This Is What Healthy Food Looks Like In 7 Different Countries
It's time for some real talk: Can we please stop with all the quick-fix diets promised by fad products and social media #fitspiration?
Becoming the healthiest version of yourself doesn't happen overnight. It's not always easy, but you have to keep your eyes on the prize even if you have an off day.
But first things first: You have to commit to eating better. Sorry, no way around it. Of course, exercise is crucial as well, but it's been shown that changes in diet have a bigger impact on fat and weight loss than exercise alone.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense: We consume food every day. No exceptions. Workouts usually happen more sporadically, maybe a couple times per week (IF we're being generous).
But before you purge your fridge of all the fun stuff, I've got some good news for you: Healthful food doesn't have to mean boring food. In fact, it's usually the opposite.
So what's the best way to avoid healthy food fatigue™? By looking abroad, of course! So, prepare for some serious #foodspiration and check out what healthy foods look like in these seven countries.
It's probably no surprise that the lo mein from your local takeout place isn't a good representation of what Chinese people actually eat day-to-day. Yet because of its vast size and many different provinces, China features an array of regional cuisines, making it difficult to summarize what a typical meal is.
Though its preparation, spices and form might vary, a typical Chinese diet consists of mostly vegetables, plenty of fish and only moderate amounts of white rice, noodles and certain types of meat. Leave out dairy and add in plenty of green tea, and you have a pretty accurate picture of what Chinese health foods are.
Ooh la la! We all know and love those famously French cuisines like baguettes spread with creamy cheeses, elaborate pastries and red wine. With these indulgences, staying fit must be a daily struggle for the French, right? Mais non! According to a recent report, France boasts one of the LOWEST adult obesity rates among all OECD member nations.
So what gives?
Here's the thing: It turns out that the French don't diet, per se. Instead, they focus on moderation, both in portion size and in frequency of eating. They don't snack between meals, and they avoid heaping (let's call them American-sized) portions of those delicious, oh-so-French staples.
Sweden: The land of stunning urban vistas, breathtaking waterways and the freshest fish money can buy (we're NOT talking about the little red gummies). Swedish diets strongly emphasize local and seasonal produce, even when it means kissing delicious foods goodbye. I learned this firsthand when a friend from Stockholm recently recounted to me how her family refused to buy avocados because they're not native to the region.
Now, if that's not dedication, I don't know what is.
So what does a typical healthful meal in Sweden consist of? Lots of whole grains, fresh greens and, of course, a helping of the country's unofficial mascot: fish. LOTS of fish.
In Ethiopia, stews reign supreme. Local staples like lentils, chickpeas, kale, onions and hearty potatoes make up their signature dish, which they call wat. Traditionally, stews are served along with injera, a flatbread made up of teff, which is a type of grass that is high in fiber and other nutrients.
Although some Ethiopian dishes do contain meat, many of their classic recipes are meat and dairy-free, making a robust Ethiopian stew the perfect choice for vegans, or anyone trying to cut down on animal products or cholesterol.
Between the azure sea and the white-washed cliffside homes, Greece is so gorgeous it's almost easy to overlook what is arguably the MOST wondrous part of its culture: the cuisine. Juicy tomatoes fresh from the vine, leafy greens, protein-rich lentils and lean fish characterize Greek cooking.
Olive oil is also key — this monounsaturated (read: good!) fat is drizzled over salads, brushed on fish before grilling and mixed into soups to add that quintessential richness.
And don't forget about the dairy: Salty feta — whose fat content is among the lowest of all cheeses — and creamy yogurt are Greek go-tos.
In Brazil, the "whole food" diet isn't a trend. It's a way of life, and has been since, well, always.
Healthy Brazilians steer clear of processed foods, instead gravitating toward fresh, local dishes made with yams, black beans, nuts, papaya and, of course, the superfood-status açaí berry (perhaps you've heard of it?).
But the most revolutionary part of the Brazilian diet isn't the cuisine — it's the cultural context behind the way the country interacts with the food industry. Brazil's government recently released a food guide outlining the keys to healthy eating. In particular, it discouraged people from being influenced by misleading food advertisements; it instead encouraged self-education using scientific resources that ACTUALLY promote healthful practices.
Now, that's what I call government for the people!
It's no secret that the United States has a storied history of fad diets. From Paleo, to South Beach, to the ever-popular Atkins diet (shout out to Kim Kardashian's body-after-baby), we've seen countless health trends come and go.
Lately, though, it seems that people are finally coming around to the idea of a permanent change in eating habits, and not just a quick fix. In the US, the OG healthy eaters go for fresh salads (kale is a nutrient-rich favorite), ancient grains like quinoa and farro and lean proteins like salmon and grilled chicken. Add in plenty of green vegetables and a mix of fruit, and you've got a healthful American meal.