The Dutch Diet and Lifestyle

What is it about the Dutch? They’re generally tall (often freakishly so), thin, healthy, energetic, they speak very directly and honestly with one another, they’re discreet about their personal lives and finances, they have a strange love for the color orange, they consume a lot of bread and dairy, they ride bicycles almost everywhere….

There appears to be a pervasive philosophy of minimalism, moderation, anti-indulgence, and anti-extravagance in the Netherlands. It is considered rude to flaunt one’s wealth, overeat, or accumulate material possessions. Whether this is part of their pre-WWII culture or not, I am not certain.

There are a lot of things about the Dutch that could warrant further investigation, but I want to know how they have gotten so tall, thin, happy, and healthy. Thus, I shall focus on their diet and exercise.

Let’s start with a breakdown of when and what the typical Dutch person eats and drinks each day:

~7 AM, Breakfast: 2 pieces of rye or wheat bread with butter, jam or candy sprinkles OR 2 slices of either low fat ontbijtkoek (like spice cake) or eirkoeken (egg cake). The egg cake is high in protein. A beverage includes two or three cups of black coffee, hot cocoa, and/or a glass of milk.

~10 AM, Later Snack Breakfast: 2 pieces of cake or bread (same as the earlier breakfast). Add some dropje (licorice candies) and 1 or 2 glasses of milk (often chocolate or coconut flavored).

12:30 PM, Lunch: 2 open-faced cheese and meat (or fish) sandwiches or soup with a roll or two, and a little fruit, more dropje, plus 1 or 2 more glasses of milk

~ 6 PM, Dinner: well-boiled or deep-fried vegetables (kale, onions, carrots, endive, cabbage, sauerkraut, fava beans*, or pickled beets) mixed in with mashed potatoes (called “stamppot”). Meat is an optional side dish: Sausage, ham, bacon, fish, meatballs (often deep-fried). Another popular main course is thick pea soup with ham or bacon. Maybe add another glass of milk. Bread is usually not served with dinner.

~6-7PM, Dessert: small portions of fruit, custard (vla), karnemelk (buttermilk) with fruit, or yogurt. Greasy food like donuts (Oliebollen, fried in lard) and pancake balls (called poffertjes) are usually eaten on weekends only. Many Dutch drink another cup of coffee with dessert.

A note about those licorice candies: The Dutch are in love with “Dropje,” little licorice-flavored candies. They eat about 14 pounds per year per person! Could it be that these anise sweets are key to keeping the Dutch alive and well? Dropje began as herbal medicines and ended up being part of their culture. (The anise seed aids with digestion, flatulence, congestion, expectoration, and oral hygiene.)

And what about all that bicycle riding the Dutch are so famous for? Surprisingly, the average Nederlander doesn’t exercise all that much. According to some studies, they only bicycle between 15 and 30 minutes per day and there are no real hills to climb; most of their terrain is level. Many Dutch do not even work out in a gym. One theory is that the Dutch exercise in moderation; this reduces their stress level, making it easy for the body to remain relaxed and not gain weight.

In 2010 the Hogeschool Van Amsterdam reported that the Dutch diet consists of 17 percent protein, 50 percent carbohydrate and 33 percent fat. It is estimated that the average Dutch person consumes 3,320 calories per day. Let’s see how this breaks down:

