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Do Europeans eat better than Americans?

I'm curious what the European or European-based PT community members think about this. Is there a greater level of nutritional knowledge among Europeans?

Sun. Feb 11, 9:38am

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I'm not sure if we eat better, however I do think we eat much smaller portions. Also , I think we just get more exercise without realizing it by walking more than people in the U.S.

Sunday, February 11, 2007, 10:46 AM

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Just returned from a trip to Ireland/England and I couldn't help but notice the difference in people. I think we have just gotten so use to being big here , that in a way we don't even notice it anymore. So, it was a weird thing to suddenly notice that everyone seemed slender. I hate to say it , but it made me realize why people might view America as the land of fat people (myself included ! ugh !) Agree with other comment , people don't seem to eat as much and walk more !

Sunday, February 11, 2007, 10:58 AM

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I have lived in three European countries and have lived outside of the US for over four years. I have to say, it really depends where you are. "Europe" is a broad term encompassing more people than the United States and over thirty countries, each with its own traditions. Where I live now I can honestly say has horrible eating habits. Bacon for breakfast, meat/potatoes the rest of the time. Lots of candy and chocolate. One of my friends specifies when he goes out to eat, "no vegetables." When I much on something raw, I get a bit of a look. The difference is, people here of all generations are obsessed with sport, be it walking, competitive, whatever. No one's on their duff.

My experience in other countries, is that there is a MUCH greater appreciation for quality food than America (generally speaking. I know some of you are connoisseurs). You want meat? You go to the butcher's. You want bread? You go to a bakery. And these people take pride in their work. Dinner is savoured and spent with family and friends AT THE TABLE. Familes tend to do activities together as opposed to renting a DVD, etc. The healthcare system is generally aimed at prevention and is lifestyle oriented. 5 -6 weeks of vacation per year is the norm and there are more federal holidays. (Not a wonderland. Obviously this means higher taxes, but I've always been more than happy to pay up.)

The point is, in some of the countries I've lived in, there is a much higher emphasis on quality of life and lifestyle than I experinced in the US. This is of course just an overall picture. And yes, there ARE fat women in France.

Sunday, February 11, 2007, 11:43 AM

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My experience of living in the UK throughout most of the 90s...the people were of normal weight to ~40 lbs overweight. They eat abominably, they don't exercise, they're all alcoholics by our standards -- and they tend to develop all kinds of heart disease. Strangely, this surprises them.

When I lived in Spain -- now that was a much healthier approach to eating (but they all smoked like chimneys). It was definitely all about quality and not quantity, hardly any processed or frozen foods, and no fast food. I believe they have less of a need for these things because everyone lives with their parents until they get married, and mothers/wives are still largely "traditional" - or at least they were in the region where I was living.

Sunday, February 11, 2007, 1:37 PM

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I live in Israel and I can say easily that on average Israelis are much slimmer than Americans though unfortunately they are catching up to Americans in the weight and fast food dept. Nonetheless, Israelis still eat many more fresh vegetables and salads than Americans and I do think that overall the eating habits are much better here than in the USA.

Being physically active is still common here. Hiking, biking, walking, swimming are all very common. The beach is close to many people, thanks to the long beautiful coast line. Several co-workers bike to our office, a couple walk (reasonable distances), and many walk up the stairs to our 4th floor office.

Sunday, February 11, 2007, 2:43 PM

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I think it has a lot to do with availability of convenience foods. McDonalds are pretty much everywhere.... but many European grocery stores have much less by way of 5-minute-meals. Like the one poster said though, it depends on where you are. The UK isn't a great example of fine dining, that's for sure. In the US, besides the junk food outlets, there are so many short-cuts. Cake in a box, ready-made pizza, frozen meals, quick-boil rice, egg substitutes, packet potatoes, ready made pasta sauce, etc. All those things are laden with chemicals, and much of the goodness has been processed out, for want of a better phrase. Then, so many people here eat in front of the TV, and gobble their food (I'm guilty of that!).

Bottom line, when I was living outside the US (most of my life) I had zero weight problem. Since I've been here, that's changed, sadly. I'm not begging off from responsibility though... ultimately, I'm the one who puts things in my shopping cart.

Sunday, February 11, 2007, 5:18 PM

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it's the work week

Not to say that we are not ultimately responsible for ourselves, but. The standard work week in Europe is shorter than the work week in the US. And any American who really wants to get ahead is not limiting him- or herself to a mere 40 hours. As a result, Americans really do have less time to prepare food from scratch. There is a DEMAND for those shortcuts!

If you spend less time at work, you have more time to spend on living healthily, including cooking fresh foods and walking around.

I was in school in France and lived with a university family in which both adults were professors (a more-than-40-hours job anywhere, apparently) and there were 4 kids. All the "mashed potatos" came out of a box and every side dish and entree was bought frozen at the store and microwaved. I would say the differences were: (1) portion size is smaller; (2) no eating near the TV -- family sat down together for dinner; (3) the kids were not allowed to drink milk. Let me say, the last was particularly odd as these people were not vegetarians, nor did they avoid cheese or yogurt. Just milk.

