Balanced Diet, Check!

August 9, 2011 § 8 Comments

Remember the bad [health] habits post? Well, this week I have decided to make a sincere effort at eating healthy, balanced meals, which isn’t an easy thing in a village with no grocery store. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, yogurt, eggs, nuts, and soy products. But if I am being honest, fruits and veggies make up the majority of my meals– and that is not a good thing when I am running 25 miles a week. Eating well-balanced meals is made all the more difficult because I don’t have a Western-style kitchen* or a refrigerator; the only cooking appliances I have are a rice cooker and an electric water heater. Regardless of my appliance limitations, I have decided to make my own dinners from here on out in my handy rice cooker.

I hitched a ride to the mall in Nakhon Ratchasima this weekend and bought some imported groceries at the fancy (i.e. expensive) Western supermarket: oatmeal, wheat germ, and sweet potatoes. At the market in my village, I bought 1 kilo of brown jasmine rice, cubed pumpkin, cauliflower, broccoli, snap peas, a carrot, and fresh honey (for the oatmeal!). If only I could get my hands on some quinoa, buckwheat, and spinach!

Last night was my first attempt at cooking in Thailand and it was a fairly successful venture. I threw a handful of brown rice, some roasted (unsalted) peanuts, 1/2 of a chopped sweet potato, an egg, and water into my rice cooker, pressed “cook,” and then headed out for my 11-miler. When I returned home from my run, hungry and exhausted, my dinner was ready! Huzzah! All I had to do was put it on a plate…

I will admit that the food was a bit bland (okay, okay, it was really bland– bordering on Spartanesque), but at least it was healthy and chock full of much-needed complex carbohydrates and protein. This week I will try to find some spices at the market so I can really get creative with my rice cooker.

*In Thailand, traditional homes do not have an oven or a cooking range. People usually cook rice in a rice cooker and all the rest gets stir-fried in a portable range/wok combination.

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§ 8 Responses to Balanced Diet, Check!

  • Tanya says:

    Wow! Good on you for finding nutrition in the village. I definitely feel for you, living in a village in rural Ghana, but my problem seems to be the opposite: very little veggies and way too many carbs! Haha, training for long-distance races in developing countries should be a sport on its own…

    It seems like your training is going stellarly so far, keep up the good work! 🙂

    • sydneykegan says:

      Thanks Tanya! I definitely agree about the training in developing countries thing– too funny! What brings you to Ghana?

      • Tanya says:

        I’m in Ghana with Engineers Without Borders Canada doing a Junior Fellowship– it’s kind of like an internship in International Development, and I have been working as a consultant for a large processing company that buys fruits from small-scale farmers. The placement is only 3.5-months though, so in about 2 weeks I’ll be heading back to Canada! This will be great for my training and nutrition but very sad otherwise… I’ve come to love Ghana and all the amazing people I live with! (Haha, I’m the resident “obrunyi”/white person in the small village of New Ebu.)

        I checked out your other blog and see that you teach English. That sounds fun… and challenging! What age are your students? Do you love it? 🙂

  • sydneykegan says:

    Are you also training for a race? How is living in Ghana? I actually would love to travel to Africa one day– I am really interested in Kenya and S. Africa (among other places). What are the living arrangements like? What kind of foods do you eat? It is kind of funny being the resident “white” person in a rural, developing village– if anything, its taught me a lot about how other cultures view “white” people.

    My students are between the ages of 5-13. I occasionally tutor adult students (22-30), but generally I try and stick with children. It’s fairly easy and because I have learned a bit of Thai, it’s simplified matters greatly. Teaching is alright– I like working with young kids (they are so cute and happy and eager to learn). haha

    • Tanya says:

      Yup! I’ve never raced before and I want to start taking my running a little more seriously, so I think a good goal is a 10-miler race coming up in my home city in October.