  1. MILK! = 4-6 glasses (12-oz) of milk per day = 48-72 ounces per day (and at least one of those glasses of milk is karnemelk, which is buttermilk)
    1. Golly gee whiz! 48-72 ounces a day of milk is a boatload of milk!
    2. That’s over 1300 calories per day in milk alone! Shocking! (Man may not live on bread alone, but maybe milk…?)
    3. They generally drink whole milk and, prior to the 1980s, most of the Dutch people drank raw, unpasteurized milk. (Many still prefer the raw variety.)
    4. BREAD! (either savory or sweet and cake-like) = 6-7 slices or per day. Wow! Really? Well, wait. The typical slice of bread in the Netherlands looks like it’s about half of an American slice, so, by US standards, the Dutch are eating about 3-3.5 slices of bread a day. But all that bread is very satiating. It’s no wonder the Dutch don’t get hungry and feel like snacking between meals. But how do they not gain weight from eating all those carbs? Probably the rye. Dutch bread typically has a lot of rye bread has a lot of health benefits. It can prevent gallstones, aids with weight loss, and can prevent constipation, amongst other useful properties. (Sounds like fodder for a future blog….)
    5. Meat = 5.3 ounces per day or less (The Dutch eat 3.5 ounces of fish, usually herring, per week; good for omega 3 fatty acids.)
    6. Cheese = 1.5 ounces per day (not as much per day as one would suspect in a Gouda-rich country)
    7. Vegetables = 7 ounces per day (That’s impressive when you consider how stuffed full of bread and milk the Dutch people are.)
    8. Potatoes = 1 potato per day (eaten at dinnertime in place of bread)
    9. Coffee = 2-4 cups per day
    10. Butter = a little more than half an ounce per day (Note: Many Dutch have switched to olive oil since 1950.)
    11. Licorice drops = 4.8 grams per day (Let’s not forget that’s 14 pounds a year per person.)
    12. Yogurt = 6 ounces per day for an after-dinner dessert (if not eating about 6 ounces of vla, which is an uncultured custard). The yogurt intake is not extraordinary in itself; however, it is their main dessert (aside from vla) and that is worth nothing. It’s much healthier and lower in sugar than other desserts. And let’s not forget the probiotic content of yogurt. Could it be that the timing of their yogurt consumption is important? Could eating yogurt before bedtime be especially healthy, keeping those probiotics and enzymes working on one’s digestion overnight?

Total Estimated Calories: 2,375 (considerably lower than the estimated average.)

My Humble Conclusion:

The Dutch are too stuffed with bread and whole, raw, unpasteurized, probiotic-rich milk expanding in their stomachs and guts to ever snack between meals. (And from what I have been learning about bacteroidetes lately I wonder if the Dutch diet is full of wonderful probiotics.) –note added 4/16/14

Perhaps, along with a little moderate exercise, like 15-30 minutes of bicycling every day, keeps the Dutch stress free so they don’t gain weight as easily. The Netherlands looks like a wonderful place. I think I need to travel there and stay awhile to further my investigation…

If you are Dutch or know someone who is, please write to me. Share your wisdom and knowledge!

Thanks for reading!

*Fava Beans: I’m curious about these edibles, which are often included in traditional diets. See a more recent blog posting about these legumes. In the Netherlands, fava beans are traditionally eaten with fresh savory and some melted butter.

Thank you to My Sources:

http://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/anise-benefits.html

www.stuffdutchpeoplelike.com

www.cheeseslave.com

http://dutchfood.about.com/od/dessertssweets/a/DroppedinIt.htm

http://www.worldcook.net/Cooking/WorldRecipes/Dutch-cooking.htm

http://isocrates.us/bike/the-1-mile-solution/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-AbPav5E5M (Fun video of bicycling in the Netherlands)

http://www.google.com/imgres?um=1&hl=en&biw=1366&bih=573&tbm=isch&tbnid=W3xC4Hi5L51PuM:&imgrefurl=http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/mFOUdnS/Dutch%2BFlag&docid=GnOIGEOQ7ts-IM&imgurl=http://www.rgbstock.com/cache1p9YwE/users/c/ce/certifiable/300/mFOUdnS.jpg&w=300&h=200&ei=9zJuUKe1I-KniQLCs4GwBw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=873&vpy=241&dur=1257&hovh=160&hovw=240&tx=116&ty=93&sig=104561041276763425690&page=2&tbnh=123&tbnw=157&start=14&ndsp=28&ved=1t:429,r:19,s:14,i:225

http://www.bugbitten.com/images/6b387ebbcb8020ce186644d4a4669c6a/Amsterdam_Netherlands-125843/Amsterdam_Netherlands-4349633.jpeg

http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-500144_162-5298115-2.html

