Ever wondered where the healthiest eating people in all of Europe are? Or which European country has the best statistics when it comes to food-related illnesses and the like? Well, a recent study by NGO Oxfam has revealed all the answers, and the results may come as something of a surprise: From Switzerland, the land of chocolate, to Italy, the land of pizza, here are Europe’s 10 healthiest eaters!
On the cusp of the Atlantic and the westernmost point of Europe, Portugal has long enjoyed a cuisine that is as rich with the flavors of the ocean as it is with the earthy ingredients of the Mediterranean Sea and the farms of the ancient Iberian peasant folk. That makes for one seriously eclectic offering of dishes, ranging from simple, salted cod and cold vegetable soups, to sweet cebolada stews and packed francesinha sandwiches straight out of Porto; a culinary repertoire that’s just as tasty as it is good for the health!
From the earthy pizzerias of Naples and the romantic trattorias of Rome, to the hidden mountain eateries of Piedmont and the cellar doors of Puglia, Italy has such a wealth of gastronomy that it’s easy to see why it’s continually hailed as one of the veritable meccas for food-loving travelers. However, it also seems as though Italy has plenty to offer healthy eaters too, with its cuisine hailing in as one of the most diverse going; covering all the food groups and making for some pretty low national obesity and diabetes rates.
Ah, the Emerald Isle—a place of ageing castles, crumbling Viking forts, rocky coastline and verdant valleys awash with legend and myth. With all that Guinness and history, Ireland’s healthy side is rarely appreciated! But it’s certainly there, and it’s both diverse and accessible in the food department, touting a medley of farmer’s stews, home-grown beef cuts, mashed potatoes, fresh kale and salty seafood straight from the Atlantic. What’s more, only a quarter of all Irish are officially classed as obese, and a mere 4 percent suffer from malnutrition.
Beer, waffles and chocolate are what most people think of when Belgium’s culinary side rears its head, and with Brussels’wealth of craft drinking dives, historic hops halls and bespoke confectioners, there are plenty of opportunities to taste those national dishes for sure. However, that’s not the full story, because this Low Country nation also boasts one of the healthiest eating habits in the world, touting an obesity rate of just over 22 percent and a varied diet to boot. So, expect North Sea mussels, a cacophony of blood sausages and earthy local cheeses in excess.
Continually rated amongst the world’s happiest nations, home to some of the globe’s most liveable cityscapes and awash with some of the most dramatic natural landscapes in all of Europe, Austria is certainly a place that lends itself to health-conscious, outdoorsy types. And it’s food offering is pretty darn good too, with those schnitzels and strudels rubbing shoulders with open sandwiches, cured mountain meats, rich coffees and oodles of international dishes besides, not to mention some of the finest beers going (although that may not be the best option for keeping off the pounds!).
Touting a smorgasbord of Swedish meatballs, crispy knäckebröd, boiled hams, Scandinavian dumplings and super-fresh gravlax, this is the Nordic land that gave the world the fearsome Vikings. No wonder healthy eating is their strong point then, and no wonder that less than 20 percent of the country is classed as obese. However, it’s not only tradition that’s madeSweden a high flyer here, but also the nation’s willingness to try new things and cooking styles; from Japanese sushi and sashimi, to French fine-dining and oriental spice.
With its roots firmly in the simple, earthy and folksy cooking traditions of the northern European peasant folk, the Danishkitchen is not only hugely healthy but also extremely accessible. And while the standard national staples of sour gherkins, smørrebrød sandwiches, salty Baltic fish cuts and pickled herrings offer a good range of food groups and flavors to the Nordic natives, the country also has a reputation for creativity in cuisine, with restaurants like Noma of Copenhagen fusing foraged produce with the height of haute gastronomy.
While perhaps famed widely for its pungent cheeses, mouth-watering chocolates and swish line-up of haute gastronomy in places like St Moritz and Zurich, Switzerland also packs a punch when it comes to healthy eating. There are buckwheat pastas, muesli cereals, cured sausages, earthy stews and Alpine dairy dishes galore here– each promoting a real diversity of flavors and ingredients in the national kitchen. What’s more, with just over 17 percent of Swiss people weighing in as obese and 100 percent enjoying access to clean water, it seems as though those winding hiking trails and fresh mountain springs have done the trick.
Thalassotherapy in Brittany
A veritable foodie mecca if there ever was one, France is the country that gave the world the legendary culinary creations of coq au vin, the croissant, pungent Roquefort and foie gras, not to mention all those top-quality wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux, packed baguettes cooked up by rustic bakers and oodles of cutting-edge, avant-garde gastronomy to boot. And true to its foodie reputation, France receives high marks when it comes to healthy eating too, offering up a diverse range of flavors and foodstuffs and touting a real obsession with organic produce and freshness at every turn.
In a cacophony of Gouda cheese, Groningen sausages, stiff rye breads and snert pea soup, the Netherlands trumps all others on this line-up of the healthiest eating nations on the planet. Not only do the Low Country folk here enjoy clean water all round, but the country also boasts a pretty excellent diabetes rate of just 6.3 percent and some of the most affordable foodstuffs throughout Europe. So, next time you think twice about devouring that pannekoeken or balkenbrij meatloaf, don’t worry, because the chances are there’s plenty of nutrition inside.
By Rich Francis