Last fall, my fiancé and I ventured out on a nearly month long adventure in Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. As a fitness and nutrition expert, I’m normally quite staunch about what I eat. I truly enjoy my food and never feel deprived.
I prefer the taste of real food, gigantic salads, colorful soups, pastured proteins, and small doses of healthy fat. I’m 95% gluten and corn free, because I find those foods make me feel very bloated and lethargic.
I also believe in EATING. Far too many of us try to under-calorie ourselves without realizing how few calories real food contains. I fight low energy by being nourished and unafraid of food.
While I did prepare a few snacks for the trip, I decided to leave the rest up to chance and adventure to discover new finds in local grocery stores and farmers markets.
Here are ten food and fitness discoveries from my travels:
- Hardly anyone in Europe is worried about ‘gainz’ or looking lean. Nearly everyone is just healthy looking from riding bikes, walking a lot, getting plenty of vitamin D, and eating real food. They also aren’t afraid to indulge a little.
- Europeans don’t look at their phones while out to dinner. They linger, converse, smile, laugh, relax, and enjoy. Each meal takes ages to finish.
- Fresh bread, pasta, and pizza didn’t give me the same adverse reaction in Europe that it does in America. It could be because Europe has tighter bans on the chemicals in pesticides.??
- I probably ate less calories overall because we consumed fewer meals in a day. We shared most meals (usually two or three dishes) and despite enjoying more bread and pasta then I have in years, I actually lost a few pounds!
- Europeans aren’t trying to shovel in bowls of kale with goji berries in the name of health. They enjoy their vegetables in moderation like anything else and look great.
- European circadian rhythms are completely different than ours. They eat dinner at 10pm and rise much later than we do. While this seems impossible to me at home (I go to bed and recommend my clients go to bed before 10pm), they’re thriving.
- When we stayed at hotels, I noticed that while I was the fittest person there, I ate the biggest breakfasts every day! Other travelers might’ve had a small flavored yogurt and a croissant and that’s all. I had unsweetened yogurt with fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, charcuterie, cheese, olives, pickles, and maybe a bite of something decadent if it looked like it was worth it. I’m not sure how the others were able to fuel hours of walking, hiking, and exploring without getting hangry. You all know what I’m talking about.
- I only had three proper workouts while traveling and my body didn’t really change. I still looked lean and fit when I got home.
- Fish is major. Fish is such a major part of other cultures’ diet that it reminded me we need to really up our Omega-3 game. We tend to just stick to salmon, tuna, and white fish, while abroad the variety is much larger and includes lake fish, octopus, sardines, and much more.
- You can eat a fine meal at a European gas station or rest stop. In Italy there were organic salad bars with sustainable proteins to choose from. In Croatia we found steaming pots of freshly made goulash, beautifully roasted chicken legs and breasts, and deeply colored salads.
In short, this European trip helped me let some of my food hang-ups go a little. It was nice to not focus so much on meeting my macronutrient goals (protein, fat, and carbs) and relax a little. I realized that years of consistent exercise and eating clean allowed me to go nearly one month without my normal routine and everything turned out just fine!
It was a delicious, inspiring, and very active travel experience! That being said, I was also happy to be home, eating kale salad and hitting the gym.