How to Diet and Lose Weight While Vacationing in Oaxaca, Mexico

Climbing Monte Alban for Exercise, Calorie Burning Credit: A.Starkman

Climbing Monte Alban for Exercise, Calorie Burning

You get exercise walking and sightseeing, so forget the morning run. But remember that in Oaxaca, Mexico, rice and beans can be fat-laden and kill the diet.

It’s mainly a matter of rethinking calorie counting, since while vacationing in Oaxaca, Mexico, even some safe foods are filled with fat. “Plain” white rice riddled with calorie – rich oil? Refried beans laden with lard? Well, not all beans served in all restaurants. The innocuous tortilla? Best to check your calorie counter for tortillas. And there may be more to that tamale than ground corn and carbohydrates.

But maintaining a diet and losing weight vacationing in Oaxaca, Mexico, is indeed possible, while still sampling Oaxaca’s signature dishes such as moles, estofados, tlayudas and barbacoa. Of course drinking diet soda, and beverages made with sugar-free powdered drink mixes helps; it enables visitors to save their drink-allocated calories, and imbibe guilt-free on Oaxaca’s renowned alcoholic beverage, mezcal.

Advice for Dieters Before Boarding the Plane for Oaxaca, Mexico: Read Recipes, Labels and Calorie Counting Guides
Eating in the Tlacolula Market, Not for Dieting Credit: A. Starkman

Eating in the Tlacolula Market, Not for Dieting

Before leaving for vacation in Oaxaca, take a look at some recipes in any Mexican cookbook which features Oaxacan favorites. You cannot rely on calorie counting guides like you can back home, since, for example, as you’ll learn, even white rice is made with oil. Then take a look at a recipe for tamales, and finally re-fried beans. Even if the recipes don’t indicate oil or lard as an ingredient, rest assured that in Oaxaca, the tastier the dish, the more calorie-laden ingredients in the recipe.

Drop in to a Mexican grocer, or take a look at the Latin American foods section of a local supermarket, and read the label on canned re-fried beans. On the other hand, take a look at the label on a can of plain, cooked kidney or black beans. The reason? Some restaurants in Oaxaca do serve their beans plain, and not re-fried. So when on vacation and in a restaurant or roadside eatery, by looking at what the patrons at the table beside you are eating, you’ll learn how your beans will be prepared.

Sightseeing in the City of Oaxaca: Forget the Taxis to Walk Away Calories Visiting Museums, Churches and Galleries
White Rice Recipe from Oaxaca: Oil, Calories, Fat Credit: AStarkman

White Rice Recipe from Oaxaca: Oil, Calories, Fat

Assuming that you won’t be able to resist all the Oaxacan gastronomic delights, and will even double your pre-vacation calories, a good rule of thumb to follow, is to forget the taxis while exploring the city of Oaxaca. Virtually all sights are within walking distance of virtually all downtown hotels, inns, hostels and bed & breakfasts.

While Oaxaca has a population of about 400,000, the centro histórico is small. To name a few attractions that can be visited in the course of taking one or two walking tours of downtown Oaxaca, there are: Santa Domingo Church and Cultural Center; other churches such as The Cathedral, La Soledad, San Felipe Neri, Carmen Alto and Bajo; museums including the stamp museum, textile museum, Rufino Tamayo Museum of pre-Hispanic Art; artisan markets including the Mercado de las Aresanias, Casa de las Artesanias; general markets such as Benito Juárez, 20 de Noviembre, La Merced and Abastos; and of course the restaurants aside from those on the zócalo, including Casa Oaxaca, Los Danzantes, La Catrina de Alcalá, La Biznaga, La Olla, Vieja Lira, Temple, Casa Crespo and La Toscana. Finally, there are well over 50 art galleries in downtown Oaxaca, all of which can easily be visited on foot.

Burning Calories Visiting the Ruins, Other Sights in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca: Hike, Climb, Walk

You won’t burn the calories touring the Ocotlán route in Oaxaca’s central valleys because the route consists of mainly craft villages, there’s only one fairly small ruin to visit (Zaachila) and the Ocotlán Friday market is fairly compact and won’t provide a workout. But the other routes do provide exercise.

Along the Mitla route, the ruin at Yagul has a wonderful steep climb up to a fortress; Hierve el Agua, the bubbling springs and petrified waterfalls, has several hiking paths, and two pools suitable for a swim. And of course the Tlaculula Sunday marketplace is the largest weekly market in the region, where you can walk for an hour and a half or two hours.

Many tourists combine a visit to Monte Albán with the Etla touring route. Monte Albán can be strenuous if you climb the steep pyramidal stairs a couple of times and visit all there is to see. Towards Etla there’s the ruin at San José Mogote, with a couple of hills to climb. But the Wednesday Etla market is small and devoid of opportunities to burn calories.

Don’t forget that you can get your fill of burning calories before heading out for a day’s touring, or at the end of the day before dusk. If staying downtown, consider the perimeter at Llano park at the north end of downtown (except for Fridays when the market is on). There are Sunday morning exercise classes at that park as well. If staying at the south end of downtown, there’s a track near the university in the area known as Plaza del Valle.

For those in a b & b or hotel in or around San Felipe del Agua, there’s a hike to a small waterfalls, and a more strenuous pathway leading up the San Felipe mountain. Just south of San Felipe, in Guadalupe Victoria and in Loma Linda there’s a walking path up to a big white cross and two telecommunication towers, and quaint rural territory with dirt roads throughout Guadalupe Victoria proper

Losing Weight in Oaxaca Eating in Markets, on the Street and in Restaurants

As suggested, it’s difficult to control calorie intake while eating in Oaxaca. In the markets and on the streets one never knows what’s been used to prepare foods. On the other hand there are a few restaurants which tend to be more health conscious than most, and a few which promote “lite.” La Olla springs to mind, as does slow food proponent Los Danzantes.

But if the goal is to maintain one’s weight or lose pounds while visiting Oaxaca, there are indeed two tried and true methods: drink the water, and eat fresh fruits and vegetables on the streets and in the markets; dysentery does do wonders, and you can watch those Oaxacan calories as they flee the body.

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