Healthy meals made easy in the Netherlands

Serviced apartments and Airbnb rentals are great for business trips of a few days or more, but creating a fresh, tasty dinner to enjoy while away can be a challenge.

A recent newspaper advert for a supermarket ‘meal deal’:- pizza, garlic bread and a branded fizzy drink, appalled me. It’s a million miles from a balanced nutritious meal.  When fast, convenient food is needed, vegetables are often the first to go. 

Staying in Utrecht, I was very impressed with the diet and lifestyle of the Dutch, and the ease of accessing a healthy meal.Biking in Copenhagen iStock_000044165078Small

Of course the Dutch have regular exercise covered, they cycle everywhere. Estimates vary of between 15 and 18 million bikes in the country, at least one for every person.  The flat terrain accommodates even the most reluctant cyclist, which could be why obesity is rare. 

The country is one of the most densely populated in the world, but fourth in the UN ranking of the world’s happiest people. The weather isn’t great, but the Dutch are fairly fit and they eat pretty well.

The Netherlands answer to shopping for a healthy dinner P1010793

    • Most supermarkets are medium sized, in residential areas. No special excursion required, you can stop by on your way back to the apartment.
    • Meal ingredients don’t have to be purchased days in advance, you can pick them up each day – just enough to fill a bike pannier if you taking advantage of biking while on business trips.
    • BEST OF ALL – PRE-ASSEMBLED MEAL INGREDIENTS – all the work done for us!

Ready-made salads and mixed washed leaves we’ve enjoyed for some time, but, better than this, are packs with the ingredients for a dinner dish.

A couscous dinner pack, contained an onion, garlic, red pepper, and couscous, all the ingredients needed to prepare couscous with sautéed veg. Couscous iStock_000006675976SmallServing suggestions were with chicken, or chopped Edam for vegetarians.

Similarly a guacamole pack contains avocados, a shallot, garlic clove, large chilli, lime and tomato – fantastic! No need to buy a dozen shallots or chillies when we only need one, and so convenient to purchase and prepare.

Beyond these ingredient packs, the fridges contained pre-prepared veggies for a range of meals. We get some help with stir fry packs and diced veggies in UK, but the meal range in the Netherlands was extensive. A spaghetti bolognaise pack, contained diced onion, carrot and celery, enabling us, with the addition of meat and tinned toms, to produce a nutritious tasty meal with minimum effort.

The down side – pre-prepared ingredients cost more, pre-cut/peeled vegetables may lose some of the vitamin C.

The Attractions – no waste, quick to buy and prepare, removing the usual deterrents to making a quick cooked tasty meal using lots of vegetables! Excellent if using a serviced apartment for a business trip when away.

The Ready Meal AlternativeTesco Chicken Vindaloo Curry Ready Made  Meal In Plastic Contain

  • They taste processed, they have lost the taste of freshly cooked food
  • They can be excellent quality – but the better ones are expensive
  • The worst ones are very high in saturated fat (pepperoni pizza, 24g fat, 10g saturated)
  • They are often very high in salt – the peperoni pizza has 2.7g salt, almost half our maximum daily allowance. 

The danger with ready meals is that we get a poor nutrient to calorie ratio. Fresh foods are richer in fibre and vitamin C, which can be virtually absent in processed foods. A good mix of fresh ingredients gives a good mix of nutrients.

Better still, the £5 spent on the UK meal deal for one, with just a little extra effort, provides a better quality Dutch meal, with enough for two colleagues!  

©  Extravitality 2014

Author: Carol Sadler PhD
Carol is a Nutrition Consultant. She counsels in diet and lifestyle change at Surrey Cardiovascular Clinic where clients have been referred by the clinic cardiologists. Prior to this Carol worked in private practice in Dubai for nine years, where she had various media engagements including Emirates Radio 2 Lifestyle Show monthly ‘phone-in’ on nutrition topics; Gulf News Friday Magazine (weekend supplement) monthly nutrition letter answered; City7 TV appearances on Breakfast Television and Lifestyle Show commenting on nutrition topics. Contributions to local magazines, and organizations, eg Rheumatoid Arthritis Group, Grazia Magazine, Living in the Gulf magazine. She continues to write nutrition articles and blogs, recently writing for Reader’s Digest, and HASTE Academy heart health charity and provides talks on diet issues. Carol is a member of The Nutrition Society, a Registered Nutritionist at the Association for Nutrition, Registration No. 912 and a member of SENSE (self employed consultant Nutritionists group for professional development).

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