As most of you know, Europe in general is not very fat conscious in
their eating habits.
They are starting to mark their food with nutritional information, but
it is not required as in the US, or even the norm. However, in their
defense, I did notice an interesting difference. While in the US the
nutrition-labellers often cheat with their very small serving size,
making claims that there is 0 fat per serving, I have noticed on the
labels in Europe (if they exist) the numbers are ALWAYS given in terms
of 100g (usually 4-5 times a normal serving), and usually but not always
given in terms of serving size. So, I'll make a gross generalization
that is generally true, the US has heightened awareness in general on
the topic, but because of trends and fads and marketing, there is
underhanded behavior you have to watch out for. :-)
Now a little on actually eating over there. I have in the past sent
my hints for eating lowfat in France (I lived there for a year and a half).
I won't repeat them, except to say that breads are almost always no-fat,
there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and plenty of large
mixed salads they will gladly bring you without dressing.
I cannot say the same for Italy, unfortunately. As in Germany, the breads
are not nofat (this is also generally true in the US, and I HATE that; I'm
constantly surprised that some of our best bread bakers in the Bay area put
oils in their breads; OK, baguette does not have oil but I like dark breads).
I never saw any bread labels, but when you see the oil on the
outside of the bag, you know. I also have a genetic disease that kicks
in in the form of extreme muscle cramping when I have too much fat. In
my week in Rome (and in a week on Germany) it kicked in. Normally plenty
of no-fat bread saves me, but that didn't work in Italy.
In Italy, everything takes an oil bath in the morning I think. There are
wonderful pizzas everywhere, that they will gladly bring you w/o cheese
and oil. However, that means no oil ADDED, of course. As in France,
they normally dump oil on top of pizzas unless you stop them. What's more,
whatever vegetables you have on your pizza probably came from their oil
bath. Same for vegetable purees. Same for the tomato sauce. Same for
the dough. Also, while one can get a salad in most restaurants in Italy,
there are not nearly as many choices as I found in France. I didn't even
try the pastas with all their sauces and such. The panini and focaccia
breads are of course full of oil (particularly focaccia).
Italy is difficult, but if you can tolerate some amount of fat, the
thinnest crust pizza marinara (tomato sauce, oregano, garlic) in a small
crowded pizzeria, sitting at a table with people you just met, is a
Otherwise, go to the markets and get the fresh fruits and vegetables.
Be careful with the breads. And try to speak Italian no matter what.
They are so friendly and love it so much when you try.
Ellen M. Sentovich
Cadence Berkeley Laboratories (510) 647-2807
2001 Addison Street, 3rd floor (510) 486-0205 (FAX)
Berkeley, CA 94704-1103 ellens@xxxxxxxxxxx