Must admit, I didn't lose weight there! I was perfectly capable of buying my own cafe au lait and croissant, with all the marvelous butter that entails, for breakfast.

Sunday, February 11, 2007, 6:16 PM

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Europeans vs Americans

I just got back from Eastern Europe, the portions were smaller, the meals were balanced and everyone was slender and good looking!

Sunday, February 11, 2007, 8:13 PM

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Yes and no

I worked in Central Europe for 1.5 years because of my job. I traveled all around the EU and stayed at nemerous places and experienced anything from Scandinavia to Greece to Ireland to Poland and all points in between. The differences that I saw were these:
1. The frozen ready made food section at supermarkets was usually small
2. Most veggies and meats were hormone free and organic.
3. people ate full fat everything (milk, cheese, fatty meats, ect)
4. There are fast food restaurants like McDonalds, KFC, BK but it was kinda "taboo" to go there
5. People eat many more meals a day but they are small.
6. Most everyone cooks at home
7. There is a lot more exercise in the form of using public transit to or from work, biking, ect.
8. The portions are smaller but they taste soooo much better.
9. Alot of people drink and it is socially acceptable to do so (in reasonable qualities)
10. Better/free healthcare.
11. There was a lot less salt/sugar in the food
It is not to say that there aren't fat people in Europe but there is a lot less of them. I lost 15 pounds while I was there just by eating home cooked meals and drinking a lot! On the downside some EU countries have a shorter lifespan than the US but they are catching up. A typical day of eating in Poland went like this:
1. Breakfast at home was a sandwich with tomatoes/cucumbers and tea
2. "Second breakfast" was tea and maybe a small sandwich/pastry
3. Lunch was chicken with cabbage and potatoes
4. Evening snack was a soup or salad, something small
5. Dinner was scrambled eggs, sandwich, soup, small sausage, ect
Yes you est 5 times a day but you never go hungry and the portions are usually enough small enough to fit on a small plate.
Most people brought lunches to work and everything usually tasted great. Lunch usually involves at least a beer or some wine. I know that Poland is not the pinnacle of cusine but it was all very hearty and tasty. When I came back to the states I was disgusted by the bread, meat, dairy products, pastries, the salty/sweet foos, and the ammount of people who not only had a little junk in their trunk but were 100+ pounds overweight! Before I used to eat frozen pizza for dinner and call it home cooking but now I cook 90% of my meals and I have started shopping at Whole Foods because it is the only place that has decent food. I know that food there is more expensive there but, I feel that the quality of food that you put in makes you feel better and helps you loose weight. It is ok if it is not fat free as long as you don't eat 5 pounds of it a day and moderate alchohol is not bad for you either; a beer or two a day is not going to kill you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 2:46 AM

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What is Europe?

As others have mentioned before, you cannot consider "Europe" which is made of dozens of nations as a homogeneous entity. Each nations has its own traditions. We don't eat the same things, we don't have the same number of meals and we don't have the same mealtimes. Things vary a lot inside a country (take the North and the South of France, for instance).
As for the two countries I know best (France and the UK), more and more people are fat due to the "americanisation" of eating habits. The main culprits are snacks between meals and ready-made meals. However French people take as many meals as they can together, around a table, and cook from scratch if they have time. Fresh fruit and vegetable are easily available and rather cheap. And portions are much smaller than in the USA.
I am a US size 18 at the moment and I cannot find any clothes my size (and I live near a very big city). Most shops don't sell anything bigger than a US size 10, some go up to a 14. I have to order online from the UK! So I guess the average French woman is slender.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 5:04 AM

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Great question

I think Europeans have a more healthy approach to food. They have a better perspective about indulging.

Thursday, November 18, 2010, 10:26 AM

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I agree!

Friday, November 19, 2010, 11:01 AM

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2:46 excellent post!

Friday, November 19, 2010, 8:30 PM

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I second every thing said. I just wish hormone free and organic foods were more affordable in the US. Whole Foods is a luxury for many.

Saturday, November 20, 2010, 10:30 AM

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Re: Yes and No (Nov 17, 2010, 2:46 AM comment)

I just returned from a week vacationing in Lisbon and environs, Portugal, and heartily agree with many of the statements made by 'Yes and No.' In particular,
- Item 4. - My husband and I promised ourselves no more McDonalds, KFC, etc once our kids were past the toddler stage. Then we focused on finding diners in the USA, and moderate, kid-friendly or kid-neutral restaurants in Europe. (Yes, we took them to Europe for vacations every year or so.)

- Item 7. - Definitely true in Lisbon area. We walked to / from local public transportation, including several flights of stairs, and to / from local restaurants, as well as at various tourist places of interest.

- Items 8. and 11. - Often true, especially at better restaurants.

