I’m always fascinated with other cultures’ approach to nutrition and how their laudable eating assets somehow highlight the things we Americans, who typically do everything wellness-related WRONG, can learn from our more EN(gland)lightened neighbors. I recently had the pleasure of spending a week in London and surrounding suburbs and wanted to see if we can spruce up our silly American ways a bit in the shadow of these proper people. Here’s what I learned:
Not only are restaurant portions tinier, but even the groceries are miniscule. Excess is frowned upon here. Bananas come in bunches of 4, not 9. Cartons of almond milk in 250-500 mL portions look dainty next to our gallon behemoths. Even eggs, which are ALL free range, come in packs of 6, not 12. Not only does this cut down on waste, it inspires conservation of portions and more frequent trips to the grocery, which creates more opportunities to pick up fresh produce in a week. I spoke with some customers; they told me they shop about 3-4x a week, compared to our weekly, or every other weekly, grocery jaunts.
Oh – and speaking of produce – the veggies/fruit here actually have FLAVOR. WHY is US produce so bland? The strawberries here were juicy and candy-like. The persimmons tasted like cotton candy clouds. Every apple I eat in Miami tastes like feet. WHY.
Tea time is SERIOUS business. These people are practically ALWAYS drinking tea – and tea = flavonoids / polyphenols; unique plant compounds called phytochemicals that confer beneficial anti-inflammatory effects on our bodies. If they do sweeten their tea, it’s with one lump of sugar – they aren’t prone to dumping 7 packets of radioactive artificial sweeteners in a cup. They also think skimmed milk is hideous, which it is, since it is wholly unnatural and raises blood sugar vehemently. They don’t naturally sweeten their almond milk, either. Why do Americans adulterate good, whole, unprocessed foods?
They certainly hop to it – I averaged 3-5 miles of walking per day here. Gas is exorbitantly expensive and traffic can be nightmarish; so everyone takes the tube/buses to get around, which means lots of MOVEMENT. It isn’t the ‘sweat until you die’ culture here in Miami; it’s just ADL – activities of daily living. There tend to be more hills/stairs here than flat Miami, so you get a bit of resistance/balance training attempting to not trip on the ancient streets as well. Incorporating daily movement, even just from a walking commute, is such a precious thing. My average step count in Miami is about 1500-2000; and that’s only because I walk our Essence spaniel, Madeleine, thrice a day!
There are public health reminders on the tube, buses, street, and even on produce cartons to exercise and to eat SEVEN (not the US’s GIVE) fruit + veggies per day. Hate on socialized medicine all you want, but at least England’s government is prioritizing health education for the masses, however, simple. Exposure over time is HUE for lasting change; it was really inspiring to see how a government can fund simple health reminders for its citizens.
Not nutrition related – but because I didn’t spring for an international data plan on my phone (obviously I will pay 200 dollars for shoes but heaven forbid I pay 10 dollars a day for data), I only rarely had WiFi, which meant my phone was mostly pocketed. What a surreal experience to LIVE in the moment without digital distraction. To smell flowers on the street. To smell wafting scents of freshly baked breads. To hear children’s laughter on the street, or the jingle of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s collar in Hyde Park. What a treat, and at the same time a sobering reminder that we NEED to get OFF social media and savor our lives; wellness = as much social and spiritual as it is nutrition, after all.
Mindful eating – since people are so jazzed about a rare sunny spell in England this summer, they are out and about dining – not in their cars/in front of their TVs eating! The streets are littered with people savoring their cuisine in the company of others or even alone, but somehow they don’t seem as rushed, harried, or distracted as we do in the US. The concept of paying attention to your food seems second nature to dietitians, but is horridly absent among many clients who tend to just view food as necessary random fuel throughout the day, but don’t love, enjoy, and revel in food; the Brits seem to take dining more seriously and thoughtfully.
I’ll cheers, mindfully, with a Pimm’s cup to England’s gloriously #essenceapproved eating habits and attempt to import some back to Miami. Along with some more proper use of the English language.