Monday, November 7, 2016

Some Ways Cambodia has Forced a Healthier Lifestyle

One can never move to another country and expect everything to be the same. If we would be honest about it, we would also have to realize that each country changes us, as well. Cambodia is no different.

When you are on a budget, typical food from the Standard American Diet isn't available. There are cheap street food options, but if you want to avoid food poisoning and amoebas, much of that isn't a good option. (There are exceptions, depending on what they are cooking, how well you know them and how fresh the food is.) This has helped us eat more healthily. Cheese and most dairy is scarcely an option because it's expensive. However, seasonal produce, rice, beans and fruit are super affordable, especially in rainy season.

Not having an oven limits things even further. There are down sides to this, as my favorite thing to give people are baked goods like cinnamon rolls, but there are also advantages. Not having access to all of those baked items I usually make, even though I try to make healthier options for my family such as banana bread, has limited our processed foods and carbohydrates even more. When I can get a kilo of sweet potatoes for .50 cents, their rich satisfying flavor curbs any carbohydrate cravings I might be missing from baked goodies, and with less sugar and processed stuff. (Then, there's the delicious battered and deep fried bananas from the market, but we don't get those often.)

Meat is something you have to be careful with in the markets, especially pork. Because of the price, we have been sticking to cheaper cuts of beef and chicken thighs. Being in Cambodia has taught me many ways to stretch a chicken thigh to feed 5 people. With a 2 burner hot plate, many dishes for one meal aren't ideal, so lots of soups with rice and tons of veggies have been gracing our table lately.

While adjusting to these things was uncomfortable and I still have times I'd really just like a regular stove, overall I've come to see it as a blessing. I've been able to learn to make do with the ingredients available. (Thanks, mom, for teaching me to cook. I have no idea how people who don't cook can make it on a budget.) Our family is able to afford protein at every meal, while so many can't here. I've been able to learn some Khmer soup recipes and enjoyed learning to enhance our meals with cheap but flavorful new herbs. I have a new appreciation for my husband who is dedicated to making the budget work and also not picky about food, and even complimentary about what I cook. I see it as a blessing that this occurred though the biggest part of my pregnancy, helping maintain a healthier pregnancy weight in a country where walking is almost impossible (but the four flights of stairs certainly come in handy for that.)

So, I'm not promising anything, but if you want to lose weight, you might want to try an extended stay in Cambodia on a food budget. :))

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