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  • Going to Africa! Need advice.

    Hello all

    I just received news that I will be working in Ghana Africa on a 28 day schedule. 28 days there, then 28 days back home. I've been doing some research, talking to fellow co-workers who are there etc. and the nutritional picture is very bleak indeed. I'm currently practicing low carb paleo in order to lose a significant amount of weight so I'm avoiding starches and fruits for now. Unfortunately the western African diet is mostly starches: rice, potatoes, yams, plantains etc. and also a variety of fruits: mango, papaya, pineapple etc. You get the idea. There are a limited amount of meats available but mostly fish and chicken which is great but word from my fellow co-workers are DONT eat anything from the local economy except for fruits and veggies with a rind, especially any meats. There aren't any grocery stores and almost all food is purchased literally on the streets from vendors or from the 2-3 convenience type stores I'll have access to. Most of my co-workers are bringing food over in a suitcase but this is crap like granola bars, canned stew, ravioli etc. I refuse to eat that junk anymore!

    Anyway, I am planning on using a second suitcase for food and could use some advice on things to bring. I'm thinking as paleo friendly as possible like canned sardines, pouches of tuna and salmon, a good high quality protein powder, maybe a good green food mix but after that I'm lost. any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  • #2
    Don't forget jerky. That said, eat the local diet when you need to and don't beat yourself up. How long are you going to be doing this rotation?

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    • #3
      The local fare sounds great, to be honest.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by glorth2 View Post
        Don't forget jerky. That said, eat the local diet when you need to and don't beat yourself up. How long are you going to be doing this rotation?
        OK, jerky is an awesome idea! forgot about that one.

        Total duration is 6 months so I'll only be doing 3 total rotations.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by WeldingHank View Post
          The local fare sounds great, to be honest.
          It actually does sound great especially when I researched some of the local dishes but they are very heavily starched based with little protein. I'm actually looking forward to trying some of the local fare but really want to try and stay as low-carb as possible.

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          • #6
            make and take pemmican

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            • #7
              I would not dream of visiting a far-away place and not eating the local cuisine. It is also primal to enjoy life and all it has to offer. I went to India and ate everything, even guavas I bought from a lady who appeared out of the bushes on a hiking trail, cut them open with a knife, and sprinkled chili powder on them before handing them to me with her bare hands. We really need ladies like this on hiking trails in the US. I ate in little outdoor restaurants, too, and street tacos in Mexico City. Seriously, live life to the fullest, eat the plantains, yams, mangos and whatever else. With gusto.
              Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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              • #8
                Where are you going in Ghana? I know only a little about Ghana. My yoga teacher is Ghanan-German and she talks about Ghana.

                Rice, potatoes, yams, plantains etc. are good, when supplemented by protein you take. It seems like any thoroughly cooked vegetable would be fine. I don't know why not.
                Ancestral Health Info - My blog about Primal and the general ancestral health movement. Site just remodeled using HTML5/CSS3 instead of Wordpress.

                My MDA Friday success story - Stubborn Senior's Testimonial

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                • #9
                  If it's only 28 days, I'd suggest trying your best to eat according to your goals, but don't kill yourself. This is an awesome chance to experience local cuisine and culture and you should definitely take advantage of it. I'm sure you'll have a blast no matter what you decide on for lunch! Enjoy your time there and post an update to let us know how it goes!
                  "Always be yourself. Express yourself. Have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it." -Bruce Lee

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                  • #10
                    I lived in Malawi for a couple years as a Peace Corps volunteer. I think you are overlooking the possibilities of stocking up on canned goods in the capital. Accra will have larger type grocery stores, more familiar to Westerners, you can stock up on canned fish and meat. See if you can get just a couple hours to shop for a bit. Once you get out into the rural areas you will be more limited if you want to go low carb. Honestly though, don't sweat it. You will have higher carb days and that's ok.

                    People always associate travel in third world countries with food born illnesses. If you are smart, you will be just fine. You said chicken and fish are around, the fish is going to be pretty fresh because there is no refrigeration. I lived near Lake Malawi and had fish quite often and never got sick. Usually you buy it whole, and will have to clean it for yourself.

