There has been a thread in the PEERtrainer community that asked the question, "Do Europeans Eat Better Than Americans." It was started a few years back. A couple days ago someone posted an excellent response. This person had lived in Europe for a year and a half.
Here are the observations:
I worked in Central Europe for 1.5 years because of my job. I traveled all around the EU and stayed at nemerous places and experienced anything from Scandinavia to Greece to Ireland to Poland and all points in between. The differences that I saw were these:
1. The frozen ready made food section at supermarkets was usually small
2. Most veggies and meats were hormone free and organic.
3. people ate full fat everything (milk, cheese, fatty meats, ect)
4. There are fast food restaurants like McDonalds, KFC, BK but it was kinda "taboo" to go there
5. People eat many more meals a day but they are small.
6. Most everyone cooks at home
7. There is a lot more exercise in the form of using public transit to or from work, biking, ect.
8. The portions are smaller but they taste soooo much better.
9. Alot of people drink and it is socially acceptable to do so (in reasonable qualities)
10. Better/free healthcare.
11. There was a lot less salt/sugar in the food
It is not to say that there aren't fat people in Europe but there is a lot less of them. I lost 15 pounds while I was there just by eating home cooked meals and drinking a lot! On the downside some EU countries have a shorter lifespan than the US but they are catching up. A typical day of eating in Poland went like this:
1. Breakfast at home was a sandwich with tomatoes/cucumbers and tea
2. "Second breakfast" was tea and maybe a small sandwich/pastry
3. Lunch was chicken with cabbage and potatoes
4. Evening snack was a soup or salad, something small
5. Dinner was scrambled eggs, sandwich, soup, small sausage, ect
Yes you est 5 times a day but you never go hungry and the portions are usually enough small enough to fit on a small plate.
Most people brought lunches to work and everything usually tasted great. Lunch usually involves at least a beer or some wine. I know that Poland is not the pinnacle of cusine but it was all very hearty and tasty. When I came back to the states I was disgusted by the bread, meat, dairy products, pastries, the salty/sweet foos, and the ammount of people who not only had a little junk in their trunk but were 100+ pounds overweight!
Before I used to eat frozen pizza for dinner and call it home cooking but now I cook 90% of my meals and I have started shopping at Whole Foods because it is the only place that has decent food. I know that food there is more expensive there but, I feel that the quality of food that you put in makes you feel better and helps you loose weight. It is ok if it is not fat free as long as you don't eat 5 pounds of it a day and moderate alchohol is not bad for you either; a beer or two a day is not going to kill you.