Sorry I haven’t posted in a while – I’ve been on vacation in Brazil! While I was there, I was definitely on the lookout for healthy, veggie friendly food. We visited Iguazu, Manaus in the Amazon, and Rio. For Iguazu and Manaus, we had all inclusive hotels so all our meals were made for us. In Rio, we had to do our own food hunting. So for anyone traveling to Brazil – here were some of the places I loved, as well as some tips to stay healthy while on vacation (especially if your meals are pre-prepared for you!). One other thing I realized was that there aren’t many healthy, veggie friendly options in Iguazu and the Amazon (not much variety anyway) – so I definitely had to be creative when finding my meals. Hope the tips below are helpful!
In Iguazu, we stayed at the Hotel das Cataratas. It was a beautiful hotel in an amazing location – I’d definitely recommend it to anyone going to Iguazu! Breakfast was amazing at the restaurant. The only problem was lunch & dinner didn’t have many veggie friendly options.
For breakfast – these were the best options:
- Fresh Fruit: tropical fruit in a tropical location is awesome! Watermelon, Papaya, Pineapple, Melon and Strawberries were all good options
- Cereals: Museli, Oats, Bran/Fiber cereal (looks like Fiber One or All Bran cereal in the US) with milk and sugar substitute
- Hot Tea (Brazilian black tea is awesome!)
- Whole Grain bread with a thin slice of cheese (The breads were thinly sliced and small in size which makes for a great breakfast addition). Just a quick tip – whole wheat bread in Portugese is “Pan Integral” in case you need to request it specially!
- Freshly squeezed juices: We had orange, watermelon – just make sure not to have more than one glass because juice also has lots of sugar/calories!
For lunch – our options were usually cheese and bread, or pizza. By the way – most pizza in Brazil is not prepared with sauce so keep that in mind when you’re ordering it! I would generally try to have a huge breakfast, have a very thin slice of pizza plus a lara bar or cliff bar for lunch, and then a medium sized dinner.
For dinner – at the hotel, they allow you to pay less for the buffet if you’re only eating veggie food. I would usually focus on the soups (but make sure the soup doesn’t have added cream in it because then it loses its health benefits!), request whole wheat bread, have a few thin slices of cheese, eat a few of the salads and the fruit plate. The cheese plates would often have walnuts so I’d get a handful of those and make a cheese/walnut sandwich which tasted pretty good! I’d avoid the pasta because it was usually white pasta with a creamy or oily sauce. I’d also order tea with milk to make sure I was getting enough protein. The fruits would generally be enough fiber, but if I felt like I wasn’t getting enough fiber, I’d have a lara bar after dinner as “dessert.”
We stayed at The Amazon EcoPark Jungle Lodge which was also a great lodge in an awesome location! Meals were all included here as well – and I’d generally follow the same meal plan as I did in Iguazu.
The only tip I’d add here is that raw vegetables/fruits are to be avoided in the underdeveloped parts of Brazil – unless they are peeled and washed. Luckily, in both the EcoPark and in the Iguazu hotels, the fruits/vegetables were pretty safe to eat. I still avoided super raw salads and tried to go for cooked vegetables, but I ate the fruits with no problem.
In the EcoPark, they had awesome veggie friendly soups every night. They also always had some sort of cooked veggies and rice. The main thing I had to be cognizant of was whether I was getting enough protein or not. I’d try to have cheese/milk with the meal, but I also relied heavily on my Lara Bars, Cliff Bars and Trail Mix to get me through.
Rio was GREAT for healthy veggie friendly eats! We stayed in a condo in Ipanema, which had tons of restaurants within walking distance of our place. One thing I noticed was that Rio had TONS of freshly made juice bars – which were great snacks throughout the day! Here’s a list of the restaurants we visited and what I ordered below:
- Restaurante Liquido: http://www.liquidorestaurante.com.br/ – this was, by far, my favorite restaurant in Brazil. They had dozens of freshly made juices (with no cream, or high calorie items added!) I had three juices there and all were awesome: Pineapple Mint and Ginger, Pineapple, Strawberry and Apple, and the Green Drink: which had a bunch of fruits and vegetables of which I can only remember a few: Apple, Parsley, Celery, Kale, Broccoli, Pear (I think). It tasted GREAT and I’d highly recommend it! It was a wonderful way to start the day. Liquido also has an amazing Soy Burger – even my carnivorous friends liked it! And some good crepes (but make sure not to get calorie rich fillings – e.g. potatoes, cheese, syrups, etc.
