Eating Healthy in Jamaica. Ital is Vital!!


Eating healthy in Jamaica is easy!! The secret? Ital, the diet of the Rastafari.

Ital Food For Life and Roland

My travel partner-in-crime Roland at the nearby Ital joint. This one is located right off of the main highway in Montego Bay, nearer to Spring Farm area.

Ital restaurants, if you can call them that, will not be in the guidebooks. They are truly off the beaten path, on some obscure side street, with a dirt parking lot and picnic tables for eating, if you’re lucky. However, the food is pure goodness, and the energy of these conscious cooks is welcoming and inviting.

Ital Stew with rice and peas and cabbage slaw.

Ital Stew with rice and peas and cabbage slaw.

Roland and I ordering Ital from another spot.

Roland and I ordering Ital from another spot. This spot was located down an alley off of Railway Lane in an area of Montego Bay where there wasn’t a tourist in sight.

Ital is the food of the rasta man. The diet enhances vitality. Hence, the saying, “Ital is Vital.” The diet is a rejection of the artificial products of industrialized agriculture, which is seen as oppressive and contrary to healthful living. Ital food is a complex mixture of spices, beans, a variety of vegetables such as callaloo greens, corn, peanuts, cabbage, ackee, along whole-wheat dumplings, and the requisite rice and peas bring it all together.  And, if you’re lucky, they may even offer up some Sip; a brothy vegetable soup with peanuts.

Ital Sip in bowl

This is how a cup of Sip may look. This is not my photo, but what I sipped on looked like this, with the exception that ours was served up in a Styrofoam cup.

One of our best memories of Jamaica is our time eating and hanging out with a local rasta man, Carl, and a delicious meal he prepared for us at the last minute. On our way to Negril, we stopped by the Reggae Man to eat, but he wasn’t open and wouldn’t open until later. Well…after spending the day cliff-side at Rick’s Cafe drinking, we decided it was time to eat so we went back to the Reggae Man. He had a couple of customers waiting, but he wasn’t prepared for our large group of six, but he prepared us a meal from what he had on hand. Oh my goodness, is what it was.

The Reggae Man Meal - Before

The Reggae Man Meal – Before

The Reggae Man Meal - After.

The Reggae Man Meal – After. 🙂 The empty plates say it all.

The feeling was one of being welcomed into someone’s home. After he had finished preparing the food, he joined us in great conversation as we chilled out under the stars, enjoying what turned out to be the chillin-est night of our entire stay.

The Reggae Man exterior and seating area.

The Reggae Man exterior and seating area.

The Reggae Man Hanging Out

The Chillin’est Night Everrrr!! Hanging out at the Reggae Man’s spot.

So…how do you find these hole-in-the wall Ital spots? You have to get yourself a good knowledgeable driver, or maybe you can ask a local. For sure, they’re not on the tourist. What to order? No need to worry…you get what’s on deck that day, then you just sit back and enjoy.


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About Terri Lundberg

Terri Lundberg is an American expat currently residing with her husband in Saudi Arabia, but she calls Seattle and San Diego home. She’s a travel writer, an avid photographer and is a resource and cross cultural trainer to expats relocating to Saudi Arabia. She's been to 100 destinations, 30 countries, and counting.


  1. I am a big fan of the Jamaican vegetarian food. Very tasty and a healthy – best of both worlds

  2. Great post, I always find that I eat healthier food when I travel. I’m more conscious of the impact on my health and the need to keep my strength up for the day. Jamaican food and especially eating Ital is a great way to notice a difference in the body.

  3. Love this posting. I spent a lot of time in Jamaica over the years and love it and the food. Such a beautiful country. Thanks for sharing. xo

  4. K. Wynder says:

    Terri, the sip soup looked scrumptious! Rasta food is delicious as well as healthy. Sodium free! Safe travels!