I knew that Spain would provide its fair share of nutritional challenges. Clients and friends had said that Spain was all meat, pasta, cheese and bread. This is not entirely true. It’s similar to if you are thinking about the color red, you will see red everywhere..... if you are thinking about meat, pasta and cheese, you will see it everywhere in Barcelona. That doesn’t mean that Barcelona doesn’t have vegetable options.....it does. It just requires a little extra navigating and specifications when ordering.
ORDERING IN BARCELONA
There are certainly questions to ask when ordering. Most menus won’t explain what is actually in that “salad”, pasta or meat dish. These lessons we learned the hard way served as a heaping “salad” of mayo and tuna which they call a Russian salad and a pasta with mushrooms that had more cream than I have had at one sitting in my entire life. Evidently they haven’t gotten the memo just yet about menu and ingredient disclosure.
Here are some simple questions to ask and general things to know about ordering and eating in Barcelona:
Ask for dressing or sauce on the side or else that healthy salad may look more like a heaping pile of sauce with some green poking through.
If there is anything you don’t understand, ASK! We found that everyone spoke English and is happy to explain what is in the dishes.
Starbucks will serve coffee the same way you like it in the states. Big, bold and to your preference. Otherwise you can find coffee everywhere, it will simply be mostly milk and a little espresso. Baby sized coffee, we like to call it.
Pizza and pasta is unreal here. You can find buttery doughs, Pastries, baguettes and more at every corner. Fast food, slow food, whatever you like, it’s in abundance. The great news here is that your body will be craving the carbs as energy if you are doing your tourist duty of getting lost in this city. We managed to log around 15,000 steps each day and got some gym workouts in too. If you work with this plan, you will need those carbs as fuel. Just remember to take time eating and stop when you are full.
The pastas are generally quite large and can easily be a shared dish.
The pizzas are generally a thin crust easily shared between two people. Our favorite order by the time all was said and done was a salad and small appetizer to start, followed by a pasta and protein dish to share. This was generally the perfect amount of food with the perfect balance. For those restaurants who didn’t have salads listed, we ordered a side of vegetables if available.
Breakfast- Most hotels will have the option of breakfast included or without. If you choose included, you will find a selection of cured meats, breads, cheeses and some variety of fruits and veggies. With this arrangement we would stock up on the leanest protein which was usually turkey along with the egg whites cut away from a fried egg, a slice or two of toast and whatever vegetable was available. If we chose to get up and out early, skipping breakfast, or woke up too late, it would just leave breakfast to go right into lunch.
Lunch- In Barcelona you usually have the option to taxi or walk to any of the local or distant dining spots. We found ourselves choosing the furthest venues so that we could get our steps in prior to the dining event, which would then include that pizza, pasta and salad. Perhaps a glass of wine as well ;)
Dinner- Realistically the same as lunch went along here. There wasn’t a lot of need for snacking between meals, apart from water, as eating out wherever you are in the world, usually has a heavier caloric and fat impact. Lunch would keep us satisfied until dinner.
NOW FOR THE GOOD PART. DRUM ROLL PLEASE.... OUR FAVORITE SPOTS!
La Bodegueta - A local dining spot which we found by chance on our first night. Serving authentic Spanish tapas and everything that you could possibly want for a first meal in Barcelona.
Bar Canete- A Catalan restaurant with all of the richness in both charisma and food. We sat at the bar and the wait staff alone gave us a Spanish experience all in itself. The food was on point and certainly on the richer side. We ordered one item at a time and ate in true tapas style for the dinner until we had ate our fill.
Woki Organic Market- Another walk by find. This market/restaurant has pizza, pasta and wok stations throughout an organic market. You can order from the menu or specify what you would like in your dish and build your own. This is where you can up your vegetable game to your hearts desire with zero problem.
El Mama Restaurant Club- Our favorite restaurant, hands down. We found this spot through a magazine add and were drawn by the promise of aerial performances. What we actually got was more than we could have imagined. The food alone would have been worth the trip. What we had anticipated to be a 2 hour dinner turned into a 5 hour show and our best night in Barcelona. Burlesque, singing and drag all set to a trendy and well decorated venue with the food to match.
The reality we found was like any place in the world that we have discovered to far. If you want to eat healthy, you can make it happen. If you want to indulge, you can make it happen. If you want to do both, walk everywhere and benefit from the fruits of your labor in the form of the local indulgences. Thank you Barcelona, your carbs were exactly what we needed.