’re at Angkor Wat or a luxury hotel resort in Siem Reap. This consciousness helps you to recognize and connect with your food so your body and mind are in sync about what you’re ingesting. Slowing down and chewing your food improves your body’s self-awareness and helps you to eat less and recognize when you’ve eaten your full.
When the clock strikes twelve
The longer you go without eating certain unhealthy foods, the less your body craves them. You may find yourself craving those processed food treats, cheeses and sodas less once you’ve returned home and this is an excellent step towards maintaining the healthy food swaps you picked up on your holiday. Bring these lifestyle changes home with you to improve your health even after your tropical holiday comes to an end.
Next time you have to bring muffins to book club, bake with coconut oil instead of butter, coat your baking tins with it as well, and your friends might just forget that last week’s book was so boring you actually had time to bake muffins.