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Tips for a Picky eater traveling to Central America

Hey guys,
I'm sure many of you have extensive travel experience with various countries and have racked up tips and tricks that could come in handy for a traveler like me. I will be traveling to Central America within the next few months and I want to plan my meals (slightly) ahead of time so that I can keep track of what I'm eating etc. I just want to know how other travelers out there did when it came to eating in foreign countries, especially for someone who is a picky eater.

Posted by
11450 posts

hmm.. I don't really understand what you want to know. I am not a picky eater.. so I just eat whatever appeals.

I would suggest in your situation you look up ( google) what are the most popular dishes in the countries you are travelling to.. then see if they would appeal to you .

If nothing appeals most countries have basics like a form of bread or a plain rice or noodle dish.. Also check what fruits or veggies are most popular.. as many dishes would likely include them.

As for the "keeping track".. I have no idea what that would refer to.. is this about allergies or some sort of diet?

I do not diet on vacation.. its a time to try new things. and indulge in some old favorites.. but its always good to eat a few basic healthy stand bys so one doesn't get junked out.

PS for more specific destination information.. food etc.. I would check out the tripadvisor.com forum for each country you are going to.. often locals and expats post on them as well as visitors.. so you can get a lot more input.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for the reply! By keeping track I just mean that I don't want to overindulge (as I tend to do when traveling), and I feel like it would be best to have an idea of what I'm in for before I get there so that I'm not overwhelmed. I totally agree with trying new foods, especially when you are in a new location, but sometimes the texture and taste of the food won't agree with me so I'm just trying to cover all my bases before I travel.

Posted by
6868 posts

Travel requires a certain kind of flexibility, especially in poorer or less developed countries. You need to just go with the flow and make sure you're familiar enough with the types of food served there that you have some "go to" dishes you can be satisfied with (google the country's food and look at images as well so you know what to expect; also read some travel blogs to get the idea). The key is "satisfied", not necessarily enamored. I don't eat meat but had to make do in steak-loving Argentina where the smell was overpowering in the parilla/grilled meat restaurants (I found other choices like Italian food or cheese empanadas). I'd have to do the same in Cuba or places that serve simple rice and chicken dishes that wouldn't be my top choice. Key is to lower expectations by a lot, and prepare to pick from "good enough" choices - the scenery and other pluses of visiting those countries will put the food issue into the right perspective (and smaller focus). You may end up being surprised how much the simplicity of fresh, locally made food will more than make up for other shortfalls.

Posted by
4 posts

Yeah, you're all making really valid points. I guess the key to having a successful trip is to lower my expectations by a whole lot and just go with the flow. that is essentially what traveling is! Thanks guys!

Posted by
3696 posts

Central American cuisine can vary, so what countries are you traveling to?

I have found that most countries have some sort of American style restaurants if that is what you want.
I travel frequently to Guatemala and enjoy lots of dishes with eggs, many chicken dishes, tons of vegetables, tortilla soup, chip and guacamole and while I am not a huge fan of beans, they are offered at a lot of meals. Breakfasts often include lots of fruits as well as pancakes, eggs, and potatoes.

Posted by
272 posts

I'm a very picky eater but want to enjoy the culture and some of the food when I travel. In a group I don't want to be the person who says no to a local restaurant that everyone wants to go to. As sad as it is I sometimes take a jar of peanut butter or cliff bars with me when I'm travelling. If we are gong out to somewhere where the food is not to my liking I have a sandwich or crackers at the hotel then go out with my friends and find something simple on the menu.

Posted by
2133 posts

Central America is pretty big - so I can only reply as to Costa Rica and Mexico. But I am "picky", I suppose as I have a food allergy, am mostly vegetarian and then generally picky on top of that. And I had no real problems down there. One thing I found helpful is that many restaurants offered buffet options in Costa Rica - places you just drive by in the middle of nowhere, not just the typical breakfast buffet you run into. We stopped at those a lot and I could always make a meal of it - there'd be bread, cheese, pineapple and lots of other stuff that was just fine with me. And then most of our hotels had buffets for dinner as well - for example in Tortugeuro it was a full meal plan hotel, all meals buffet, and all of it worked for me.

Posted by
21709 posts

If might help if we better understood your "pickiness." Some need to be picky for medical reasons and others are just irrational. So what do you need to avoid or prefer not to eat?

Posted by
4 posts

Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica (countries I'm traveling to)...when I say that I am a picky eater I mean that I find it hard to indulge in new food as much as most people do. There are various things that can throw me off about food - it could be the smell, the texture etc. and if it throws me off, I am more likely to not want to eat it. It might seem slightly childish or absurd but it is what it is. I do like the sound of the buffets so I am looking to that, I am sure once there are more options it will be harder to not find something to eat. I appreciate all the responses guys, thanks for all your help!

Posted by
518 posts

I've never been to Central America, but in general with eating during your travels, here's my tips:

  • Never over-order. Different places and cultures have their norms for leftovers, some may be offended if you leave food on your plate and some don't give out doggy bags. It's better to eat again or order a bit more if you're not full, than to order too much and be in a bind.

  • Along the lines of the above, especially if you're trying a completely new food, if it's turns out to be something you really don't like and cannot finish, order the smallest portion possible. For example, if there's something you really want to try but aren't sure what it is or not sure if you'll like it, see if the same item appears as an appetizer portion rather than the main course.

  • Better yet, stick with lunch counter or to-go type places, that way if the food really doesn't suit you you're not faced with the awkward position of being seated in a restaurant with the eyes of the waiter/owner on you.

Posted by
4986 posts

Onesmart, we don't know where you're from, but if you live in or near even a medium sized city, you can probably find a restaurant that features the cuisine of the countries you'll be visiting. We ate just yesterday in a small restaurant in Tulsa that features Colombian food - cheap, filling, and different from what most of us would have expected. And while we were there, we invited a priest who came in to join us our group. He turned out to be from Colombia himself, and not only explained what we were eating, but told us how to make several of the dishes, and described regional variations!

So check out local restaurants, specialty grocery stores, even language programs at your local community colleges. There's a lot of information out there, free for the asking. Or inexpensive, at ethnic eateries.

Posted by
2526 posts

You are overthinking the topic. Also, hunger may well modify your, perceived in advance, eating limitations.

Posted by
31 posts

I would take the advice given earlier and pack some food that you like, and/or stock up at local stores. Order a small portion of what you hope you will like and don't worry if you chose not to eat it. Make up for it with pleasant conversation, and a snack in your room later. There are many foods available now in small packages that you can fit in your purse or pocket. Or pack some small baggies for nuts, trailmix, whatever you like. In a few days, you will have a feel for what is available and what you will probably like. The food choices won't vary that much. Rice, beans, chicken, pork, and a large selection of fruits and vegetables (some not familiar to us) are the norm. Food is not usually spicy, condiments on the table allow you to pick and choose.

Some of us are adventerous eaters and some of us aren't. Some want to raft the rapids of a raging river, others prefer a beach and a book. Try not to stress over it, eat what tastes good to you and enjoy your trip!!