How Switzerland Changes Eating Habits

posted on | updated on | by Zuri Girl

Are you new to Zurich and thinking about swapping in healthier options for your daily routine?

We got to chatting with Caitlin Dunn, one of our favorite local food bloggers, health coach and author of the 7-Step Guide to Kick Dieting to the Curb about how Moving to Switzerland changed her food mindset and habits. 

Here’s the scoop gals…hope you’re inspired!   

Moving to Switzerland was an eye opener for me in more ways than I could have imagined. I knew there would be cultural differences that I’d have to get used to, but I didn’t realize that my eating habits would change completely, and for the better. Since moving to Switzerland and traveling around Europe, I’ve witnessed a different appreciation of food that has fascinated me, and inspired me to make some changes in my own way of eating. Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:

Produce is extremely seasonal.

Growing up in California, I didn’t have much knowledge of seasonal fruits and vegetables, seeing as I could get whatever I wanted year-round. After moving to Switzerland, I quickly learned which produce is in season during which months because I literally cannot buy them otherwise. Silly me tried to find asparagus in August. No way! It had already come and gone for the year. I have learned to love eating seasonally, because it forces me to change up my meals, adding variety and creativity to my home cooking. Plus, I get more excited for the change of seasons! Absence makes the heart grow fonder, don’t you know? I’ve never loved asparagus so much as when it is only available two months of the year.

Coffee is for drinking at a café.

If you want to spot an American in Europe, look for someone walking around with a Starbucks cup in hand. I’ll admit that I haven’t quite kicked the occasional habit but I do appreciate that a cup of coffee or tea is meant to be enjoyed while taking a break, instead of a quick on-the-go caffeine fix to get you through the rest of the workday. And it’s also served with a small cookie or piece of chocolate, which is an added perk.

Restaurant dinners are long and leisurely.

I tend to complain that the waiter is never in sight when I want to pay the bill, but the pro side is that is they aren’t pushing me out the door, trying to flip the table for the next customers, like in my home country. When I reserve a table at a restaurant, the table is mine for the whole night. A meal out is the social event for the evening; filled with great conversation, wine, and delicious food. If you want a simpler and quicker meal, you cook at home. These days, I have grown accustomed to these long and leisurely dinners and can’t imagine it any other way.

Bread is fresh. 

The bread aisle in the grocery store usually has more fresh bread than packaged bread. It seems that everyone in this country loves their bread, but they eat the fresh stuff, not the preservative-laden junk that I grew up with. And you don’t hear nearly as much about gluten intolerances around these parts. Could there be a correlation? 

Chocolate consumption is the norm.

I show every single visitor the huge chocolate aisle in the grocery store so they can stare at it in awe. I’m so grateful to live in a place that loves chocolate as much as I do. But you see, it seems that Swiss keep chocolate in the house at all times, and they eat it when they want it. The bars are 100 grams of goodness, but meant to be eaten one or two squares at a time, not a whole bar at a time. I think the fact that Swiss don’t restrict it or feel guilty about eating it, they are able to enjoy it a little bit at a time, when they are truly craving it. I’ve adapted this habit, and am much better off because of it!

There is no talk of calories or dieting.

I know of a 29 year old Swiss woman that didn’t know what a calorie was. Then there is me, who knew about calories and how to count them at the age of 12. The fact that she didn’t spend her childhood worrying about calories, she was probably out and about enjoying herself and eating for fuel, creating a healthy relationship with food. I didn’t realize how much of my energy was spent talking about, thinking about, and trying different diets until I was taken away from that culture for an extended period of time. I’ve finally quit fad diets, and in turn have a much healthier relationship with food. 

Menus are limited.

I’ve never found a Cheesecake Factory-esque menu in Europe. Menus are often printed daily, or written on a chalkboard. It’s refreshing, because you are assured that you are being served something fresh, not something that sits in the freezer until someone orders it. I’ve found that restaurant dining is actually more relaxing when you have fewer options to decide between. 

After watching, listening, and testing these habits out on my own, I’ve finally adapted a non-restrictive way of eating that has made food fun again. It turns out that I like vegetables! I just needed to stop eating them because I was “supposed to” in order to find that out. I’ve started making most of my meals at home and having long leisurely dinners with friends on the weekends. I drink wine and eat chocolate multiple nights a week, in moderation. I get most of my produce from the farmers market and eat seasonally.

Thanks to some European influence, I truly take pleasure in every aspect of food from purchasing, cooking, sharing, and savoring every bite.