We just returned from a two-week European vacation and thoroughly enjoyed it! We visited London for the first time and were very impressed by this amazing city that has the energy and culture of New York along with the history and architecture of other European cities. We also spend a few days in Zurich visiting my relatives, as we do whenever we're on the other side of the Atlantic.
In England, my husband and I met up with a UK-based dietitian named Annette Henry who is currently working on her PhD conducting research on carbohydrate restriction, appetite regulation, and weight loss. We also spent an afternoon with Eddie and Jan Mitchell from The Low Carb Diabetic website. Eddie has Type 2 diabetes and eats a low-carb diet in order to maintain healthy blood glucose levels, weight, and lipids. Jan follows the same way of eating. We had a fantastic time with each of these fellow low-carb advocates and shared a real sense of camaraderie and purpose.
In terms of carb-friendly dining options, the airlines apparently don't have much of an understanding. Here's a photo of the dinner I was served on the plane. I ordered a "diabetic meal," and this is what it consisted of (carb content approximated):
5 oz grilled chicken breast
1 large roll (30 grams carb)
1 cup white rice (45 grams carb)
1 cup mixed fruit (15 grams carb)
1/2 cup cooked vegetables (5 grams carb)
Mixed salad with fat-free vinaigrette (8 grams carb)
I ask you: Is this meal containing around 100 grams of carbohydrates appropriate for someone with diabetes? I don't even want to think of what my blood sugars levels would have risen to had I eaten the high-carb foods. My husband didn't make a special request for a diabetic meal and was served a nearly identical tray. The difference? He was given regular salad dressing, while I received the fat-free vinaigrette that was higher in carbs!
Overall, the food in Europe was very good, and it was quite easy to stay very low carb no matter where we ate. I had eggs and/or bacon with spinach or mushrooms for breakfast, and meat, poultry, fish, or cheese with vegetables at lunch and dinner. This kept me well under my usual 30-40 grams of carbs for the day, and I often had raw hazelnuts, almonds, and chocolate made with 100% cacao for dessert, as well as tea with cream or half-and-half at or between meals.
One of my favorite meals in Switzerland was Wuerst und Kaese Salat (sausage and cheese salad), which I've loved since childhood. I had this three times in Zurich. It's simply sliced sausage, cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, and carrots topped with a cream-based dressing. Delicious, nutrient-dense, filling, and less than 5 grams of digestible carbs!
I've been following a very-low-carb diet for over a year now, and I truly love this way of eating. I can tell you with 100% honesty that I didn't feel at all deprived throughout our entire vacation because I ate nourishing high fat, moderate protein foods to satiety, along with liberal amounts of delicious fresh vegetables. How could I feel anything but satisfied on such luxurious fare?
Bottom line: Stay on plan during vacation by choosing low-carb foods unique to the area you're visiting, and enjoy!
Off topic, I posted another article on Answers.com, and this one is a recipe for chili. Not really European, I know. Chili is typically served in the colder months, but I find that it tastes good year-round, and cooking on the range keeps the kitchen from getting too hot.
Easy Low Carb Chili
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE