Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (or Any Vacation Spot!)

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

A couple of weeks ago, we packed up our bags and headed down to sunny Costa Rica for a weeklong vacation with my buddy Diana Rodgers and her family. Taking advantage of the lull before the debut of her gorgeous new book, Homegrown Paleo, Diana had arranged for all eight of us to stay at Surf Costa in Esterillos—a surfer’s paradise twenty minutes south of Jaco.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

It was our first time in Costa Rica, and lucky for us, our rental property came with an invaluable travel guide/driver/surf instructor/dining companion/new friend/uncle in Bryan Gleason. With his help, we immediately got busy vacationing.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

But if you think I’m now going to bore you with a day-by-day, blow-by-blow recap of our adventures, you’re wrong. Instead, I’m going to quickly count down the top ten things anyone should do on vacation in Costa Rica—or just about anywhere else, for that matter. Ready?

10. Play.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Who says only kids can play? Just ’cause we’re adults doesn’t mean we’ve outgrown playing. It’s therapeutic, critical to stress reduction, boosts our mood, and forges bonds with those around us. It makes us healthier. And besides, it’s just plain fun.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Every day in Costa Rica, we made time for play. We wobbled on surfboards in the waves off of Playa Esterillos…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com
Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com


Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…splashed around with the kids…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com
Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…paddled our way through whitewater rapids on the Rio Savegre…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and goofed off whenever, wherever.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Pretending to get gobbled up by wild crocs is always good for the soul.

9. Get with nature.

I’ll admit it: we’re city folk. Or more accurately, suburban folk. Okay—that’s not true of our entire party of eight; Diana and her husband Andrew are farmers, and their family lives in an 18thcentury farmhouse. But none of us are accustomed to trekking around in
rainforests and checking out the local flora and fauna.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I’m the kind of gal who would normally prefer to stay
poolside, but even I knew that it’d be stupid to pass up the opportunity to
check out our natural surroundings and its inhabitants. Skittish lizards, dancing
dolphins, and dazzling butterflies were only the tip of the iceberg. We had
close encounters with monkeys!

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Sloths!

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Tiger-face crabs!

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Horses!

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

And crocodiles!

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com
Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

No matter that Big-O was thrown off his galloping steed or
that we were thisclose to wading into
a shark-patrolled beach—seeing these creatures in the wild reminded us of the
wonderful diversity in our natural environment.

8. Eat local.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

As a lifelong gastrotourist, I can’t even conceive of going
to a foreign country to eat the same foods I enjoy at home. I don’t claim to be
a connoisseur of Central American cuisine, but I made sure that by the end of
our week in Costa Rica, I’d had the chance to dig into everything from casados…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…to fresh ceviche…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and most importantly, ever-present platters of crispy-fried patacones (a.k.a. tostones, or fried green plantains).

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com
Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Honestly—I think I’m addicted to patacones now. When I
arrived back home, the first thing I did was to shop for green plaintains so I
could fry some up straightaway. (Instructions will be coming soon on this blog, so keep your eyes peeled!)

Also, I don’t eat perfectly Paleo when I am on vacation. I know that gluten can do a number on my gut and I avoid it as best as I can. As a rule of thumb, I’m mindful of everything I put in my mouth and savor every bite.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Thanks to Bryan, we even found a favorite local eatery in Esterillos,
Restaurant Los Almendros, where our hungry families tucked into deliciously
prepared dishes almost every night.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com
Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I love nothing more than eating with my favorite people.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

7. Get out of your
comfort zone.

Vacation’s the perfect time to challenge yourself to do
something different. After all, you’re in an unfamiliar setting with plenty of
time on your hands—so what’s keeping you from checking off a few items from
your bucket list?

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

On our trip, each of us dared ourselves to do something
new—and potentially scary. For example, Diana faced her fear of ziplining and
whitewater rafting…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com
Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…I did my darnedest to get up on a surfboard…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and my arachnophobic husband tried not to freak out every
time someone shoved a big spider in his face.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

It’s good to get your blood pumping once in a while, right?

6. Chill.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Relaxing is easier said than done—especially on an action-packed
vacation. But resting and recharging is the primary reason we take holidays.
And trust me: we didn’t pass up opportunities to lounge around on hammocks…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…get musical…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…let the wind whip through our hair…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…write messages in the sand…

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and watch the sun set every evening.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

5. Learn.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Did you know that Costa Rica’s a huge producer of palm oil?
That when squeezed, teak leaves produce a red dye used in henna? Were you aware
that scarlet macaws form monogamous pair bonds that last for
life? Or that our guide Bryan’s deadpan humor can sometimes take the
form of taking us on a high speed police chase?