                    Same goes for chicken, a lot of the time, chicken are sold live in rural Africa, because, let's face it, live chicken keeps better than a dead one. You haven't said anything about your housing situation, will you have access to a fridge of your own? If not, my method was to cook a large meal for dinner and have the left overs for breakfast. Americans are VERY squeamish about leaving food out. We refrigerate everything, even if it doesn't need to be. One meal left out overnight in a sealed tupperware container and then heated, won't cause any problems.

                    Also, what about eggs? Your co-workers may have overlooked them because they feel like if they can't keep them cold, then they'll go bad in a day. Do NOT worry about keeping eggs cold, I have left eggs on the counter for a week at a time during the hot season and they are still perfectly good. If you are worried about eggs, put them in a bowl of water, if they float, they're bad, if they sink, they're fine.

                    Do you know what the situation is like for goat meat there? Goat is pretty popular all over Africa, I made it a point to buy goat once a week, it's good. Your co-workers may be warning you off it because, again, squeamish Americans. Honestly, ask around. The locals will know where a butcher is, any meat he is selling is going to have been very recently killed. Just because it is meat that isn't packaged and in the refrigerated section, doesn't mean it is bad. Ask someone there what a local person would pay for a Kg of meat and go buy some. Frequently, it will come as one big chunk with bits of bone still in it (meat isn't butchered as pretty as it is here), get creative with it. I would cook it all at once, and make a stew and then remove the bones after cooking.

                    You can even get away with fruits and veggies too. Sure, if it has a peel, peel it, but washing goes a long way. In Malawi, they have a water treatment sold everywhere in a little blue bottle called Water Guard. It is just plain old bleach, nothing fancy, we used it All. The. Time. I know, you're thinking, "Bleach! No! Chemicals!" Relax, you aren't chugging it. A couple milliliters to a big 20 L bucket of water made it drinkable, I also did a filtration on my water. To clean 1L of water, it was 2 drops, maybe 3. There is probably a similar product, sponsored by Water Aid or USAID etc, for making water safe for drinking. Add a few drops to enough water to cover your veggies and let them sit for a little bit, maybe 20 min. You can rinse them after soaking if you want but they'll be fine. I did this to clean greens but I usually cooked my veggies.

                    Fruits are very seasonal, you may be there at the wrong time of the year for mango, which would be sad, fresh mangoes are like eating pure concentrated joy and sunshine. Ask some of the locals what is in season, they eat seasonally, so can you. Odds are good, most fruit you will get will have just been picked. A quick wash and you're good to go. Imagine if you went apple picking here in the States, sure, there's probably some dirt, wash your fruit. I can't stress this enough about food, if you are looking for something, ask someone who lives there. They know the country, what is available and what is a good price. You will get ripped off if you don't know what the real price is. If you are still unsure about it, have someone buy it for you. I did this a lot, especially when I first got there, and you know what, it's ok. Your friends will understand, just tell them you don't want to get a bad price and ask if they will find out what the price is for you.

                    Even street food I wouldn't worry about too much. A lot of the time you can find people cooking meat on roadside stands. I know, everyone and their Doctor is telling you not to eat it but the rule I observed was, if it is hot, just off the fire, it's fine and I never got sick. Travel is fun, I think you have a great opportunity to see how people around the world cook, eat and live. Enjoy it! If you are invited over to a meal at someone's house, don't be a snob and refuse potatoes or something else because it is high carb. You are there as a guest of honor and it would be really rude to refuse. The high carb starchy foods are a staple, people eat them because they can't afford to eat meat as often as you will, recognize this and please be okay with it. It may take you a couple trips over to get a good feel for the food and what's available but I am absolutely willing to bet that there are a lot of other options you haven't found yet. Before traveling, everyone is convinced by their doctor that any food not made in America will kill them. If you are smart and use common sense, you'll be fine.
                    You are an animal on this planet and the rules of engagement are non negotiable.

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                    • #11
                      OK, excellent advice from all.

