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Diet question for a first time traveler: Fitness nuts I need your help

Thanks to everyone, my Paris-Milan-Florence-Rome trip is looking great. I think I have everything set. Now, one more question. How do I maintain a high protein diet in Europe. I eat a lot of protein (I am fairly athletic, I lift weights, run the whole thing) in order to maintain my lifestyle. I know that when on vacation, people tend to go for carbs (chocolate pastries, croissants, etc.) because they are cheaper. I don't really want to other than maybe a bite.

If I go to European grocery stores, will I be able to find grilled chicken and protein powder? I know this might sound a bit fanatical, but I want to be able to maintain my regimen in Europe. Are Europeans healthy eaters (compared to Americans everyone is)? Can I get grilled chicken salads in Europe? Atheletes, I welcome your suggestions.

Posted by
1003 posts

It's easy in Italy because for the most part side dishes are separate. I can't speak to Paris but in most sit-down restaurants you would order the meat separately from the pasta or salad. I think every restaurant I went to in Italy had various salads on the menu. I don't really think a "grilled chicken salad" is a typical Italian meal and I wouldn't expect to find it on the menu of an authentic Italian place and if you're in Italy, you really want to eat authentic! But you could get a mixed salad as an appetizer and a chicken or lean pork entree and I think that should be pretty easy to find. breakfast might be the most difficult because all of my hotels in Italy served almost all bread/pastry products because that's what they eat there. I don't think people go for carbs because it's cheaper so much as it's part of the diet and it's appreciated and an artform. Maybe it's part of the diet because it's cheaper but anyway. Certainly you should maintain your regimen while you're away but if you go to Paris and don't sample baguettes and pastries or Italy and sample gelato, why bother going? ;) (I have heard stories of people saying they digest the breads over in Europe better because they're so much fresher and higher-quality... who knows) Anyway, I kid, I kid. I admire your self-control, I eat well at home but went nuts over there LOL Anyway like I said you should be fine with lunch and dinner. For lunch you could even piece together a picnic of meats and cheeses from a little local deli and have a great high-protein lunch that's also very authentic and tasty and local. Maybe people can help you find places for meat or egg breakfasts (in italy, look/ask for places that serve frittata? I think omelets would be common in Paris but I haven't been there so I can't comment as to whether they are served for breakfast there) but I can't help much since I ate the croissants and breads my hotels served. But good luck, I think you'll be fine :)

Posted by
79 posts

Thanks Debra. I do plan on trying baguettes, gelato, etc. It is definitely a part of the experience.

Do Europeans have protein powder (especially at markets)? I figured every day I would mix some in a water bottle so I food ready to go. All other meals would be built around that.

In European cuisine, is it possible to get chicken without too much cream, butter, etc.?

Posted by
2000 posts

RD, there are rotisserie chicken shops all over Paris. You might also want to partake of the steak tartare lunch, that everyone seems to love -- a big mound of seasoned uncooked ground beef!

Posted by
9363 posts

If you're concerned about protein powder, why don't you just take some with you?

Posted by
79 posts

Good question Nancy. I am trying to follow RS' pack light advice. Powders are contained in those bulky pill boxes and would take up a lot of volume. I figured I would take RS' advice and just take what I really need and by certain other things in Europe.

Posted by
11798 posts

The Europeans consider themselves the pinnacle of healthy eaters. Like every thing else, they define healthy eating differently. Their focus is more on eating fresh foods.

You will find stores that sell health nutrition including protein powder.

I generally eat less sugar and starches and more proteins and green vegetables. I like to eat healthy all the time but don't stress out during vacations. I eat mostly meats and cheeses, augmented with nuts, olives and fresh vegetables. I keep the sweets and starches to a minimum but don't eliminate them completely. Red wine isn't carb heavy. I like good beer and justify it by reminding myself that I'm walking four to six hours a day so I need to bump up the carbs somewhere.

Posted by
320 posts

I did see lots of health food shops in Paris and fresh fruit stands all over the EU. The food is "FRESH" so in many restaurants I would ask for Veg X-Y-Z like we do here, and they would only have Q because that is what was fresh at the market. Pasta and Pizza are also healthy, as they are fresh and preservative free. I did try to stay clear of sweets, and with such high quality fruit it was no problem. 3 weeks in EU/UK and did not put on a pound, but we did spend a few in London.

