Nicaraguans and protein

This post is inspired by a comment that KWP made (in a thread that, of course, had nothing to do with this comment). I basically have a question: do you know any Nicaraguan who does not get enough protein?

He said

So, I like to interact with Yari for a couple of minutes when she arrives, ask about the school day, get a bit of protein and juice into her. I know her diet at Eddy's is mostly rice and beans

I was impressed with the nutritional value of the typical Nicaraguan diet on my first visit. Yes, way too much salt and a lot of refined oil but I never saw a lack of protein. Gallo pinto is the base, upon which other things are added based on the budget. Gallo pinto is the perfect example of inexpensive balanced protein.

Maybe I am wrong but I translated this comment into "get a bit of meat into her". Even the vegetarian Nicaraguans I know (Ana's mother and Ana's now-deceased at only 86 or there abouts grandfather being examples) didn't seem to have protein issues. (I am not including myself because I do eat fish occasionally.)

I have talked to quite a few restaurant owners about the issue of no vegetarian choices on the menu. The universal answer has been that if you are poor you eat gallo pinto at home but people who can afford to eat out tend to want meat.

I bring this up because it is another case where many of us came from a culture where you were told "you need to eat your protein" that translated to a piece of meat. But, the planet just doesn't have the resources so that everyone can get their daily (US-level) portion of meat.

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Typical breakfast here

Rice and beans, cuajada, scrambled eggs, juice, coffee, and fruit if available. The burritos I eat for dinner (local Nica Mexican place) have lettuce and meat in them, plus side sauces and if I buy a plate from one of the fritangas, it's rice and beans, slaw (far less mayo than US slaw), a tortilla (if the corn was treated in calcium chloride, that's more calcium than untreated corn would have), some sauce, and a strip of grilled chewing meat.

A huge range of fruit is available year round.

Most of the nutritionists seem to agree that if people get sufficient calories, protein isn't an issue unless those calories are coming from sugar or refined starches.

There's actually a market for eggs that cost more than factory eggs -- huevos de amor -- in a lot of places. In my experience, they have been tastier than Cargill eggs or other factory eggs.

I think one of the complaints about Nicaraguan beef is expecting to eat a whole quick fried or broiled chunk of it rather than slow cool it as part of a stew. The best fats seem to be Omega 3 fatty acids, which people get from grass fed but not corn-fed beef, fish, or supplements (many people can get it from flax seed and I suspect chia, but not all). Stewed NIcaraguan beef is plenty tasty.

Rebecca Brown

As opposed to starch

I what I "read".

Normally twice the protein that can digested in one sitting is served; Chicken and beans, Beans and two dropped eggs, beans and cheese. 35 grams is about all the body can take in one go. The rest is wasted. e.g.

Yes, That's What I

meant. I try to get some meat into her daily, a tuna sandwich on my homemade bread, piece of chicken,, and I got her drinking milk and fruit batidos instead of gaseosas. Eddy maximizes the profit on $50 /month board that I pay for Yaritsa, double the going rate for campo kids boarded in Condega, I know she's not overfed, and she begs soap, shampoo, and toothpaste monthly sufficient in quantity for all three. I actually admire Eddy's entrepreneurial attitude. Yari is skinny, walks a good distance daily, and I know her studies are a challenge this year. Besides, she's growing like a weed. She can use the calories.

NONE of my crew drink gaseosas in front of me, they know my opinion of those empty calories. The truck comes down from the finca early every Saturday morning, a good part of the extended family and friends rides along for shopping in Condega. It returns loaded with blocks, gravel, cement, whatever we need, on Sunday afternoon. So, I kind of see what they buy for themselves for the week, and it includes plenty of gaseosa. There's not too many affordable alternatives.

I believe you CAN have a vegetarian diet sufficient to meet nutritional needs. You have to work at it, though, IMHO. And, it's probably not much fun for most of us who grew up with meat and mashed potatoes, covered in butter and gravy. Good salads are hard to make in NicaLand.

Sure, rice and beans will get you by, but rice and beans, a small piece of meat (I don't eat those Cowboy Steaks anymore either), a vegetable, some fresh fruit. I'm thinking of quietly incorporating something like the every present carrots into my batidos. What they don't know won't hurt them.

Despite my best efforts (offering to make bacon & eggs), the favorite Nica breakfast is STILL waffles, smothered in butter and Aunt Jemima syrup. But, is this any different than in the US?


