Low Carb in Fiji
For the past year my family has slowly adopted a low-sugar, low-carb way of eating. One of the biggest concerns we had was how we would be able to 'cope' on holidays in Fiji. If you are planning a holiday in Fiji, or moving to Fiji to live and want to know about surviving on a low-carb diet, whilst we are no experts on this topic, this is how we did it whilst on holidays there.
SUGAR IN FIJI
Sugar is absolutely overused in Fiji. Recent information published by the Fiji Government's Ministry of Health puts diabetes at the top of the non-communicable disease list. It really is no great surprise when billboards are advertising that Milo be made with 6 teaspoons of the chocolately goodness to make use of its optimum health benefits? Am I the only one shaking my head right now - Nestle is clearly making a fortune in Fiji. In their defence, they have 'sponsored' a public exercise station along the sea wall in Suva??? Does that make sense?
Whilst managing a resort in Fiji, my Husband tells me that he bought a 5kg bag of sugar for the staff tea room each week. Almost unbelieveable, except when you know how the normal cup of tea in Fiji is made - with at least 4-5 teaspoons of sugar! I had to learn how to say 'no sugar in my tea please' in Hindi and Fijian, to avoid having it unknowingly put in my normally 'friendly' cups of tea. So given the incredibly high usage of sugar in Fiji, and the quite high stodgy carb diet (rice, potato, kasava etc) it was concerning, to say the least, when we decided to avoid sugar and carbs in Fiji, how we were going to do it?
HOW TO AVOID CARBS ON HOLIDAYS
Holidaying is all about relaxing and adventure, drinks and food, right? It is a depressing thought of 'dieting' when on holidays. Our main approach was not to worry too much about the quality going in, just trying to avoid sugar and carbs for the most part.
My biggest tip is to not bother explaining to anyone you are 'low-carb'. Instead, say you have allergies. Chefs are well versed in allergies, but they will not fully understand low-carb. Gee, even my best friends still offer me a fruit salad or "brown rice because it is better than white". Whilst they are clearly better choices than a mars bar for 'healthy eating' they aren't exactly compliant when following low carb.
You can survive the breakfast buffet! Repeat that after me. We headed straight to the omelette chef. Then we made it very clear that we couldn't have milk - you could tell them you are allergic to it - we also asked to see the bottle of cream they use, to make sure it is actually cream. (Twice it wasn't!). Then we told them (every single day) that we also couldn't take sugar. I know this sounds basic, but you must be very clear; very, very clear. Fijians are well-known for their beautiful beaming smiles. Sometimes that smile is used because they don't understand exactly what you are saying. Explain clearly what you want in the omelete, and if you have to, stand there and watch them make it. We did! We would then grab a side, or two of bacon, and some mushrooms. We would also grab a few boiled eggs each (to 'discretely' take back to the room and keep in the fridge). By filling up on a big low-carb brekky , we were able to skip lunch almost every day (bonus of saving cash too!). When we ate a-la-carte, we told them no toast or hash-browns, and added extra bacon.
Side tip: I know you don't want to know this given you are likely low-carb yourself but bread in Fiji is the best!!!! Especially fresh warm long-loaves from the bakery. So if you don't see it, you won't be tempted. Don't head to The Hot Bread Kitchen, which is famous in Fiji, because the goodies there will be too much to tempt you. Think cream buns, and apple pies. No, stop thinking of them!
If you are hungry (we hardly were!) you could eat your boiled egg (the one you very discretely took at brekky). If you are at a restaurant, or by the pool - it has to be steak, or fish, or ask for roast chicken or grilled chicken pieces. Chicken is a popular dish in Fijian homes, so most chefs will know. Hamburger patties will almost certainly have carbs in them. Ask for no dressing on your salad, but ask for a side dish of mayo. And tell the wait staff that you want nothing to do with fries. Another sad fact for us low-carbers in Fiji - the fries in Fiji are amazing!
The buffet at dinner time was a little bit trickier. Everything seems to be cooked in sauce, which we know will be full of sugar. I found it easier to eat a-la-carte, but I do realise that a lot of holiday-makers book a meal plan in advance which often includes the buffet. In this case, head straight to the roast meat section, along with the veggies soaking-in-hot water section. Eat an assortment of roast meat (chook, beef, pork) and green veggies only. I know, sometimes our low-carb life is sad.
DESSERTS & DRINKS:
Skip mostly all of the cocktails and mocktails, including the dessert buffet. If your friend from the Breakfast Omelette station did show you real cream, then you know it is available in your resort. Ask for cream and berries whizzed up every couple of nights - I know it is probably higher in fat (a glass of cream) than you probably want, but you're on holidays right?
In case of any potential issues that may arise before you have been able to settle in, ask your taxi driver to stop off at a popular supermarket on the way to the Resort from the Airport. Be specific as to which one you want to go to, because there are a lot of little supermarkets on the way, but most will not carry 'westernised' food. Ask for:
Nadi: New World
Denerau: at the marina
Suva: New World at Damodar CIty
Your shopping list should include:
Cheese (Fiji have their own brand called REWA - it's fine and reasonably priced, or they import a lot of NZ cheeses like Mainland, these are more expensive but yummy)
Cold meat (but check very carefully that it looks okay, remember how hot Fiji is and that food can go off very quickly in that type of heat)
Eggs (you can boil some in your room if desperate for snacks)
Avocado (I always like avo for a snack, fills me up quickly)
Long-life cream (if you haven't bought any over in your luggage) - you can use this in your black coffees in your room
Water, water, water - buy bottles and bottles of it - it will be expensive in your Resort convenience shop and you will need a lot of water to help fill up your low-carb tummy
Diet soft-drink - the only one you will find is likely to be diet coke and if you are a diet-coke consumer, then you are better to buy it from the supermarket (much cheaper!)
You probably should bring with you from Australia:
Long life Devondale cream - comes in little popper packs, a very handy size
Sugar-free snacks - our family likes the plain Atkins chocolate bars (on holidays you need a little chocolate treat every few days, don't you?)
Salt - yes, salt is available in Fiji, but the good quality salt is rare and expensive. So if you are used to Pink Himalayan - bring your own!
If you are out and about and desperate, remember there is a McDonalds in Nadi and a couple in Suva. Just eat the meat pattie and the cheese from a Double Cheeseburger (I know this isn't ideal - but it will get you through)
'Wishbone' is a fast-food outlet which is known for it's pizza (the butter chicken pizza is the bomb!) - there is one in both Nadi and Suva - head there and order a half roast chicken (skip the pizza friends!)
If you have self-catering accommodation, make it your mission to head to the butcher first up. In Nadi, I always go to South Pacific Butchery (it's on the old road that will lead you to Denearu) and if in Suva, you should go to Whaleys in Flagstaff (the ham off the bone here is great!). Also, head to the market, where you will be able to get lots of fresh greens, and big beautiful avocados (if it is in season)
I hope these tips have helped ease your mind a little on travelling to Fiji eating a low carb diet. We achieved it, and didn't think we could. So with a little planning and thought, you can most definitely be low carb in Fiji.
Have you stayed low-carb whilst in Fiji - do you have any tips for me? Please share in a comment below.
Yours in meat, egg, and greens heaven,
Take care XO