Posted by
416 posts

RD,

Yes, you can get meat and chicken in France without cream sauces. Go for the roasted meats. In Paris, there is a restaurant called Nos Ancestres Galois (I hope I have that right) where they bring you fresh salad fixings that you choose from yourself, a meat course, a cheese course and a dessert course--and from all of which you choose what you want and leave the rest. Unlimited house wine. It is one of those things where you want to be part of a group because it is a fun production as much as a meal. To get there, as you face the entrance to Notre Dame, go down the left side of the church and across the river and I think you take the first street down to the left. Nos Ancestres is on the right a few blocks down. As for Italy, go for seafood! They REALLY know how to prepare it.

Posted by
1455 posts

RD, My husband is into fitness and was able to maintain his schedule. He'd work out in the AM, since the city doesn't really wake up until 8 am.

I can't say for Italy, but we had an apartment in Paris and was able to find low carb items at the market, such as fresh meats, veggies and fruits. Every morning we'd have a yogurt for breakfast (Dannon, just like home.. lol!)

I believe the Europeans in general are the same as American eaters but they don't go overboard in their portions. That way you are able to maintain the necessary calorie intake.

I work out 4x's a week (mostly cardio) and found it easy to maintain my fitness for the 10 days. In fact coming back home I lost 3 pounds, and I didn't really watch what I ate.

As for the protein powder, you may want to bring your own. Or, bring the protein bars, which may be easier to travel with instead of powder.

Personally you shouldn't find a problem eating well in Europe... even with the occasional pastry you can still maintain.

PS: If you belong to a gym, see if they have access to gyms in Paris and Italy. I saw a pass at my 24-hour fitness. Or, check your hotel. In London, our hotel had a full gym. Be sure to know the weight conversion from pounds to kilos. My husband had to guess on which weight to use.. LOL

Posted by
79 posts

When you say rotisserie chicken, how is that made usually? Is rotisserie pretty lean? I am new to meat eating (former vegetarian). I don't eat beef. Thanks for the tips!

Posted by
416 posts

RD,

Rotisserie cooking is a method of roasting where the meat is suspended above the heat and turned on a spit. Definitely lean because the fat drips away as the meat is cooking. Since you don't eat red meat, skip the restaurant I recommended earlier. Also, a Salade Nicoise is good choice for a light lunch--bibb lettuce with hard boiled egg, tuna, cooked green beans and nicoise olives (watch out for the pits).

Posted by
27 posts

Hi RD,

The guys above have given you most of the good advice you need. If I were to add something, it's that: in Europe, and especially France, restaurant portions are richer, but SMALLER than in North America. (Oh, and the idea of a "Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast" and "all-you-can-eat" salad bar isn't here, if that's any comfort.)
You'll eat well, and you'll eat smaller portions to boot.

If you want even greater control over carbs and the rich sauces you'll find in France, for instance, go more often to the markets and create your own fresh picnic lunches. Preservative-free food, interaction with the locals, and a cheaper way to eat - sounds like fun to me! :)

SH

Posted by
448 posts

not exactly food advice...but don't ask for preservative/preservatif free food in france...that's the equivalent of asking for no condoms in your salade..I learned that one when explaining that my mother never put preservatives in her strawberry jam..Gave the dinner guest something to laugh about..
Anyhow...there's protein at every market with the sliced meats and chicken on the spit/rotisserie...and supermarkets,even pharmacies, will have protein powder in the health food dept...I still think the butter and sauce myth is as big a myth as the grouchy French waiter...and in Italy..an escalope de veau a day will keep the pasta away...

Posted by
590 posts

I noticed alot of health food stores that sold protein powders and protein bars. You shouldn't have a problem with that.
The best salads were in France. They had grilled chicken or seafood in them. Breakfast in France and Italy were a problem for me to get my protein in as they are all carb-filled. Northern Europe you had plenty of meats and cheeses to choose from. If you wanted to get more protein in the Southern countries you can always buy protein powder and milk and have that for breakfast.

Posted by
16 posts

I just had the best meal yesterday in Paris in a place called Les Cinq Saveurs D'Anada located at 72, rue du Cardinal Lemoine, 75005 Paris. It is 100% organic and mostly macrobiotic. It was the best plate of veggies that I've had since arriving in Europe and I've been here for three months now. They have lovely fish and just a wide selection of very healthy things to eat. I've found that eating healthy has been a challange. But, I was talking with my doctor and bemoaning the fact I am eating so much white bread and he said eat it to my hearts content, as long as I'm in France or Italy while eating it it cancels out any of the bad effects. I really like the way he thinks!