- Bistrô Cafeína: Great breakfast, fresh fruits, excellent coffee, good sandwiches and soups. The tomato soup was clearly made with fresh tomatoes and looked great, the sandwiches are tasty as well – make sure to order with whole grain bread and don’t be afraid to do some “surgery” on your sandwich if it comes with too much cheese! I often take out cheese from my sandwiches – one slice is generally enough.
- Armazem do Cafe: This place was great for coffee and a quick bite – I just got a whole grain sandwich with cheese (of which I only ate half and took out a lot of the cheese to make it lighter!)
- Aprazivel Restaurant: This place was in an amazing location (great views, cool outdoor seating). The bruschetta and mushroom lasagna were great. The lasagna is HUGE so share it with someone 🙂 Also – it was good because it was mostly mushrooms and light pasta, with cheese only on top.
- Rota 66: http://www.restauranterota66.com.br/orestaurante.asp – they had great Mexican food which was also veggie friendly (their refried beans are great and vegetarian!). I ordered the 3 soft tacos with refried beans, cheese, lettuce and pico de gallo – I asked for no sour cream. The tacos were really big so I only ate 2 of the 3 for portion control 🙂 We also ordered guacamole for the table which was great.
- Sushi Leblon: http://www.sushileblon.com/ – most of the time I don’t like sushi because there aren’t many veggie options, but this restaurant was really good! I ordered the Miso Soup, Edamame, and 1 order of the california rolls with no crab. The rolls had mango, avocado and cucumber and were really tasty! I ate 3 of the rolls, a huge bowl full of edamame, and the soup. It was very filling!
- Vegetarian Social Club – we never actually made it here, but heard it was great for veggie friendly eats
- We also ate at a great cafe on Barao de Torre in Ipanema, but I can’t remember the name. They had a wonderful veggie soup and a baguette with brie and apricot jam – yum!
- There was also a wonderful pizzeria on Barao de Torre around the 200 block, but I can’t remember the name 🙂 If you’re ordering pizza – here are some of my tips:
- Try to order a pizza with veggies on it (to get some more fiber into your meal)
- Avoid thick crust pizzas – thin crust has much fewer calories
- If your pizza shows up and is super oily, blot the oil!
- If your pizza shows up and is super cheesy, don’t be afraid to take off some of the cheese before eating it
- Remember portion control! 2-3 small slices is usually enough 🙂 Stay away from those super jumbo sizes that could equal 3/4 of a small pizza!
Other Healthy Snacks to take on Vacation
Lara Bars – these are great because they’re super natural (most bars have only 2-5 ingredients), have very healthy fats (from nuts), have good fiber/protein content, and are quite filling! Each bar is only about 200 calories which makes it a great snack or meal substitute/addition (if your only options for lunch are white bread and cheese).
My favorite flavors are: Cashew Cookie, Peanut Butter Cookie, and Pecan Pie – but all of the bars are delicious!
Cliff Bars – These are always a good staple to have around. Each bar has at least 5g fiber and ~10g protein. They’re about 220-260 calories – also a good snack or meal substitute that’s pretty filling! My favorite flavors are Oatmeal Raisin and Chocolate Peanut Crunch.
Ziploc Bags of Whole Grain Cereal – my favorites are Kashi Heart to Heart and Original Puffins
Ziploc Bags of Whole Grain Crackers – my favorite is Kelloggs All Bran Crackers
Gum/Mints – good for those long plane rides!
Trail Mix – I like to look for mixes with Almonds, Walnuts, Raisins, Cashews (at least). Anything else is a bonus 🙂 Stay away from mixes that have added chocolate chips, M&Ms, added oils (like peanut oil), added sugar (for the dried fruit). 1/4 of a cup should be around 130-150 calories max. Trader Joe’s has some great trail mixes, and Bear Naked makes good ones also!
Whole Wheat PB&J (for the plane rides) – I make about 2 sandwiches when going on long international flights. They’re much tastier/healthier than most plane food and are good for emergency situations (like if you land at midnight and have a 6 hour layover when nothing is open at the airport!