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

It’s important to learn something new every day, folks. Even
while on vacation.

4. Catch some rays.

Synthesize some Vitamin D by getting some sun!

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Exposure to sunlight helps normalize your circadian rhythms,
boost immunity and heart health, lowers your risk of diabetes, and keeps your
bones healthy. Plus: no one likes getting rickets.

3. Laugh.

Because it’s fun and funny—and good for you.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

2. Explore.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Take a hike. Go off the beaten path. It may not always yield
what you expected, but what’s life without surprises?

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

On horseback, we made our way to the top of a ridge with
gorgeous views. In the Corcovado rain forest, we tiptoed up to a slumbering tapir. And
at Surf Costa, we found an adorable surf baby who the kids wanted desperately to
adopt.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

1. Hang with your
peeps.

There’s nothing in the
world like being with those you love.

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Time slips by quickly, so whenever we can, let’s hit the
pause button and just enjoy each other’s company. These moments won’t last forever,
no matter how much we want to hold onto them. Blink, and you might miss them.

Now go book your next vacation!

Top 10 Things to Do in Costa Rica (of Any Vacation Spot!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

SOURCE ARTICLE: : http://nomnompaleo.com/post/112715876513

Dominican Republic Trip: The Food!

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Hi friends! I’m back for my second Dominican Republic press trip recap (if you missed my first – check that out: Running in the Dominican Republic)! Before I share details about the fitness/outdoorsy adventures we got into, I wanted to highlight the food. We had some awesome meals (and snacks, like this tasty fresh-from-the-coconut water) while there!

Breakfast Highlights

My favorite breakfasts were the ones where we had more traditional Dominican food, because I love sampling the local cuisine when I travel! When we stayed at the Sea Horse Ranch, a woman came to our villa to make us breakfast in the morning, Dominican-style!

This is Mongú, a traditional Dominican side dish comprised of plantains mashed with salt, lemon, and butter, and topped with sautéed onions. So good!

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I had it on our first morning at Casa Colonial hotel as well!

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Lunch Highlights

We had a lot of fun lunches, but one of the big highlights was on our first full day there, when we hit up a cool place on an island called Wilson’s Bar and Restaurant.

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Since it was on an island, you had to take a little boat there! Loved it.

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We started with some piña coladas… doesn’t get fresher than this!

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The food was served family-style. Fried fish (that was literally caught right next to us) and chicken, plus some unpictured rice and salad!

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It was SO good, and we enjoyed it with a view of some kite surfers. I’d love to try kite surfing sometime – have any of you guys done it before? Looks hard!

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We also had a tasty veggie-filled lunch at Casa Mami, which was located at the Extreme Hotel in Cabarete (more on that in the adventure post)!

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I especially loved this refreshing mint, cucumber, and lime juice!

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Another lunch highlight in the town of Cabarete was at a place called Fresh Fresh Café.

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This reminded me of some of my favorite cafes at home – health-focused and delicious! I had a couscous salad with all sorts of veggies, beans, and avocado. Yum!

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And a cookie for good measure. It had chia seeds in it, but otherwise tasted like a normal oatmeal cookie – my fave. :)

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The final lunch highlight was a traditional Dominican lunch that we enjoyed after our canyoning adventure (again, more on that soon). I LOVE rice/beans/chicken. So good!

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Dinner Highlights

One night we headed into Cabarete for dinner on the beach at a place called Papi.

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It was PACKED – we went on Friday night, which was also Independence Day in the Dominican Republic, so everyone was out and about for the holiday!

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It was really dark so I didn’t get great photos of the food, but we did family-style again and all shared some rice and seafood. Delish! I also had an unpictured salad to get in some greens… and a beer. The local Presidente! :)

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The last highlight I wanted to be sure to feature was dinner at the Beach Club at Seahorse Ranch. Check out these views!

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That hut is the dining room – talk about a spectacular location!

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Here I am dressed up with my blogger partners in crime – from left: Sarah, Gina, and Taralynn.

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The dining room was open air and gorgeous!

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Once again it was super dark so I didn’t get many food photos – just this one of the appetizer that Gina and I shared. Prosciutto FTW!

