Ketogenic dieting is popular among some people that are looking to improve their health and lose weight. In a nutshell, “keto” is a diet that restricts the number of carbohydrates in the regular diet. It first came to the public notice as an effective treatment for some kinds of epilepsy, often in children. Some keto dieters, including yours truly, use a low-carb diet to manage blood sugar levels.
Low carb dieting has been around longer than the so-called ketogenic diet. In 1972, Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution was published, which introduced a low-carb dieting option to readers. The Atkins Diet gained popularity, even spawning a food business that bears Dr. Atkins’ name.
How Easy is it to Eat Keto in Costa Rica?
Rice and beans are the most common staple foods in the Costa Rican diet. In fact, there is a common saying down here that describes something very Costa Rican. It’s mas tico que gallo pinto, which means more Costa Rican than the ubiquitous rice and beans dish. Heck, even my nickname, Chifrijo is a food that features rice and beans.
So, in the land of carb staples, how easy is it to keep a ketogenic diet?
It can be done.
How to Eat Keto in Costa Rica
Before we get into how to stay low carb in Costa Rica, let’s discuss whether or not it’s the right decision.
If you are coming to Costa Rica on vacation and you use the ketogenic diet to maintain a healthy weight, then you might consider loosening your diet while on vacation. After all, you’re on vacation. And, Costa Rica offers a plethora of delicious food that isn’t necessarily low in carbohydrates while being reasonably healthy. You would miss out on delicious tropical fruits such as pineapple, mangoes, and plantains. A small service of chifrijo is delicious too.
However, if you’re looking to establish a sustainable long-term keto diet in Costa Rica, or need to be more strict with your diet for health reasons, then these suggestions will help you along the way.
Ceviche is a popular Latin American food that consists of fish and sometimes other seafood that is cured or “cooked” in the citrusy acid of lemon, lime, or (in some rare cases) orange juice. The acidity of the juice denatures the proteins in seafood, effectively cooking it. It’s common for ceviche to also include relatively low-carb ingredients such as onions, cilantro, and avocadoes.
While the citrus juice has some carbs in it, one normal-sized serving usually comes in at about 4 net grams of carbs per serving.
Often, ceviche is served with a few corn tortilla chips. Obviously, you’ll want to avoid those.
Gallos de Carne
In Costa Rica, a gallo normally consists of meat and vegetables in a tortilla. I’ve seen gallos with all kinds of meat. The most common seems to be chorizo (which is a spicy sausage), beef, and salchichon (which is another kind of spicy sausage but spiced differently).
Gallos are normally served with a small salad on the side.
If you choose to omit the tortilla, which I often do, a gallo is a solid meat-and-vegetables low-carb meal.
Chili Relleno con Huevo
One of my favorite low-carb meals in Costa Rica is chili relleno coated in egg and served with a side salad. The chili pepper is cooked and stuffed with tasty ground beef and coated with egg and cooked some more. I normally get it with a little side salad. I think that some restaurants might prepare the egg with a bit of white flour, but I’ve not noticed an egregious amount.
While not every restaurant or soda has this on the menu, I’ve found it in enough places to eat it regularly.
Other Low Carb Products
There are a few producers of low-carb foods in Costa Rica. Here are a few:
Great Low Carb Bread Company
You can get this company’s low-carb bread products at grocery stores in Costa Rica, including Auto Mercado. For a full list of grocery stores see this.
There are a few restaurants that serve Great Low Carb Bread Company products, including two in San José’s Barrio Escalante. See the full list here.
Low Carb Drinks
Costa Rica’s largest domestic beer producer, Florida Ice, and Farm Company produces a low-carb beer under the brand Imperial Ultra. It’s an extremely light beer with a low carb and calorie count when compared to other beers, such as its heavier cousin, Imperial.
Something to keep in mind regarding Imperial Ultra. The nutritional info such as calories and carbohydrates are calculated on a serving of 250ml. However, a normal-sized single-serve bottle or can is 350ml or 1.4 servings. Each 250ml serving is 61 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs. This makes a bottle and can 3.6 grams of carbs and 85 calories.
If you have more tips about eating keto in Costa Rica, please let me know so I can add them here.