As a health coach traveling through Europe, my main objective is to discover how I can support clients along their travels. This whole thing is for you guys AND, I am certainly enjoying the experience ;)
What I notice with clients, gearing up for travel, is a general idea of helplessness in terms of navigating nutrition for a big trip ahead. There is this thought that if they are out of their comfort zone and their safe daily schedule, then there is no way that they can possibly stay on track. So, I set off to discover for myself what the actual challenges would be regarding nutrition and macro nutrient navigation.
The first stop, Portugal. I didn’t have much in the way of expectations. I actually wanted to do as little research as possible prior to getting there. This way I could have the raw experience of navigating on the fly and in unknown circumstances. Here is what I discovered and very quickly that:
The Meat is incredible
The Seafood is incredible
The Cheese is incredible
The Bread is incredible
The Produce is incredible
The food here is just ridiculous, I could not wait to eat! So what do I actually mean by “incredible”? The items were fresh, seasoned appropriately and without unknown preservatives that we are bombarded with in the US. The food felt “clean” in my body which was an incredible feeling.
Portions were larger than I expected while dining at restaurants. Similar to that of the US. So we shared entrees and appetizers at almost every meal.
Pizza is amazing and generally served with an incredibly thin crust
Water feels hard to come by. Even finding a corner market seems few and far between so we started to order extra bottles of water while out at restaurants.
Pastries are everywhere and the flan custard in a pastry crust is the Portuguese favorite. It’s worth trying and it’s a couple of bites worth.
Coffee is incredibly small. Ordering a "cafe" means essentially an espresso and I found myself asking if I could just have the biggest coffee they could make. I JUST NEED A GROWN UP COFFEE!
Bring protein bars.
Bring protein powder.
Pair lean protein and vegetables at all main meals and include a moderate source of complex carb and fat.
Walk frequently and often
Limit alcohol consumption to 2 or 3 servings per day. Hey, I’m a realist, it’s vacation.
Eat 3-5 small balanced meals a day
Upon rising : Water and coffee .....Then walk Mid day : Light brunch including meat, fish or eggs, toast and some sort of vegetable. ......Walk again Mid afternoon : Pastries or chocolate and the tiniest coffee ever. ......Walk Dinner - Pizza with meat and a shared salad, generally with cucumber, tomatoes, feta and balsamic. A glass of wine, maybe two.
The result, we expended WAY more calories than we took in, and we were consistently active.
We ended up walking until we were hungry. One of our taxi drivers said it well, “we eat because we are walking, we are not walking so that we can eat”. Every meal was consumed in accordance to hunger. We never left stuffed, nor were we still hungry. Just pleasantly satisfied.
We listened to our bodies and ate for nourishment and balance. Finding lean protein, vegetables and good sources of complex carbohydrates was as easy as Portuguese flan. The only way you could gain weight here is if you took a taxi everywhere and ate more than you needed. You would have to actually PLAN to put weight on here by consciously deciding to not walk and eat in ridiculous abundance.
So, I am happy to say there is absolutely no surprises around the corner if you come to visit Portugal. You will be able to stay on track and enjoy some incredible food, beautiful architecture, music, and a kick in the right direction of a notch in on that belt.
Next Stop, Marrakesh!