Central America Costa Rica North America

The Perils of Eating Costa Rican Fried Chicken and Chocolate — By Jennifer Shipp

Costa Rican fried chicken
One of MANY fried chicken restaurants in Costa Rica.

I know that rice and beans is a staple here in Costa Rica, but what I wasn’t expecting to find was a fried chicken stand on every street corner here. And it smells really good. We don’t eat the fried chicken because it’s probably fried in lard (and John is allergic to beef), but we do try to soak up the aroma when we go into Alajuela because it is positively intoxicating in a comfort-food sort of way.

Last night, John discovered trans-fats in chocolate bars that we purchased at the MegaSuper. This was infinitely disappointing for a number of reasons. First of all, I can’t seem to locate any chocolate here that doesn’t contain refined sugars, dairy, or trans-fats. It’s a tall order, I know, but we try really hard to avoid these things at all costs. I thought I’d found a brand of dark chocolate that was trans-fat and dairy free at least (it still had refined sugar), but late last night, John discovered that the trans-fats weren’t listed in the Spanish ingredients list (he spotted them in French and then sure enough…there it was in the nutrition information).

We’ve all been suffering from headaches since we got here and it was a relief to finally find out why. I don’t like to go on crusades about food or anything really because I don’t enjoy meditating on things that make me really angry, but it seems important to make sure that people know that there is poison in our food.

CDC Yellow Book
Everyone should carry the CDC Yellow Book with them when they travel.

If you read through the CDC Yellow Book that provides all kinds of useful information about diseases you can catch while traveling, you’ll note that a large proportion of really nasty ones are either vector-borne (carried by insects) or transmitted via the fecal-oral route (by people who fail to wash their hands after they poo). Many of the diseases that people have today, whether infectious or chronic is due to what gets put in our mouths. It’s unfortunate that so many people in North American are misinformed about what constitutes “healthy” food. Most of the misinformation comes from the fact that there are people making a lot of money off of ignorance and other peoples’ general ill health.

I want to eat the Costa Rican fried chicken and I’m honestly not sure how I’ll get by without a source of chocolate, but I’d rather feel healthy every day (or most days at least) of my life than enjoy 15 minutes of fried chicken once a week. It isn’t a difficult choice for me to make because I’ve tried not eating dairy and then I’ve tried eating it again and compared the results. I’ve tried not eating trans fats and then I’ve tried eating them again and compared the results. Trans fats give me a splitting headache, even in small doses. And dairy products have perpetuated problems like sinus infections unnecessarily and frankly, dairy causes cancer so we avoid it. You have to try cutting those things out completely to decide for yourself whether you feel better without that crap in your body or not.

Costa Bitter contains trans fats
The source of trans fats and many headaches and stomach upsets for the past two weeks here in Costa Rica.This candy bar contains trans fats that aren’t listed in the Spanish ingredients.

When we travel, it’s always difficult to find food. It can take weeks for us to put together a healthy diet in a new place. During the time period when we’re starving, I can hardly stand to walk past things like fried chicken or chocolate and have to settle for something like oatmeal and honey (made with water, of course) instead. But it’s a wonderful thing to be healthy and feel good, especially when we’re traveling. It may be hard to avoid all the bad stuff, but it really is worth it even if I feel like I’m going to starve for a couple of days until we can find an unadulterated bag of rice, an orange, or a fresh banana free of fruit flies.

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  1. Ryan D Cobb

    Sounds like Costa Rica isnt the place for you, you should find a place that suits your diet and dont go back to Costa Rica

    September 11, 2012 Reply
    • travelingshipps

      You might be right. But, on the other hand, I think in some ways finding food is like “plot” in the story of our little lives and finding it creates suspense and gives me something to think about and write about. At least when there isn’t food…there IS plot.

      September 30, 2012 Reply


Bruised Banana