- Item 3. - Lunch was often the heaviest and largest meal of the day.

We ate vegetables with almost every meal as a given.. did not have to request them. (Thank G-d that ketchup and pickles are not considered vegetables in most West European countries.)

Eastern European countries generally offered more starch (potatoes, pasta, rice) in place of vegetables, using locally grown produce. So when travelling in those countries, I often bring frozen baked whole grain products and dried fruits with me.

Mainland China (Sept/Oct 2008) offered many cooked vegetables, but we did not eat raw vegetables there (sanitation concern re: rinsewater for veggies).
Thank you so much for bring up these differences!

In Mexico and Costa Rica, we put greater emphasis on beans, to counter the inadvisability of consuming fresh raw vegetables (again, concern re: the rinsewater microorganisms).

Saturday, November 20, 2010, 6:17 PM

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easter european food culture

i would like to add to this comment, because i am from eastern europe myself. . I ve been in us only once and only for two weeks so didnt catch peoples eating habits very well. But there was one thing that i noticed which was a bit shocking. it seemed totally acceptable for a few people that i met there to get a bag of donuts and eat it any time they wanted to considering the fact that they were already badly overweight. One night i went to the restaurant and ordered prawns in batter. the waiter brought a plate and i thought it was for the 2 of us, so i pushed a plate to the middle of the table. My friend was an american and he was laughing and told me that his own plate was on the way. thats how big the portion was. leftovers were more than enough for tommorows dinner.
i would like to comment a bit on eastern european eating trends. i thing it also has to do with the fact that those countries arent as rich as US, so food is not something that u would thru away and its chosen carefully in terms of nutritional value. Most of the people couldnt afford to eat in a fast food outlets even if they wanted to.There is a big culture of growing your own food. In the household where i grew up we had a small farm. About 5 hectars only. so most of the food came from it . This makes u eat very seasonal stuf too, because you only eat what grows at the time. Salads and stuff like that in spring and summer and lods of beans , beetroot, cabbage , carots and all sort of grains such as barley and bookweat in winter. u would have lods of apples and pears stored for the winter from the garden too and berries in the freezer. so everything u buy in the shop is only to suplement what u already have. in eastern europe we also dont have a trend of eating lods of white flour products. everyday bread in Lithuania (thats were i m from) is rye bread. When i was growing up i was only allowed white viena batton on weekends with some jam. But we have weight problem there as everywhere else.
We also have some trditional dishes maid mainly from potatos that are not healthy at all. But thanks god they are not everyday food cause it takes lods of hasle to make them.
i didnt mean to say that people are so poor that cant afford things, but eating habits, at least in my opinion ,has to do a lot with the culture of the area. For example things like rye bread is a big part of the culture. Food markets are also big. they are perfect places over there to get good food, because basically willage people from very small farms goes there and sells what they have left from themselves. Because all that is not grown on a big scale , but only for themselves, its grown organically too. But all this wouldnt be possible in a very big cities.
Its hard to be hard on a part (i say part, because its not all, obviously) of american people for bad eating habits, because all this fast food is so much advertised and around them. And lets say people who are from poor families over there they probably grew up on a processed food cause its cheapest option in a big city. Or when u are very buzy its the fastest one.
i spoke a bit about the culture of eating , but what it all comes down to i think its about everyones education and realization of what your body really needs to keep going. Its all about taking care of yourself and loving yourself. So next time you decide to treat yourself to a big slice of chocolate cake thing if its really a part of loving yourself or abusing.....
Eating habits are everyones personal choise and cant be blamed on the country's culure, especially nowdays when there is so much information available on what is good and what is not.


Saturday, February 19, 2011, 11:21 AM

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My best friend went to Europe for the summer last year and she lost a good 20 lbs. while she was over there. It's funny because she was sure that she was going to GAIN weight--she said a lot of her meals consisted of bread and cheese, and she was drinking just about every night. However, she didn't snack between meals (something Americans do CONSTANTLY) and she walked EVERYWHERE. Which is funny, because here in the states, I've seen her drive her car to a different store in the same plaza!

Monday, February 21, 2011, 4:45 PM

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The quality of water in Costa Rica and in my own birth country is much, much better as a general rule than in many cities in the States and Europe (comes with having a great number of rivers and springs we can leech off). I can drink off anywhere in Panama City as long as it looks reasonable (there are many water fountains, too). That is a very sad myth perpetuated by travelling sites that our water is bad.

This is DEFINITELY NOT true for Mexico. "Moctezuma's Vengeance", indeed.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013, 6:34 AM

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I live in Poland and have to say people here are generally more healthy than from where I'm from (UK)
I eat a lot more fruit and vegetables here, portion size is smaller. There's not a lot of choice of fast foods in supermarkets although there's plenty of McD's, Burger kings etc.. in the cities. Obesity exists here in both adults and children but in no way on the same scale as home.
I also get more exercise here too as I walk more.

Sunday, February 10, 2013, 12:35 PM

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