5 health tips to take from the Europeans
As I groggily stepped off the plane, happy to see that the Pacific Northwest sky was finally clear and blue, I tried my best to avoid the inevitable overwhelm that returning home after traveling produces. Weeks of traveling by foot and train through the Alps and farmlands of Europe had left me in a different pace and state; slower and mellow but inquisitive and appreciative of each moment and opportunity that arose.
Now it is back to reality; there is work to be done, stress to be dealt with and bills to be paid. However, after a 10-hour plane flight and plenty of time to reminisce, I would like to acknowledge the things I have learned, come to appreciate, and think everyone can benefit from on a daily basis.
Differences between cultures are hard to put in definitive words, but for lack of better description, it is a way of living a bit more historically that lends its self to good health, good food and a good life for many throughout Europe. While the fast food joints, superstores, packaged food and hectic lifestyles do exist, on a whole there is a sense of slower pace, grounded lifestyle, real food and genuine appreciation.
Fresh baked bread, cured meats and handmade cheese are purchased daily from the hands that create them, and all is enjoyed with a good cup of coffee topped with whole, raw milk around outdoor tables with friends, family and strangers. There is something to be learned from this.
The following are 5 easy lessons to learn from European culture that I think will help improve the health, happiness, nourishment and a positive lifestyle of all on a daily basis.
- Eat real butter and don’t be afraid of fat. Butter tastes better when made with good cream full of healthy fats, and in Europe, even the butter at hotel breakfast bars is to die for. For flavor alone, it is worth buying or making your own from local, grass fed milk. However, good quality butter is also better for you because it is made with less processed and higher quality ingredients. Moderate amounts of these healthy fats help sustain your energy and muscular function. Better butter has better fats, more nutrients and more flavor – worth slathering on a piece of fresh bread without hesitance.
- Take more time for yourself. No, I am not betting on getting 6 weeks of vacation like the Europeans do, but I do plan on taking a hint from the way they live their every day lives to help reduce stress, stay happy and be healthy. Personal time is an important part of a healthy lifestyle so leave your electronics behind, get outside, sit quietly, walk, eat slowly and stop thinking about the next thing you need to rush off to do.
- Eat and savor good quality produce. Each morning bakeries, and fresh market stands open early and people shop for food on an almost daily basis. Traditions of visiting specialty markets and artisans in the community for quality goods holds true in most European communities. The result is good food, made fresh on a daily basis. Bread is still warm from the oven when served at breakfast and eggs still have dirt from the coops where they were collected. Nourishing your body with ingredients like this not only tastes better, it also ensures that you get the freshest food while supporting local producers.
- Slow down. If you have ever ordered food at a café in France, you know that rushing is not their forte. You sit, wait, watch the world go by, and the service and food will come eventually. At first, the waiting and tempered pace made me antsy, but now I appreciate the absence of a racing mind and the feeling of constantly rushing to the next item on the agenda. Slowing down while you eat will help you eat more appropriate portion sizes and digest better. Slowing down on a daily basis will help ward off stress and fatigue while encouraging you to enjoy the present and appreciate your surroundings.
- Buy good food, frequently and share it with friends. Tables clutter the sidewalks and diners pack in to restaurants, parks and street corners amidst friends and strangers. Meals are eaten frequently (portion sizes are much smaller) and always savored with the company of others. Taking time out of the day to eat good food gives your body a chance to rest and rejuvenate and gives your mind a chance to make connections with loved ones and with the nourishment you provide for it. Take the time to give your body what it needs and craves and enjoy those moments in the good company of others.