As someone who was born and bred in the UK, my dietary habits were largely dictated by a typically British, yet health-conscious, lifestyle. In 2021, after four years of study, I qualified as a registered Nutritionist. Throughout my studies, I was fascinated by the principles of the Mediterranean diet. And, since moving to Portugal last September, I’ve noticed some significant changes in my diet and overall eating habits. The new culinary landscape, social scene, and climate have all influenced these changes.
The Mediterranean diet is often touted as one of the healthiest in the world. My diet has taken a turn towards higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish, and olive oil. The abundance of these ingredients in local farmers markets and supermarkets combined with the fact that these foods just taste so much better over here, has made it easy and enjoyable.
One of my favourite dishes since moving here is Caldo Verde. This traditional Portuguese soup, made with potatoes, collard greens, and a slice of chouriço, is not only delicious but also an excellent source of vitamins and fibre. I’ve also been loving the grilled sardines, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, an additional boost to the vitamin D received from Portugal’s sun-soaked climate. Coupled with a simple salad and a glass of filtered water with a slice of lemon, it’s a delightful, balanced meal.
The social scene in Portugal has also influenced my eating habits. Dining here is a leisurely affair, with a focus on enjoying both the company and food. This culture has allowed me to better implement mindful eating practices. When I’m in London, it is all too easy to feel like you’re in a real rush all of the time. Unless you are aware of the benefits of mindful eating (better digestion, reduced overeating and healthier choices), you may find yourself eating at your desk or while standing up in your kitchen, before you start your next task.
Moving on to drinks, the wine here is both delicious and inexpensive. And, as Portugal is such a social place, especially for those who have just made the move, it can feature many days of the week, if you are not conscious of your consumption. And we know that alcohol contributes to many undesirable health effects. So, it has been important to balance out wine consumption by getting acquainted with some delicious non-alcoholic drinks. For example, there is a big kombucha scene in Lisbon. Kombucha is tasty and offers a range of beneficial properties for gut health. It’s a great alternative.
While there are many things I love about the Portuguese diet, I have made some adjustments to suit my nutritional needs. For example, I’m mindful of the high salt content in some traditional dishes and have reduced my intake of bread, which is a staple in many meals here.
And despite the delights of Portuguese cuisine, there are moments when I miss the comfort of British foods. I have been known to invite friends round for a comforting bowl of Shepherd’s pie on colder evenings in the winter months, or a hearty Sunday roast.
Immersing myself in Portuguese culture has been an enriching experience. I’ve discovered new foods, adjusted my eating habits, and had the opportunity to dive deep into the Portuguese culinary scene.
As I continue my journey in Portugal, I’m excited to learn more about this country’s food and culture.