Monday, January 20, 2014

Back from a visit to summer: Travels in Chile

The amazing produce at Valdivia's River Market. It's berry season!
Been gone a while. I traveled to Chile for 3 weeks to visit family and see some of the spectacular scenery there. A beautiful country, with fantastic seafood, produce, and wine.

Chilean Tortillas. Nothing like Mexican tortillas. They are flat biscuits.
And a nutrition crisis just like the US. Obesity, and many of the chronic diseases that go along with it, is a huge problem in Chile. After eating there for 3 weeks, I can see why. Every family member we met had an enormous sweet tooth. We were served cake (amazing home-made tortes but dessert just the same), even at breakfast. Soda is everywhere. You can not find much in the way of whole grains. The national bread is a biscuit (called a tortilla) and Chile ranks #2 in the world in bread consumption, nearly all of it pure white.
One of the few whole grain breads we saw, baked by my husband's cousin who supplies them to gourmet shops in Valdivia. It's a delicious sourdough loaf and definitely the exception, not the rule.
Is Chile doing something about this? Yes! Unlike the US, where we have weak nutrition labeling laws (most of them are voluntary and subject to the whims of corporate PR), Chile has instituted red-green-blue labels so that a consumer can quickly see if a product exceeds standards for sugar, salt, and fat. You can read about it on Marion Nestle's Food Politics blog.

That's one big slice of cake. Made with manjar (Chile's version of dulce de leche*), real whipped cream, and berries. We shared it and still didn't finish it.
I don't expect to see anything like this in the US any time soon. So, it's up to each of us to understand what's good for our bodies and what isn't. I'm not some purist. Believe me, I ate cake in Chile (see above) but I accept that this is a treat, not something I should eat everyday. Or for breakfast!

*Dulce de leche or manjar is sweetened condensed milk that has been boiled down until it is the consistency of caramel. It is extremely sweet and extremely delicious.

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