Moving to Holland is not easy, but it's worth the effort. This blog tells the story of shifting from American life in Pittsburgh to Expat life in the Netherlands,
and all of our European adventures that follow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bikes vs. Fries

I think I’ve always had the notion that Europeans were super healthy, and health conscious when it comes to the food they eat. I’m not sure why I thought this, or where that notion came from, but I’ve learned that this is not always the case. I also sometimes find it hard to make healthy choices here when there are limited options. When we arrived, I was surprised by the amount of fried foods that the Dutch eat: croquettes & bitterballen, kaas soufflé, chicken nuggets, meatballs, etc. They also love to eat French fries (patat), dipped in mayonnaise. When bought on the street, fries are served in a paper cone with a ton of mayo on top. In restaurants, they are served as a side with almost every meal, even in nice restaurants where I would typically expect a baked potato, mashed potatoes or rice.

Historically, I think the Dutch have a similar culture to that of West Virginia. People used to do tough, physical labor for their jobs and required extra calories. West Virginian’s were coal miners and steel workers, and the Dutch were farmers and mill workers. But, now the habits & food traditions remain, even though jobs have changed. Still, given the similar histiries, you don’t see as many overweight people in Europe as you do in the US. Maybe it's because people walk and bike everywhere, and live a generally more active lifestyle. Or maybe it's just in their jeans to be tall and lean (the Dutch are the tallest people in the world).

Although they love their fried snacks, the typical Dutch person also eats a fair amount of 'simple' foods, such as bread, cheese, meats & fruit. A normal breakfast might simply be a piece of bread, possibly with choco spread or butter and chocolate sprinkles (this still makes me laugh). For lunch, a simple sandwich might consist only of bread with cheese, bread with lunch meat, tuna or egg salad. If in a deli they will add cucumber & egg slices. They will typically only eat one 'hot' meal a day, so if they have a warm lunch, they will have a simple, or cold dinner.

One other frustration for me is that it is very difficult to find healthy foods in the grocery store or food stores. Short of pure foods such as raw fruits and veggies, bread, fish, etc, there are not many healthy food choices. Most of the packages and prepared foods are processed & unhealthy. At the Saturday market, you can find some nice produce, grains, nuts or seeds, etc. It’s just nice to have these choices right in the grocery store. But, that is just one convenience that I will have to look forward to when we move back home.


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