Let’s talk about Jennifer.
Jennifer is in her mid-thirties and has three kids. She’s super frustrated with her body shape and wants to slim down. Let’s say she finally reaches her breaking point and decides to make positive, healthy changes in her life.
She’s pumped. Her excitement translates to the gym, where she works out 5 times a week. She’s on the fast track to big-time weight loss when….
…. she gets hit with a wrecking ball of anxiety.
She doesn’t know how to diet properly.
See, someone once told Jennifer that being healthy is like driving a car. Your motivation is what twists the key in the ignition and exercise is the turbo-charged engine that motors the car down the highway.
But no car can drive without gas. That’s exactly what a good diet provides: energy to power you through the day.
Jennifer is nervous because she doesn’t know how to transform her diet for the better. She listens to dieting podcasts and reads health blogs, but gets even more stressed because she doesn’t know which tips actually work.
Believe it or not, countries around the world do dieting differently. It’s awesome to know health is a universal goal, but different regions use their cultures and perspectives in unique ways to stay healthy.
So, why don’t we help out our friend Jennifer and learn how we can improve our own diets from our neighbors across the globe? Here are 8 tips you (and Jennifer) might find helpful!
Japan – Limit Your Portions
Our friends across the Pacific know how to keep their meal sizes under control. That’s probably why Japan is consistently among the world’s healthiest nations.
The simple fact is that eating more will flood the body with excess amounts of nutrients. And, with the body, extra isn’t always better.
Our bodies need those nutrients to perform the daily processes that keep us functioning. But extra fats, carbs, proteins, anything you can name, can mess with those processes and lead to a higher risk of diseases.
Always try to get the most out of your meals in the least amount of servings. Instead of reaching for that extra spoonful of mashed potatoes, you can swap in some healthier veggies, instead.
Thailand/India – Bring Spices to Your Diet
If you’ve ever eaten Thai or Indian food, you know they heavily pepper in the spices (See what I did there?). For instance, Thai food sprinkles in spices such as chilies, cardamom, turmeric, cumin, curry, and garlic.
Even if you love tasting the spiciest foods available to man, you probably still can’t fathom how enjoying these foods can also be healthy.
When you eat spicy foods, you tend to eat slower, which affords the body more time to digest properly. Spices also aid your metabolism, which speeds up weight loss and keeps your body’s systems running smoothly.
Asia/Africa/Europe (Mainly Scandinavia) – Cut Out the Snacks
OK, so maybe you don’t need to axe snacks from your life completely. But it is interesting that these regions eat almost exclusively during meals, barring some grains or fruits that give them energy throughout the day.
We all would agree that snacking isn’t totally evil, as long as you do it right. A lot of snacks, such as cookies and chips, are easy to munch on in large portions. It’s usually doesn’t take long for people to tear through bags of these snacks, ingesting high amounts of unnecessary junk without realizing it.
Before you snack, ask yourself if it’s worth it. Are you eating to power your body with nutrients, or is snacking just a way to kill time before your next meal comes?
Germany – Start the Day with Breakfast
Speaking of food, when it comes to breakfast, Germany takes the cake. Well, maybe not cake, since we’re talking about breakfast, after all…
Breakfast is a vital part of any healthy day, and Germans know that. 75% of Germans chow down on grains and fruits before their day even begins. This gives them the rest of the day to burn off those calories and fuels them through the mornings. You will also feel full enough to skimp out on excess eating during the day.
Take the time to eat a balanced breakfast, and notice how much better you feel after that meal.
France/Spain/Greece/Italy – Savor Everything You Eat
A few Western European cultures enjoy every last bite of their meals. Hey, how can you blame them?
Here’s the deal: when you eat at a slower pace, your body begins to realize it’s full before you finish your meal. That prevents you from overeating.
Plus, when people eat in a hurry, they make it more difficult for the body to digest (not to mention it’s a choking hazard).
Remember, eating is a nourishing experience. Savor what’s on your plate!
Mediterranean Countries – Eat Those Unsaturated Fats
Mediterranean cuisine features healthy fats – meaning unsaturated fats. These fats are necessary components of cell membranes, the border of the cell that filters what goes in and out of it.
You have to remember to avoid those nasty saturated and trans fats as much as possible. These are the fats that will stick in your system and shape your body composition.
Olive oil, canola oil, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds all are rich in unsaturated fats (and can be found in Mediterranean food). Try adding these to your meals to get more mileage out of your diet!
Peru/Korea – Make Protein the Center of the Dish
Meat is a staple in both Peruvian and Korean food. Peruvian food is heavy on steak, including delicious meals like lomo saltado. Meanwhile, Korean barbeque restaurants will offer a vast selection of meats to cook, such as short ribs.
The key is that vegetables flank each of these meat-centric dishes. In Korean food, “panchan” refers to the mostly-veggie side dishes that accompany the meat, including kimchi (sour cabbage). Peruvian steak often comes on a bed of cooked veggies to enhance the flavor profile of the dish.
You also get to skip the carbs with these meals. Just because there’s no bun, doesn’t mean there’s no taste!