Sustainability is the reason I brought this up. Rice and beans for all Nicaraguans seems to be sustainable. And more. But even that isn't sustainable for everyone in the world. While you can "afford it" you have created a "better treated than average" teenager. Honorable but, again, not sustainable.

I am not (specifically) trying to pick on you but on the "Gringo concept" that we can fix everything for the locals. We can't. We can help a few but whether your are adding too much protein, flush toilets, vehicles or whatever, the infrastructure -- all the way up to the world level -- cannot offer all this for everyone.

What impressed me with the typical Nicaraguan is that they tend to be able to live fairly well within their budget and I mean both financially and environmentally. I have also thought a lot about the Nicaraguans I have known who have lived a long life. Longer than the average "rich Gringo". Certainly there is variation but the one thing they seem to have in common is eating almost no processed foods.

As for your belief about vegetarian diets could work, for the most part, skip the salad. There are lots of vegetarian diet options in Nicaragua that do not require salad greens (including gallo pinto). In general, vegetarian food is more varied and interesting than "hunk of fried meat with some sort of potatoes".

Finally, that Aunt Jemima syrup. I just checked the ingredients of the original. Is this really want it always was made from?


Gaseosa on the waffles might be better -- I think they are still sweetened with sugar from cane in Nicaragua. You could add corn starch to make up for the lack of cellulose gum.


Calling the current “Aunt Jemima - The Original” (a trademark, since pre-WWII), the “Original” is like calling the current U.S. Coke, “The Original Recipe” - even though it is not made with Sugar, as the original clearly was. Neither the current Coke or Aunt Jemima is the original. The later brand has been around a century, and is currently owned by Pepsi (experts on HFCS). It is worth noting that they do not claim it is maple syrup, and no cheap product seems to even try or imply that, verbally. Homemade via sugar, water, salt, and maple flavoring is cheap and far better - which is a lot closer to the original Aunt Jemima (whose original pancake flour looked nothing like what is sold today: mixture of hard winter wheat and corn flour).

15% maple syrup

My Aunt Jemima has 15% maple syrup.

15% Maple Syrup

That's cause you're in Canada, where Maple syrup is good, relatively inexpensive, and plentiful.

I used to bring a $hit!oad of it back when I traveled to Montreal on business. The stuff in Connecticut and NY state doesn't compare, not as thick and not as richly flavored.

Costco usually has Canadian maple syrup in cute jugs. It's always on the list as I head back to NicaVille. Costco is the last stop as food enters duty free (as does clothing, books, lots of personal articles too) into Nicaragua, so I put the food in the top of the bins.

Standby for a pic of Grapes Of Wrath IV -- leaving this week. The Joads are on the move again.

The thing about crossing borders with lots of stuff is, there are no rules. Other than the Mexican entry south of Nogales, where they don't even look at your VIN, every border is a little different, every time. The buildings are all in the same places, mostly, routine is the same, but the individual you deal with will take a different look at you and your load. Nicaragua used to be easy,, after the first of the year (2014) they became more meticulous. I was told it's a drug and weapons thing.

It's never a big problem, worst case scenario,, you have to hire a customs broker on the spot to fill out a formal declaration that describes your goods in more detail than " books, clothing, and personal articles". I've done that once, cost $30.

Accept no assistance, most of the tramites are thieves and will actually hinder your progress. Take the time to do it yourself, smile a lot, pass out cookies, try not to cross in the middle of the night (when everyone is sleeping --even if the border is nominally open - they don't expect tourists during those hours).

The Irish had a saying, "A Little Bit Of What You Like Will Never Hurt You" I think Socrates said the same thing.


I got my information on the Aunt Jemima web site. None of the syrups listed fit.

I can send a photo

Made in Peterborough, Ontario, but I see Aunt Jemima has no Canadian site.

I Know, I know

I don't eat the stuff myself. I keep a stash of Canadian maple syrup in the back of the cupboard.

Hypocritical, I know. I'd serve something else, but they love the waffles. It's not like we eat them every day, more a once a week thing.

No, I've never read the label, but it sounds like a lot of what we eat these days. That label could go on a number of foodstuffs with little change in wording, including the gaseosa.

I think you might be right about pouring the gaseosa on the waffle. Healthier.

Good solid comments. Nicas desperately need opportunities. You may see their life as fulfilling and satisfying, but I think a lot of them want better.

I can't save the world,, but I can make a difference in the lives of a few Nicaraguans. I've already seen it.

But, the jury is still out. Let's re-visit this question in five more years and see what has transpired. I've been wrong, and very wrong, before.