                      Cavebug, I'll be in Takoradi which is a medium size port town right on the coast so I'm fairly certain fresh fish will be readily available. I will be passing through Accra but only at the airport so I don't think I'll have a chance to stop and stock up but I'll definitely check out the possibility. Also, excellent advice about goat, which I have wanting to try anyway. I will be living in an apartment with access to a full kitchen so yes I can refrigerate, cook etc. I am an experienced hunter and fisherman so I have no problem at all dealing with whole fish and large rough cuts of meat. I guess my main worry is foodborne illness. I heartily agree that my co-workers are likely squeamish and I'll just have to wait till I get there and decide for myself.

                      Thanks to all for the advice to just go and enjoy what the local cuisine has to offer and that's exactly what I'm going to do.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Chopper9994 View Post
                        Cavebug, I'll be in Takoradi which is a medium size port town right on the coast so I'm fairly certain fresh fish will be readily available. I will be passing through Accra but only at the airport so I don't think I'll have a chance to stop and stock up but I'll definitely check out the possibility. Also, excellent advice about goat, which I have wanting to try anyway. I will be living in an apartment with access to a full kitchen so yes I can refrigerate, cook etc. I am an experienced hunter and fisherman so I have no problem at all dealing with whole fish and large rough cuts of meat. I guess my main worry is foodborne illness. I heartily agree that my co-workers are likely squeamish and I'll just have to wait till I get there and decide for myself.
                        Awesome, you have a house, you're golden! I completely understand your worry about food born illnesses. I have only been sick enough to need IV antibiotics twice in my life and both times were in Africa. The first time it was due to a cut on my foot that got infected and I developed a secondary infection that decided to manifest as tonsilitis, not fun. The second time it is still a total mystery as to what made me so sick. I kind of want to blame the water (a bunch of us had all eaten the same food, no one else got sick) since I was drinking tap water straight, a no-no, even after living there for 2 years. I should have known better, I was attached to the bathroom for a few days.

                        Just cook your food properly, drink clean water and you'll be fine. On a different note, what kind of work are you going to be doing in Ghana? I'm still attached to Africa, I get curious.
                        You are an animal on this planet and the rules of engagement are non negotiable.

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                        • #13
                          I want to say that this sounds like an awesome opportunity and I hope you have an amazing time. Having a kitchen to yourself will surely help and I wish you really well with this new project.
                          Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air
                          Ralph Waldo Emerson

                          Journal: Vibrant Life

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by CaveBug View Post
                            Awesome, you have a house, you're golden! I completely understand your worry about food born illnesses. I have only been sick enough to need IV antibiotics twice in my life and both times were in Africa. The first time it was due to a cut on my foot that got infected and I developed a secondary infection that decided to manifest as tonsilitis, not fun. The second time it is still a total mystery as to what made me so sick. I kind of want to blame the water (a bunch of us had all eaten the same food, no one else got sick) since I was drinking tap water straight, a no-no, even after living there for 2 years. I should have known better, I was attached to the bathroom for a few days.

                            Just cook your food properly, drink clean water and you'll be fine. On a different note, what kind of work are you going to be doing in Ghana? I'm still attached to Africa, I get curious.
                            Thanks again CaveBug for your awesome advice. It definitely helps to get info from somebody that has been there, especially with an obvious open mind and sense of adventure. As previously mentioned, my co-workers may be a little too paranoid and bring entire suitcases of food stuffed full of junk. I'll most likely just take a few things paleo friendly and just wing it as I go. I doubt very much I'll starve to death! Lol...

                            As to my work, I am in the offshore oil/natural gas industry and due to some recent finds offshore, Ghana is booming right now. I'm currently on a 6 month contract but the future looks really good there so I'm anticipating many more contracts in the future. Some of my co-workers have been there on previous contracts and they absolutely love working there so I'm pretty excited to participate.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by CaveBug View Post

                              Even street food I wouldn't worry about too much. A lot of the time you can find people cooking meat on roadside stands. I know, everyone and their Doctor is telling you not to eat it but the rule I observed was, if it is hot, just off the fire, it's fine and I never got sick.
                              My wife and I have debated going on vacations and basing them around the abundance of local street fare. The city we live in, has a large dominican/puerto rican population, and old habits die hard for them, we have some street vendors much like 3rd world countries. Some of the best tasting stuff comes off those little carts and trucks.

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