how to feast in Greece and eat in España, healthily

I recently returned from a magical trip to Greece (Crete) and Spain.  A little jet-lagged but happily sun-kissed and rejuvenated.  They’re both such beautiful countries with (most importantly) delicious cuisine.  I have a lot of clients who travel frequently for work and/or pleasure and want advice on how to maintain healthy eating habits when they’re away from home and limited to eating out.  I find it easy; it just takes a little ingenuity, a sharp eye to look out for the right things, and a bit of background knowledge of that country’s food culture to know how to get the good stuff and order the right things.  In general, if you stick to the very traditional, simple and local dishes, they also tend to be the most nutrient-dense, and delicious too.

In Crete, although we ate out most of the time, we did have a basic kitchen where we stayed so this made it easy to throw together quick lunches and breakfasts.  With some produce from the local farmers’ market, we made salads like this of insanely fragrant tomatoes (unlike anything we get here!), capsicum, freshly cured olives, herbs from the garden, sweet tiny cucumber and a local sheep’s milk cheese.


And ate our breakfast by the beach: local unpasterurised sheep’s yoghurt with honey dew melon, nectarines and local thyme-infused honey.

The yoghurt was from the next village; fluffy and almost ‘sweet’, unlike anything I’ve tasted in Australia.

Everywhere we went, I was on the look out for somewhere quaint where the locals congregated for ‘real’ Cretan cuisine.


Most of the best food we had was in the simplest tavernas or kefenions (bars), where they bring out home made mezze; small plates of yummy morsels: cucumber, olives, fetta, tomato, tzatziki, stews and fish roe.  Other memorable dinners were slow-cooked lamb shoulder with artichoke and Horta (wilted wild greens and herbs, lemon and olive oil).

Spain was just as wonderful with more wonderful food to keep us fuelled for long days of walking through the heat, the Alhambra, and Gaudi Gaudi Gaudi!  In Barcelona we stayed right across the road from the fabulous La Boqueria Market; I was in heaven!

Most days we’d raid the market for delicious bits and pieces to create our own peasants’ feast.  We’d stock up on things like local raw manchego, organic pâté, free-range aged jamon, incredible tomatoes, ripe fruit and sourdough seedy bread (for he who likes bread).  Travel Tip: always do as I do and carry a swiss army knife (not in your hand luggage of course!), a tea towel and a tupperware container (for a convenient bowl, and the lid becomes a plate!)  Then all you need to do is track down a farmers’ market or deli, plonk yourself in a park, and you’ll always be able to indulge in the traditional delicacies without being ripped off in a touristica cafe.

But then in Spain, eating out (particularly where the locals eat) is so reasonable.  Our best dinner was at a Tapas Bar in the old part of town.

… Fresh Gazpacho; a raw blended ‘soup’ of cucumber, tomato, capsicum and salt (you just want to ask if they add bread; they often thicken it with white bread).  Then the most sumptuous salad of heirloom tomatoes and wild fish ceviche.  And, a beef carpaccio with extra virgin olive oil and mustard seeds, rocket and aged goats’ cheese.  A completely uncooked, enzyme-rick, nutritionally jam-packed, tasty meal.  And with musicians in the street filling the cobbled-stone square with spanish tunes, we were two very happy travellers.

Another place we found (by chance) was a restaurant called Origens.  A fantastic little restaurant where all the produce is organic, the meats local, grass-fed and pasture-raised, and the recipes are traditional Catalan.  They even give you their recipes to take home.  He had the slow-cooked chicken with prunes.  On the menu they described their chickens as “freedom chickens” so this has become our favourite new way of describing a free-range chook!

Can’t say that I was totally pure the whole time … had to do some necessary indulging of the chocolate kind (very dark and very good of course!)  Popped into the beautiful, mosaic encrusted Escriba on Las Rumblas (for “research” purposes) …

And hiked across town to find Cacao Sampaka and experience their famous, insanely rich, hands-down-best hot chocolate ever, the Azteca with 80% cocoa solids and a hint of chilli and cinnamon.  It was thick, incredibly dark, only subtly sweet and ridiculously good!!   I was on a chocolatey high for the rest of the day.  Probably a good thing I don’t live in Spain!

Then when it comes to my other half, I wasn’t going to stop him indulging in Churos and spanish Beer.  But we did find excellent freshly-made ice-cream and super sweet berries which kept us both happy.