Paleo Diet Indonesia Bali Lombok Java how to eating where healthy suggestions ideas-min

Keeping It Paleo Whilst Travelling – Indonesia

I had intentions of being 100%, strict Paleo on my recent trip to Indonesia. However, it’s all very well deciding that in advance, but when I actually arrived in Indonesia, things didn't go quite to plan…

As I was travelling to lots of different, rural places in Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands, food options could be quite limited. Most of the places I stayed offered breakfast options of things like pancakes (with banana or pineapple and topped with honey), fresh fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple and other tropical fruits) and toast and a boiled egg.

My initial approach was to order breakfast from the lunch menu – paying extra to get fish and vegetables, or eggs with a side of chicken and veg. This took quite some explaining and was met with some very baffled expressions. Unfortunately, after a few days I was struck down with the dreaded “Bali Belly” (if you don’t know, I'm sure you can guess!). It then occurred to me I was going against my first rule of travelling:

Eat what the locals eat!


I've travelled all around Asia following this rule and have never been ill. I've always noticed that the tourists who don’t try local food, but order Western dishes are usually the ones to fall ill. I guess because Western food that is rarely ordered, so it doesn't have such a quick turnaround. So, I prioritised “eating local food” above “eating Paleo”. In practice, this mainly meant including rice, as this is such a staple in Indonesia (and Asia generally). I also started to eat a lot of fruit – where as usually I only have one or two pieces a week.

Fortunately the food in Indonesia has a few important differences from a lot of Western food. Everywhere I went, the food was local. I had fish a few times, sitting by the lake or overlooking the sea that the fish came from. The rice came from the rice paddies next door. The eggs, from the hens that were roaming around next to where I ate. I was also very impressed to find that most food is cooked in coconut oil; but not shop bough coconut oil – home made coconut oil!

Paleo Diet Indonesia Bali Lombok Java how to eating where healthy suggestions ideas-min

My Favourite Indonesian Paleo-ish Dishes

A great Indonesian dish that I had often was Satay. This is meat skewers, cooked over coals and flavoured with local herbs and spices and served in peanut sauce. So whilst the peanut (legume) sauce is not Paleo, the principles of the dish clearly are.

Soy is also quite strongly featured, as tofu or tempe – and whilst it is traditionally prepared (certainly not processed), it was easy for me to steer clear of it.

Despite the rice, I had Nasi Goreng (fried rice), several times, leaving the prawn crackers uneaten. Another popular local dish I enjoyed was Gado-gado, which literally means a mix. It contains lots of local vegetables and a peanut sauce with some delicate herbs and spices. I found quite a few dishes, such as Opor ayam, that were along the lines of a chicken curry – in coconut milk – a great Paleo option.

Whenever fish was offered, I found that a great option, as the whole fish was served, and they were locally caught instead of farmed and imported. Pepes Ikan is a great fish dish cooked in a banana leaf.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to try different fruit, that isn’t so readily available at home. Rambutans are a little like Lycees and were grown almost everywhere. I also tried jack fruit, snake fruit and fresh papaya.

So, my strategy of eating like a local worked well from a short-term health perspective in that I avoided food poisoning. But I found the change of diet hard going. On my Paleo diet, I can go for a long time before I get hungry, as my blood sugar levels remain stable. When I started to introduce so many (relatively) carbohydrates, I found that I would become extremely hungry and shaky – and have to eat every few hours – a clear indication of a drop in blood sugar levels. As much as I enjoyed trying so many local foods, it was good to return to my normal World, where I'm fortunate enough to be able to eat what I want to eat based on Paleo, rather than what is available.

What is your approach to nutrition when you’re travelling? Do you keep it Paleo? Have you been to Indonesia? Please share in the comments below!

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5 replies
  1. Maya
    Maya says:

    That’s so strange – of all the destinations we have travelled we found Bali to be the easiest – in fact it was the only holiday where we have never gained weight! I ate eggs and avocado smoothies for breakfast; suckling pig for lunch (to die for! YUMMM – although obviously not in Lombok) – and usually some sort of curry or meaty dish with minimal rice for dinners. Oh and plenty of fresh coconuts to drink and eat!

    Travelling is always a constant issue for eating “right”. I seem to have an iron stomach and have never gotten sick in any third world country – even when travelling with a group of people to a remote village in Nepal where everyone around me was sick and I was fine. The real issue for myself and my husband is that we are foodies and are always wanting to try local things – so the trade off is to forget about Paleo for a while and immerse yourself in the local culture. We generally find this is worth it – especially when there are some places you may only ever travel to once in a lifetime. Generally what we tend to do if we are in one place for an extended time is spend the first few days or a week (depending on the length of stay) eating totally local – and then going back to as Paleo as possible for the rest of the trip.

    And I agree – after each trip it is always great to get back home and eat your own food!

    • Suz
      Suz says:

      I think the main problem was that I was in a group doing a tour – which meant I couldn’t have as much choice as I’m used to. Next time I’ll arrange my own itinerary which will give me far more options!

  2. Henny
    Henny says:

    Hi Suz, I know this is an old post but I found it after googling “Paleo Indonesian Food”. I’m Indonesian-born, raised in California, but do enjoy the food of my homeland every so often. In fact, tonight I will be going to my aunt’s house where she will be preparing Indonesian food for dinner and since eating a Paleo diet for a month now, I just wanted to be prepared. I love gado-gado and the peanut sauce…and kecap manis (soy sauce made with i think, cane sugar), so i think i will miss not being able to eat those foods. However, satay is a great option as are many of the curries made with coconut milk. I miss all the fruits of Indonesia…papaya and mangoes, mongosteen…Thanks for writing this post…makes me miss Indonesia even more!

  3. sabina
    sabina says:

    I’m in Indonesia now and have been eating fried rice & fruit for breakfast as I have many food allergies, so can’t eat eggs which is traditional western brekkie here. I too am going with the flow, but find I am eating more frequently and have started craving crbs now. I’ve decided to eat as well as I can, but also closer to the local diet. The food is yummier, fresher and I appreciate the choices I have at home even more understanding that my diet is a luxury. I really identify with this post. Thanks for writing…helping me to feel ok with my decisions and enjoy my trip. With that said , I am going to the local supermarket today to buy a few bits n peices to keep me on track and away from sugar! ☺

  4. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Hey! I know this is an old post, but just found it through google. I usually am a big carb eater, but because I have to switch my diet to basically no carbs because of health issues, I am happy I found this post as I am going to Bali in a month! I mean, you can basically always order meat and everything…but I would love to eat a lot of veggies as well. In Thailand this was a big problem for me because they always had a lot of cauliflower then and other veggies I don’t do well (am fructose intolerant). So, I will see how this will go… 😀


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