August 24, 2016 No Comments

Non-Typical Diet? Spain vs. the UK

By Gareth Jones, Vegetarian living on the Costa Brava

While the typical Spanish diet is a lot healthier than the typical UK diet, if you have any special dietary needs you should be prepared to sometimes struggle a little when you move to Spain.

The Spanish are not known as a nation of great animal lovers, and vegetarianism or veganism, while not unheard of, is definitely not main stream. You will find a few vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the larger cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, but don’t expect to see them in resorts or villages. A vegetarian restaurant did open in the resort town of Lloret de Mar, which is about 10km from where I now live, but although the food was very good and a few younger Spaniards did seem to go there, interest obviously was not adequate to keep the business going, and sadly it only lasted about a year.

Traditional Spanish Tapas

While just about any restaurant will serve something without meat, even if it is just a salad and potatoes, finding what dishes are vegetarian usually involves asking the waiter several questions, as unlike in the UK eateries, dishes on menus are not usually marked with a “V” which clearly demonstrates non-animal options. You also need to be careful as many restaurant staff do not comprehend what being a vegetarian entails, and will often recommend a fish dish or even a salad that when delivered, you find contains meat.

Strict vegans are going to struggle even more, especially those who won’t eat foods that may have been prepared alongside meat dishes.

As a vegetarian living in Spain, eating out isn’t much of a pleasure for me, to be honest. My choices are very limited, and I am aware that having me along, means my friends sometimes feel obliged to choose a restaurant that would not have been their first choice to try to accommodate me. Therefore, if my friends are meeting up for a meal before going on to a bar or club, I sometimes skip the meal and meet them afterwards – it’s no big deal for me as I am used to it, but it would be nice to see more meet-free options offered by restaurants.

Likewise, if you need to follow a gluten-free diet or you have food allergies you will almost certainly find your food choices rather restricted compared to the UK, and a lack of understanding about your needs when eating out.

Having said that, the number of dietary specialist products available in supermarkets is increasing all the time, and with the arrival of large supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl (both German companies) food choices are much more varied than they were just a few years ago.


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