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_269acj2V5yE/S3NB8FDYICI/AAAAAAAAAVI/FE5RcNr0QKI/s320/DSC08380.JPG

http://travellingtwo.com/gallery2/d/43866-2/Dutch+windmill+and+tulips.jpg

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSJVTdqrgwbJa3e1ztJwpEvfReIrLS2DdfeMY1Z7MSBroxBUm0x

https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRTktfvMj0zNoe8xAFTS7Bpy8v6xkSpdJI5w6vNK7bV-uzDcGh_

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https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS8g8SPYRhjxlq-nkHEbjlN8JVgvcwKnSQRbdR0dbLyeCt3Y6IJ

https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTtOsNZE4py1NEyns68gctFQV3tlOBkDI4oKQ4IIb8LfjWIR0uF

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT37CBbWAVYeTDKKQNgki7u_wY_uZdkoyPgp_lzH3lIPCZywTXp2g

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSxuJFnkvNClfoXehoMBrnzkw9lF4603w-m9jDf4qiIBnvCavQb

http://www.cheeseslave.com/a-dutch-farmers-market/

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5236/5871802826_13ba56d084_z.jpg

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcR0W3lm8_-R5wY4OVOMOdL9b_RmT7EQ4AwditZIZWlru3UYANuEcQ

http://wiki.coe.neu.edu/groups/nl2011transpo/wiki/ada39/images/__thumbs__/d6d22.png

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060818053651AAXgSG0

http://collectivewizdom.com/EuropeansWalk3TimesMoreThanAmericans.html

http://www.worldcook.net/Cooking/WorldRecipes/Dutch-cooking.htm

http://www.expatica.com/nl/leisure/dining_cuisine/How-the-Dutch-stay-slim_17527.html

http://blogs.central.edu/abroad/2012/09/13/four/

Dutch Diets | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/info_8192102_dutch-diets.html#ixzz28OI5OZJ3

http://dutchdiet.com/Page%20Whats%20Dutch%20Diet.htm

http://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110513042459AAEJVD0

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTxdSz0T7SnCQOig9LOl_d8nbsFpqBKQH3hp9SYmYYR6CGue5f32A

http://www.tavola-xpo.be/pictures/products/77_karnemelk1ln_s1.jpg

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ4PFuPtZh08GnjiJEPyU2G8lAVMDhUxEbl0UJgPfdwUYdjSC5AyA

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQfipkhrqsgAVwi5rQ23H2TiM9-6Uy9ntSevBbZ-B677EZLP42R

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=65

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The Australian Meat Craze: Aussies are Way Ahead of Americans

reprinted from an article I wrote on September 23, 2012

“…a crispy, fatty wonderland of tasty, tasty textures of flavors, all there to be discovered.” If this sounds like a quote from Anthony Bourdain, you’re right. In one of his No Reservations shows, Bourdain took a trip to Australia to chow down on hunks of beef, lamb and pork. Viewers had the opportunity to witness a surprising cultural sea change from Australia’s bland and tasteless to the brand new world of savory and succulent marbled meats, crispy skins, and oily fat drippings. Gone are the days of low fat, lean, and boring; Australians are crazy for woodfired Argentine meats, like those offered at Porteño’s in Sydney. The natives want real meat loaded with fat—and they eat a lot of it. And what about side dishes of vegetables? Even their Brussels sprouts are deep fried, making them far more flavorful than the average veggie.
Host Anthony Bourdain didn’t go into the health reasoning behind this dramatic evolution, but it certainly makes me ask the following questions: Are Aussies worried about gaining weight now that they’re eating all that fat? Are they gaining weight? Are they increasing their meat consumption in an attempt to up their protein intake? Are they healthier as a result? Are they stronger?
This brings to mind the “Dukan Diet,” you know the one where you eat more meat to lose weight. Rumor has it that both Kate Middleton and her mother were on the diet to lose weight for the big royal wedding.  The diet is high in lean meat proteins like beef, veal, rabbit, chicken, turkey, ham, veal, fish, and shellfish. It’s also high in eggs and lowfat dairy products.
Unfortunately, Aussies, like Americans, are facing their own overweight crisis. Perhaps now that this new high meat protein diet is in vogue, Aussies will start slimming down again. But what about all the meat fat their eating? According to Sally Fallon followers, eating all that high meat protein with the fat should trim their waistlines back to normal and keep them there.
So bring out the juicy cuts of organic grilled beef dripping with crispy fat! Such a wildly delicious way to lose weight and keep fit is certainly tempting to me! I’m boiling some all natural, grass fed beef ribs as we speak.
Fire up the barbie, mate!
Sources:
Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations “Sydney Education: Fresh seafood; charcuterie; Australian Barbie” episode, aired Sunday, September 23, 2012 on the Travel Channel.

