Switzerland is famous for its glam ski resorts such as St. Moritz and Zermatt and chic cities like Zurich and Bern. But travel through this beautiful country as I did recently, and you may notice something besides show-stopping scenery: Swiss citizens are a trim bunch. In this chocolate-loving land that Lindt and Toblerone hail from, how is that possible? It's all about enjoying in moderation, superfood breakfasts like muesli, and the absence of fast-food culture (think dipping into fondue with friends). Here are some of Switzerland's stay-slim secrets you can steal:
1. Drink from a small glass
Visit Switzerland (www.MySwitzerland.com) and you'll notice that people drink from much smaller glasses and cups -- the highball and lowball glasses are almost half the size of those in Canada. Wineglasses tend toward the petite, too. The upshot? Studies show that if you use smaller dishware, you'll consume less. So the next time you're buying drinking glasses, opt for a smaller size, and save those larger glasses for water only. Think of it as a pain-free trick to consuming fewer calories.
2. Eat a protein-heavy breakfast
No greasy fried eggs and meat for these folks. The Swiss fuel up with big, healthy breakfasts. Muesli -- a multigrain cereal that they're famous for -- yogurt, cheese, fresh fruit, pickled fish, boiled eggs and whole-wheat breads are just some of the foods they eat. Their first meal of the day is a mix of heart-and-waistline-friendly proteins and carbs that keep them energized for the day.
3. Pay attention to what you're eating
You won't find people scurrying down the street chomping on hot dogs or chips or zipping to a drive-through for a food fix. Like in most of continental Europe, the sit-down-at-the-table meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, is still the cultural norm. If you've ever felt guilty for mindlessly overeating while engrossed in a TV show or driving, you've probably realized it's best to pay attention and enjoy every mouthful of what you're eating, like the Swiss do. In the French-speaking Vaud region of Switzerland, if you're eating fondue with friends and you dislodge a piece of your bread into the melted cheese, you pay for the wine, if you're a man. If you're a woman, you give the person next to you a kiss. Mindful eating indeed!
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4. Shop for healthy food at grocery stores
The aisles of the average Swiss grocery store are full of dried fruits, dried lean meats, nuts and seeds full of omega-3s, plus I counted at least six different types of healthful, unrefined baking flours. Conspicuously absent: the rows of refined carbs you so often see in Canada, like aisles full of white breads, pastas and rice, and junk food -- instead, you'll find that even the big Swiss grocery stores like Migros and Coop have a much higher percentage of non "white" options. Tip: when you're buying cereal, pick up some dried fruit or nuts to sprinkle over it. Plus, opt for whole-grain carbs whenever possible.
5. Enjoy the best chocolate -- in moderation
Swiss chocolate is world famous. If you've ever nibbled on a triangle of Toblerone or a Lindor chocolate ball, you'll have noticed it's delicious, too. But surely the Swiss don't eat it every day? "Actually, yes, people do tend to eat chocolate every day. Sometimes even a little bit after breakfast," says Priska Zahner, a public relations officer in St. Moritz. Indulge in a couple of small pieces of chocolate and chances are you won't feel deprived of sweets on your path to healthier eating.
6. Avoid fast-food restaurants
You won't find an abundance of fast-food chain restaurants in Switzerland, though you do see the odd McDonald's and Burger King. Out of sight (and smell), out of mind. There are other options for picking up good, cheap eats: vendors grilling local bratwurst sausages that come with a small brown roll, department store cafeterias that are surprisingly good, not to mention sushi bars that are popping up in the big cities. Tip: Avoid fast-food temptation by staying away from food courts at the mall, and giving the drive-through a miss. It's easy to make healthier choices by using some avoidance tactics.
Helen Racanelli is the web editor of CanadianLiving.com.
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