Posted by
79 posts

I am not so sure activity alone will cancel the affects of white bread. I am surprised there isn't more whole wheat and rye bread in Europe. I presume baguettes are white bread right?

Posted by
8064 posts

Hi, I live in Frankfurt and the bread here is awesome. Forget about that crap that passes for bread in the States! Rye bread was invented here I think, so you should be in luck if you like that. Fresh markets are everywhere. Wonderful cheeses are also available and lots of great, seasonal fruits. One of the most popular menu items is turkey strips on salad. Try the mushrooms on salad too. Roast chicken is everywhere like is mentioned in the above posts. Walking all day long does make a huge difference though. Health food stores are all over Germany. They do eat healthier I think, with lots of organic stuff, big lunch and small dinner.

Posted by
689 posts

I've never see plain old grilled chicken (that boneless skinless stuff that you'd find in a lot of American chain restaurants) in France, but as others have mentioned roast chicken (poulet roti) is everywhere. I've never seen a cafe menu without it. If it comes with sauce, scrape it off. If you don't want the skin, don't eat it. It will be easy to get plenty of protein in your meals--there will always be lots of meat choices--you will just need to relax about specific preparations.

Asking for substitutions or different preparations is generally not done in France. It's considered insulting to the chef. And unless you speak the language well, please don't try. I've seen some awful, ugly American behavoir by folks that tried to get complicated with their menu orders, in English. It was absolutely mortifying to watch and it's a perfect example of why American tourists so often get a bad rap.

Most people I know that keep special diets get apartments, so they can cook. In a foreign country, it's the only way to have complete control over your food. If you decide to eat out every meal, please recognize you might not get things just the way you want them.

Posted by
79 posts

Thanks Christy. I am not that picky. I don't mind fat in meals. My only real concern is finding meat meals. Thanks everyone for your help.

Posted by
283 posts

I think you should bring a protein powder to get you started and so you don't spend valuable travel time hunting for what you what. Also, the ingredients may be written in a foreign language or with undesired ingredients. This way you will have the security of what you are familiar with until you find a suitable substitute.

Posted by
131 posts

Hi RD,
Just got back from a 3 week trip to Greece & Italy. We LOVED Rome. Anyway,
I think you will surprised how much more vegetables the Italians eat (and the Greeks) than Americans and also how much skinnier they are. They do eat a lot of pasta but the portion is a fraction of what you would get in a restaurant in the states. When you get home you will really notice how obese our country is. Enjoy your trip! :) Italy is wonderful.

Posted by
1158 posts

Rd

Europeans are much healthier than Americans. Food over there is more natural, or at least Europeans try to eat more natural, no fried foods and much less intake.
I am sure you will find a large variety of food to suit your needs. I am vegeterian, I can't tell you what's in grocerie stores speaking of meat.
Bon Apetit!

Posted by
8199 posts

We´ve been in Europe for 3 wks now and have 3 more to go...Every hotel we´ve stayed in so far (France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany) has had eggs offered at breakfast...hard boiled, soft boiled or cooked to order. Every hotel has also had plain yogurt and fresh fruit. This is what I always eat here for breakfast because I want to feel well for the day. They do have tons of breads, croissants, pastries, cakes, etc too. Our hotel here in Germany this morning had chocolate mousse with whipped cream at the breakfast buffet!! I stay away from all that and have had no problem with eating a healthy breakfast. If a hotel only offered food I wouldn´t want to eat we would just go to a little grocery store and buy plain yogurt and real orange juice with no sugar added. Very easy to find everywhere we´ve been. We actually did that this trip in Montepulciano, we stayed at the hotel RS recommends, Mueblo il Riccio, and it was quite expensive for breakfast and 99% pastries and breads so we got our yogurt and OJ and sat outside and people watched, very fun. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1455 posts

RD: Based on my experience and what others are posting, you will not have any problems.

You must go to Europe with an open mind that you CAN find the items you are looknig for.

The stuff we sell (and settle) for here in the US is garbage compared to the fresh items in Europe. Remember, most of the items are freshly made, and are sold daily... not sitting on shelves.

Sure, you'll find processed foods in Europe, but you'll find more outdoor markets selling fresh fruits, fresh cheese (cut to order!), and freshly cooked meats which are seasoned with herbs.

I also challenge you to count the number of obese Europeans during your trip. Chances are, the ones you find... are tourists!