When most people think of Israel they think of war. I’m not surprised, I mean look at what’s shown in the media! But to me, Israel, and especially Tel Aviv, has always been a culturally-rich mecca of various religions, people, and delicious FOOD. On my first trip to the land of milk & honey, I remember noticing interesting food trends (read: chocolate milk in a bag instead of a carton!), but not enjoying the food because I was a picky 10 year old. The photo below is from that 1999 trip with my Dad’s entire side of the family…22 people!
Living on the Mediterranean in Israel for two years in my twenties was a different story. I used to wonder when people worked because, like Europe, cafes are constantly filled mid-day, people hang out on the beaches, and everyone is so relaxed…but who wouldn’t be, look at this view:
Despite being at the center of conflict, stress isn’t buzzing through the air the same way it does in NYC.
Returning home one vacation was a definite wake up call. I never realized that something as simple as bread tastes processed here. Was I spoiled eating fresh foods or is that how food should really taste? While I understand that many of us don’t have time to bake fresh bread or go to the farmer’s market daily, there are simple changes we can make to incorporate some of these cultural lessons for our health and lives.
- Eat like a Mediterranean. Not only will it boost your health, your taste buds will enjoy the ride too!
- Cook with olive oil; but still watch your portions! This good-for-you fat still clocks in at 1,000 calories a cup.
- Snack on nuts, seeds, and fruit. This combination of protein, fat, and carbs will fuel your body right.
- Incorporate Meatless Mondays into your routine. Put the spotlight on vegetables and whole grains and treat meat like a side dish.
- Practice mindful eating. Don’t just eat because food is there, but because you’re truly hungry. You won’t find too many people in Israel stuffing a falafel into their mouths quickly while they race back to the office. Truly indulge because you want too…not just because you could eat 10 cookies while watching TV.
- Eat clean. Dietitians and physicians alike applaud clean consumption. Eliminate packaged and processed convenient foods from your life. After a while, you won’t miss the them anymore.
- Get moving! I’m not talking about relocating to Israel (although that would be a great adventure!), but incorporate some daily physical activity into your routine. Many Israelis will go for an afternoon or evening stroll, swim in the Mediterranean, and even go to the gym (how American!). ANY movement can help you stay in shape, fight obesity, and lift your mood!
- Try listening to beach sounds before bed. Scientists have shown that this noise can reduce anxiety and even alleviate pain. Perhaps this is just what you need to de-stress before catching some ZZZs.
Have you ever lived in another country and adopted their cultural habits? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!