Memories of My Great Grandparents

Reprinted from an article I wrote on September 20, 2012

My GG and GG…. They lived healthy lives–no strokes, no Alzheimer’s, no dementia, no heart disease, no cancer…. (I do remember, however, that my Grandma GG’s long-term memory was sharper than her short-term, and she told me lots of stories of her childhood.)
I must also add that my great grandparents were quite thin. I mean, my Grandma GG wore the same clothes in her eighties that she wore when she was in her teens and she did not weigh much over one-hundred pounds. Both of my great grandparents were both spry, active, energetic individuals. My Grandpa GG was born in 1889 in Indiana and died at age 90; my Grandma GG was born in 1894 in Illinois and died at age 91.
I interviewed my dad, my grandpa, and my paternal grandma with regard to memories of my great grandparents, but I remember them well myself. Going to visit GG and GG was a great treat. They spoiled my cousins, brother and sister and me with lots of love, stories of the old days, hugs, and delicious food. In fact, the smell of bacon and coffee always reminds me of being in their home.
Grandma GG was well known for her cooking and butter was especially important to her. Even during the Great Depression, she believed that eating real butter would keep her family healthy. Even during those hard times, they never went without butter. (I might also add that their butter was never refrigerated. I wonder… Does leaving it out all the time help to culture it?)
My great grandparents lived on a ranch in Southern California, where they raised chickens and grew oranges commercially (although the chickens were raised on a relatively small scale). They also had a big garden and raised at least one hog a year. Consequently, they ate a lot of chicken, pork, eggs, oranges, grapefruit, and vegetables.
Breakfast: As far as everyone can remember, Grandma GG served eggs and bacon every morning—with bread. She fried the eggs in bacon grease. They also drank a lot of coffee with either full cream or half and half. It is my recollection that they sipped coffee throughout the day and not just for breakfast. There was a sugar bowl on the table, so I imagine they added sugar to their coffee, as well—at least, occasionally.
Lunch: Sandwiches… My dad and grandparents remember eating only sandwiches for lunch. I imagine they were made with either pork or chicken.
Dinner: My great grandparents had an abundance of chickens, so Grandma GG often prepared fried chicken and potatoes. She fried the chicken in pork lard and her potatoes were bathed in plenty of butter. There was always bread, as well.
Desserts and Snacks: My great grandma had a sweet tooth. When she baked any dessert, she had a habit of adding a little extra sugar and butter “to make it richer.” Chocolate fudge, persimmon cookies, and angel food cake were a few of her specialties. She and Grandpa GG ate little hard candies throughout the day. I remember eating those little Brach’s candies in mint, cinnamon, butterscotch, coffee, and fruit flavors.

There were nuts too, sitting in a bowl on the living room coffee table. My dad, grandpa, and great grandpa would sit on the sofa, talking or watching television, cracking nuts, and popping them into their mouths. Another favorite snack was popcorn, with lots of butter, of course. Grandma GG loved chocolate. She used to set out a bowl of semisweet chocolate chips for everyone to nibble on. Daddy recalls that she liked milk chocolate. I also remember See’s candies at their house and how my siblings, cousins, and I were allowed to choose one or two from the large assorted box–a great treat.

All these memories add up to a list of common denominators in my great grandparents’ diet: lots of butter, pork, chicken, lard, sugar, hard candies, citrus fruits, coffee with cream, and vegetables. Despite the apparent indulgences in their diet, my great grandparents remained thin and strong on this so-called “unhealthy” diet.
P.S. I’ll add to this blog as I learn more about memories of my great grandparents from other friends and family. Maybe I’ll even get some recipes and post them here. (In fact, I have my Grandma GG’s persimmon recipe somewhere….)