      I stay with a family in in the village, and am pretty close with them! There’s no electricity or running water in my compound, but there’s a tap nearby that we can easily fetch water from and some neighboring compounds have electricity so I can charge my phone when I need to! The staple food in southern Ghana is “fufu”, which is pounded cassava and plantain that is served with a bunch of different kinds of soups! It’s really good but not super nutritious, since it’s mostly just a bunch of carbs with one or two vegetables ground into the soup. Also, among older Ghanaians it’s commonly thought that being “fat” is attractive and healthy, so every day my host mother tries to stuff me full of fufu (probably 2-3 lbs of it… seriously!) and then happily comments on how fat I am growing. I have tried to explain (with little success) that being fat is not a good thing in Canada.

      Kenya and South Africa do seem quite cool, but why those two countries? Good luck travelling to them one day though 🙂

      And what kind of school do you teach at? Is it contracted through a recruiting agency?

  • sydneykegan says:

    Do you have a training schedule that you are trying to follow to prepare? How is it running in Ghana?

    I thought transitioning to Thailand was difficult, I imagine the transition to Ghana must have been rough. I found it frustrating that I didn’t have a fridge or wasn’t able to buy what I wanted when I wanted (e.g. Belgian beer, peanut butter, tofu). Haha– got over that quickly! But not having electricity or running water readily available! Wow. I would love to see some pics of your village (are you going to start a blog?).

    I would love to try some “fufu”– sounds delicious! For the most part, people in Thailand are really, really skinny. Some of the older women in my village comment (regularly) on how I am “uon” or fat. I am 5’4″ and weigh 115lbs– which by N. American standards, as you well know, is not fat. I just laugh it off; there’s no point in taking their comments seriously.

    I am actually a private teacher, so I don’t work with a school. But my partner did go through a placement agency called Media Kids and they placed him in a high school in Sikhiu, Thailand. He now works at a University (unaffiliated with Media Kids) and teaches English 101. I decided to work privately from our village because the pay is roughly the same and I like the flexibility and the freedom from ambivalent sexism which seems to pervade Thai schools.

    • Tanya says:

      Yup, I just recently set my mind on a race and I’m a huge excel geek so I have the appropriate daily mileage targets all nicely worked out in a spreadsheet training plan that I’m trying to follow. The keyword being trying… Haha, I’m just wrapping up my work here so it’s been too crazy trying to balance my work, village life, and health, so the last week I’ve definitely shirked my running >.> Running in Ghana is great, the scenery where I am is beautiful! I definitely try to avoid afternoon runs because it’s pretty hot, but I’m near the coast so it’s a lot cooler than it is in other parts of Africa.

      I have a blog for my work/life in Ghana at tanyainghana.wordpress.com. I will be the first to say the writing isn’t the best (I’m an engineer!), but there are lots of pictures!

      Wow the two of you have a lot of experience teaching all over Thailand! That’s wicked 🙂 I didn’t know that there is a lot of sexism in Thai schools though, I’m sad to hear it 😦 P.S. Loved the link to the McSweeney essay you posted! I was also not impressed with the ending though… I really wanted him to hold his head high despite being rejected… Hmm, I wonder why the author chose to end it that way!

  • sydneykegan says:

    I got a chance to look through your blog– the pictures are great. I really should post more photos on RunningVeg, but I generally reserve my Thailand photos for my other blog. I should consolidate! lmao

    I agree with your point about learning a new language in a small village; the locals *always* laugh at me, but they are very encouraging and quite happy that I am trying to speak their [tonal] language.

    How’s the training coming along? The motivation to run is definitely difficult at first– I mean, who in their right mind wants to subject themselves to arbitrarily painful, difficult, and repetitive work? Hahaha! But, after the first two weeks, it becomes a habit, and then, a few weeks after that, it becomes a lifestyle change.

    Since we seem to be in agreement regarding the McSweeney’s piece, you might just enjoy this blog: http://www.bluemilk.wordpress.com. It is written by a lovely Australian feminist writer and mother. You should check her out.

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