Eating healthy in Granada, Nicaragua isn’t difficult… if you know where to go. I prefer a paleo / primal diet most of the time, so I have to admit I’m a bit of a picky eater when it comes to things like grains, dairy, and sugar. So it was a bit difficult at first to find healthy options, especially when most menus don’t include all the ingredients in the dish the way restaurants in the States do (how do you know to ask for “No queso, por favor” if there isn’t cheese listed?!).
If you’re staying for a longer period of time and want to cook meals on your own, then you have a couple options for groceries outside of the Maxi Pali (which is owned by Wal-Mart). The local market is always a good option for fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, and breads grown and baked by locals. It’s a stereotypical market you’d find in a foreign country or see in a movie: hectic and colorful and crowded and overwhelming and magnificent. Be prepared to barter with the vendors and don’t let them overcharge you because you look like a tourist! Your other grocery option is La Colonia, which is the nicest grocery store you’ll find in the city (complete with air conditioning!) has everything you won’t find anywhere else, like almond milk, goat cheese, and sweet potatoes. You will pay closer to American prices here, but it might be worth it!
When it comes to restaurants, there are plenty of great options for healthy, sustainable places to eat. One of my favorite things about eating out in Nicaragua is that you actually have to ask for your check, meaning that unlike in the States, the waiters and waitresses never make you feel rushed to free up your table.
Here are some of my favorite healthy restaurants in Granada. Each of these restaurants explicitly stated on their menu or elsewhere that they used locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. Additionally, all of these restaurants have great options for vegans and vegetarians.
The Garden Cafe: The Garden Cafe quickly became a staple of mine. The cafe is beautiful, their food was amazing, and they really care about community, sustainability, and transparency. Many of their ingredients are sourced locally and their dressings and breads are fresh and homemade. They employ locals who are given amazing benefits and they take every step they can to reduce their environmental impact. Their menu is pretty diverse, so you will find everything from quesadillas to green curry (which I recommend!) to spaghetti. They also have a used book library that works on the honor system as well as a boutique that only carries products made by local artisans and benefit the community in some way.
Café de los Suenos: If you are vegan or vegetarian, you definitely have to check out Cafe de los Suenos. They have a huge menu filled with lots of yummy, healthy, and organic options and they carry some local art and artisan goods as well. Café de los Suenos and The Garden Café both actively participate in the #SkipTheStraw campaign, and have signs up on the tables to let their guests know.
El Garaje: This lunch-only spot serves hefty sandwiches and burritos. They’re meat heavy, but they have a board on the wall with pictures of all the responsible farms they source their meat from: children playing with chickens, pigs, and produce. We got two big sandwiches for $13.
Pitaya Bowl: If you’re in the mood for a sweet smoothie bowl with fresh fruit, cacao, coconut, or a whole host of other delicious toppings, definitely check out Pitaya Bowl. In addition to their yummy bowls, they have salads, coffee drinks, wine, and cocktails. The bright environment makes for a great place to work, and their comfortable furniture and mini-pool makes for some good relaxation!
Pita Pita: Pita Pita has amazing mediterranean food and a great environment. Try their vegan dessert with coconut and rose water.
El Tercer Ojo: El Tercer Ojo has all kinds of different foods, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options… and a great vibe.
La Frontera: La Frontera was also one of our favorites. If you eat meat, their burgers are amazing, but they also have several vegetarian options, including a dish called “Peace and Love.” They take care of their guests in a way I have never experienced before, offering you hand sanitizer before your meal or bug spray in the evening. Be sure to try their plantain steak fries too!