Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Portugal. I cannot describe how beautiful it is in writing, you have to experience it with your own eyes to truly appreciate it. Every time I travel I experience growth and learn more about myself. My big lesson in Portugal: go with the flow,and that it’s okay to eat white bread….sometimes.
White bread… GASP! Yes that’s what I said; I ate white bread in Portugal. Back home firmly planted in my comfort zone I don’t eat white bread, I rarely eat bread in general, but in Portugal I went with the flow and didn’t regret a single moment. I am huge believer in eating what makes you happy, while ensuring you get proper nutrition. As a nutritionist I have a healthy diet, but I understand the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone and eating foods you wouldn’t normally eat in order to embrace food and culture. The key is to eat mindfully with no guilt and to be aware of the food choices you are making.
Portugal’s food culture consists mainly of meat, fish, potatoes and rice. They typically don’t eat breakfast, if they do it usually consists of a tosta mista (ham and cheese sandwich) or a pastry with an espresso. Lunch is usually heavy with soup (caldo de verde “green soup” – delicious!), a meat or fish dish with tomato, onion salad (and fresh bread). Dinner looks similar to lunch but heavier and at 8:30pm. There are few snacks (excluding afternoon pastries with espresso). Did I mention lots of wine, there is a lot of wine.
This is completely opposite of my typical schedule, large breakfast (omelet, oatmeal etc.), medium sized lunch (large salad bowl, soup etc.) and a medium sized dinner (chili and salad ,fish and veggies etc.) with snacks in between (green smoothie/ juice, chia pudding, apple and almond butter etc.).
At first I had a tough time adjusting to the Portuguese diet because it was so different from how I typically eat. Where are the vegetables? Are they hiding under that pile of potatoes?
A lot of people have a hard time with change, especially with food because of the emotion tied to food choices. I was experiencing guilt, both from my indulgences but also for not embracing the culture fully. After a couple days of self-pity I decided to suck it up and just eat… because I was in Portugal!! I indulged, came home and returned to my lifestyle and looking back I am so happy I let go and took advantage of the situation.
I still got to enjoy all of the amazing food Portugal had to offer but in my own way. I still had the opportunity to try new foods but I selected options closer to the my regular diet. I ate a ton of fresh fish, green soup, and veggies and took small (er) portions of rice and potatoes. I paced myself so I could fully enjoy a whole plate of food and be satisfied without being forced into wearing my flowy dress (ladies you know what I’m talking about). I chose when I was going to indulge in dessert and when to pass. (I absolutely LOVE Natas- these little Portuguese pastries that are to die for). When other people are preparing food for you, it is important to respect the love and process put into that preparation. (food allergies being the exception). Life is too short to be “dieting.” Healthy lifestyles start with healthy relationships with food, be mindful of your choices and remember to drink wine while in Portugal.