When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, there are tons of valuable lessons to be learned from cultures around the world.
While there is no single country that has the healthy eating thing totally down pat (although a recent study showed some countries, such as the Netherlands, are definitely on the right track), there are certain habits we can embrace in our day-to-day lives.
Here are some of our favorites:
In Japan, the only thing more important than the food is how it’s presented. Fortunately, this means dishes typically feature small portions of a number of colorful foods, such as seasonal vegetables and fresh seafood. So not only do they get their daily servings of protein and omega-3s found in fish such as salmon, but they also get plenty of nutrients from fresh produce.
Like spicy foods? Perfect. These hot items are both great for pleasing your taste buds and improving your health. Spices such as turmeric, ginger, and red pepper, which are commonly found in a variety of spicy dishes from India and other countries around the world, have been linked to lower cholesterol levels. Onion and garlic can also help reduce the risk of heart disease as they decrease lipid levels in the blood. All very good things.
Although Mexico has joined the ranks of countries struggling with an obesity epidemic, there is one healthy eating habit to embrace: Having a large lunch. Recent research suggests that eating a big nutritious lunch can help prevent overeating later on. And since eating late at night can actually lead to weight gain (no matter how many calories you consume), you’ll be better off.
The Mediterranean diet, which mainly consists of legumes, grains, fish, veggies, and fruits, is all the rage these days, largely because of its proven health benefits. Even though the diet allows people to consume olive oil, meat, and nuts, it’s all about portion control. By eating more fresh produce than high calorie food items, you’ll be on your way to good health.
Since The Netherlands took Oxfam’s first place for healthy eating, there’s a lesson or two to be learned from the Dutch. Not only are their meals generally balanced and nutritious, it’s also quite easy (and affordable) to get fresh fruits and veggies. It doesn’t hurt that the Dutch are huge fans of herring, a healthy fish that’s packed with omega-3s, either.
Sure the British love their tea, but the other lesson to learn from their eating habits is portion control. Instead of piling your plate high with food each meal, stick with the recommended serving sizes to prevent overeating.
About 75 percent of people in Germany eat breakfast every day—one of the easiest and most important ways you can maintain a healthy weight. By having a nutritious and balanced breakfast that consists of whole-grain cereals or breads and a protein, you’ll set yourself up to be more focused and make healthier food choices throughout the rest of the day. Go easy on the sausages.
Most people in Poland prefer cooking their own meals to dining out, which means they know exactly what’s going in their food. By choosing the ingredients for each dish, you can also control how many calories you’ll end up consuming.
In the countryside of Russia, it’s all about growing your own fruits and vegetables and preserving as much as possible. By doing so, you can ensure your diet is totally balanced and that your produce is pesticide-free.
Photo from Dave Montgomery, MD.