Although its most famous export, pastel de nata (custard tart), isn’t exactly renowned for its health benefits, the Portuguese cuisine is actually comprised of simple, locally sourced dishes oriented around seafood. Think steaming shellfish stews with a side of fluffy white rice, or bacalhau, the national cod-based dish which comes in hundreds of delicious variations.
The carb-heavy dishes of Italy can contribute to a balanced diet, especially if you consume them the way the Italians do. Meals here consist of two modest courses; a primo (usually a small amount of pasta) and secondo (a simple combination of a protein with vegetables) and when it comes to condiments, olive oil, with its healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, is a dinner table staple.
Thanks to the ever-popular Paleo movement, emulating the back-to-basics eating habits of our ancestors is now considered healthy. Food in Ireland has remained true to its traditional roots. Produce from local farms get turned into seasonal, unrefined and nutritious meals, like warming stew or creamy mashed potatoes with tender meat and wilted kale (a great source of B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, calcium, folate and magnesium).
The Austrian love for the great outdoors requires serious fuel. Open-faced sandwiches, spiced bratwurst and aromatic goulash packed with veggies are satiating enough to power days filled with adventure, including mountain biking, hiking, skiing and wild swimming. On the corner of every street in Vienna you’ll find a coffee house. The Austrian java dependency might actually come with health benefits though, when you consider coffee is packed full of antioxidants and may help fight serious diseases.
When you think Swedish cuisine, meatballs (preferably with mounds of velvety mashed potato) spring immediately to mind. Like many Swedish dishes, you’ll rarely see this national dish served without a side of Lingonberries. These tart red berries contain quercetin and proanthocyanidin which are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
With its roots firmly in traditional European cooking styles, the Danish kitchen is not only hugely healthy but also extremely accessible. 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, spearheaded by Copenhagen‘s blossoming fine dining scene.
While perhaps famed for its pungent cheeses, world-class chocolates and haute gastronomy in places like St Moritz and Zurich, Switzerland also packs a punch when it comes to healthy eating. Sample buckwheat pastas, muesli cereals, cured sausages, earthy stews and Alpine dairy dishes galore; each promoting diversity of flavors and ingredients.
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 a 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.