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Whew! That was a lot of deliciousness in one post. Stay tuned for my final recap – the fitness adventures we got into! Another big thank you to the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism for having me. :)

Dominican Republic Trip: The Food! originally appeared on fANNEtastic food | Washington D.C. area Registered Dietitian | Recipes + Healthy Living + Fitness on March 4, 2015.

The post Dominican Republic Trip: The Food! appeared first on fANNEtastic food | Washington D.C. area Registered Dietitian | Recipes + Healthy Living + Fitness.

SOURCE ARTICLE: : http://www.fannetasticfood.com/2015/03/04/dominican-republic-trip-the-food/

Goodbye to artificial colors?

I was invited by CNN to comment on the announcement by Nestlé that it is removing artificial colors from its chocolates.

Here’s what I said:

(CNN) When food giant Nestle USA (to which I am, alas, not related) last month announced plans to remove all artificial flavors and colors from its chocolate candies, it understandably made headlines. According to the company, by the end of 2015, none of a group of 250 chocolate products including Butterfinger and Baby Ruth will contain artificial flavors or colors such as Red #40 or Yellow #5.

With the expectation that these chemicals will also disappear from the company’s other candies, it looks like the end of the use of artificial flavors and colors in anything but the cheapest food products. If that proves to be the case, it will be a welcome shift.

Nestle USA intends to advertise the reformulated products with a “No artificial flavors or colors” claim on package labels. If sales of the “no artificial” candies grow as expected, the company will surely extend the removal to all of its other colored and flavored food products. After all, Nestle’s international parent company — and the company’s competitors — will have to take notice and find ways to remove these chemicals from all their product lines.

Nestle USA has undeniable clout. It accounts for a quarter of the $100 billion in annual revenues of the more than century-old, privately held parent corporation, which itself is the largest food company in the world. This move surely will not only reverberate through the candy industry, but also affect every other major food company.

In substituting natural for artificial flavors and colors, Nestle USA is responding to what its customers are saying. The company’s own research indicates that Americans prefer their beloved candy brands to be free of artificial flavors and colors, while other surveys find majorities of respondents saying that artificial chemical additives negatively influence their buying decisions.

Nestle is also responding to decades of complaints from consumer advocates about the potential health risks of these chemicals, especially the dyes. Studies in experimental animals have linked high doses of food dyes to health problems, among them organ damage, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions. In humans, studies link food dyes to hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in young children.

The credibility of these studies and their implications for human health remain hotly debated. In the 1970s, for example, Ben Feingold, a physician in California, suggested that food additives caused children to become hyperactive. Much of the evidence for the “Feingold hypothesis” rested on anecdotal reports by parents, whereas double-blind, controlled clinical trials produced contradictory results.

On the basis of current evidence, some artificial food dyes have been banned, while others remain in use despite suggestions that they too might be harmful. But the makers and users of food dyes argue that the chemicals are safe at current levels of usage. As a result of all this, and in the absence of convincing evidence of their safety, the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest has campaigned since the 1970s to remove food dyes and other chemicals from foods, and has continued to petition the Food and Drug Administration to ban them.

The opposing views complicate the regulatory status of food dyes. But after one clinical trial reported that dyes induce hyperactivity in half the children studied, the British government asked companies to stop using most food colors; the European Union requires a warning notice on many foods made with them.

In the United States, the FDA does not permit artificial food dyes to be used unless the manufacturers can meet safety requirements. But the amounts of these substances in the country’s food supply have greatly increased in recent years — soft drinks, breakfast cereals, frozen desserts and even salad dressings all contain artificial coloring agents. True, the FDA considers a dye to be safe if there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from its intended use. But that standard is vague enough to cause concern.

Given the unresolved scientific questions, it is reasonable to ask why artificial colors have to be in foods at all. From the standpoint of manufacturers, such additives are essential for covering up and hiding unattractive colors in processed foods. To the public, red candy seems to taste better than the drab variety. And while natural colors exist, they are less stable or more expensive to produce. But for Nestle to have taken the action that it has, the company must have found substitutes it can live with. And appealing to consumers’ preference for “natural” makes good business sense.

The truth is that whether artificial colors do or do not cause health problems in adults or children, they are there strictly for cosmetic purposes. For that reason alone, getting rid of them is a good idea.

SOURCE ARTICLE: : http://www.foodpolitics.com/2015/03/goodbye-to-artificial-colors/