What comes to mind when you think of German cuisine? If your first thoughts are sausages, sauerkraut, Black Forest gateau and big hearty meals, then you certainly won’t be the only one who assumes German food can be on the heavy side! But things are changing as Germans have become more mindful of what and how they eat.
The Sunday roast – a tradition in both countries
Back in the 1970s, most Germans – like the Brits – would have their traditional Sunday roast. In Germany, you would find roast pork (Schweinebraten), roast beef (Rinderbraten), Kasseler (similar to gammon), sausages and calorific desserts on the table. Since then, diets have changed considerably, for better or worse – I’ll let you be the judge of that!
It seems that lifestyles are changing in every European country. Being confronted with the terrible state of our planet has made us think about the way we live. In Germany, there’s a strong division between those who question their lifestyles and want to act and those who struggle to change bad habits. How we consume our food and drink has become part of these new challenges as we look at what impact this has on our environment.
Two lifestyles – opposite ends of the scale
With more of us suffering from food intolerances and stress, it’s no wonder that vegan food, slow food, super food and clean eating have become trendy in the last decade or so. However, our overly busy lifestyles have also led to an increase in eating fast or convenience food.
In Germany, you can see both trends rapidly developing. When I moved to the UK in 2004, I was surprised at the amount of ready meals that were available in the supermarkets. At that time, it was still rare to see convenience food in Germany. Nowadays, you’ll find the shelves stacked full of the stuff as well!
Healthy nutrition becomes more important
In Germany, the Association for Healthy nutrition and dietetics (VFED) organised a national ‘Healthy Eating Day’ in 1998 to create more awareness around consuming a healthier diet. The next national ‘Healthy Eating Day’ is planned for 7th March 2019. Despite there being a huge demand for more convenience food in Germany, there is also a movement towards alternative ways of eating and drinking.
The critical consumer
Nowadays, people think more about what they put in their mouths. We are much more knowledgeable about how our eating habits affect our physical and mental health and how much we have been cheated by the food and drink industry.
I was really interested in the series of documentaries televised by the BBC about the facts and myths surrounding our diets. I was particularly shocked by Dr Mosely’s findings in ‘The truth about sugar’. Thanks to his thorough investigation, many of us (including Germans) have made important changes to our lifestyles. You can watch the video here.
More women than men think a healthy diet is important
In 2017, the insurance company, Techniker Krankenkasse, conducted to analyse the nutritional habits of Germans. It found that 54% of women think that eating a healthy diet is important as opposed to only 36% of men. For men, taste was found to be more important than the health benefits.
Restaurants are adapting to meet changing demand
Similar to the UK, you’ll always be able to find somewhere to enjoy a burger or a good steak. However, there is now much more demand for a healthier way of eating.
With an increasing number of Germans wanting to know how their meat is produced and what impact it has on natural resources, it’s no wonder that many are becoming vegetarian or vegan – or at least reducing their meat consumption to a minimum. This desire for a healthier diet has meant an increase in vegan restaurants in larger towns and cities. Even in the smaller towns and villages, you can find alternative ways to buy healthier and more sustainable produce.
The vegan way of living
Germany certainly seems to be ahead when it comes to vegan lifestyle trends. So, it’s no surprise that Europe’s largest fair for vegan lifestyles veggieworld.de is held in several cities in Germany.
At the fair, visitors can get lots of information on vegan products like clothes, accessories, beauty products as well as food and drink. It’s also possible to purchase tickets (approx. 10€) to listen to lectures by experts in the vegan field.
Upcoming Veggieworld dates:
14th – 15th September 2019: Dortmund
26th – 27th October 2019: Düsseldorf
9th – 10th November 2019: Cologne
16th – 17th November 2019: Munich
07th – 9th February 2020: Wiesbaden
07th- 8th March 2020: Berlin
14th – 15th March 2020: Hamburg
You’ll be able to find more dates in my event calendar and in my Facebook page event section.
Meat eating regions in Germany
When looking at the different regions in Germany, I was surprised to find that people from Baden-Wurttemberg and Bavaria tend to eat less meat (75%) than people from Hessia, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate (89%).
Bread, bread, bread
You may or may not know but Germans love their bread! The Techniker Krankenkasse study also revealed that 89% of the German population can’t live without their daily portion of bread. Having bread or rolls for breakfast, Abendbrot for dinner or as a snack, is an important part of German culture. The variety of bread offered in bakeries is huge with more and more traditional bakeries popping up everywhere offering their artisan bread. It’s not just the French who are well-known for their bread!
Whenever I’m in Germany, I like to stock up on German Rye bread or some seeded bread and take it back to the UK to freeze. I still remember when a British friend of mine came to Düsseldorf with me and bought a seeded loaf (Vollkornbrot). After a few days, she handed me the bread saying, “I’ve been chewing this forever, do you want it?” This made me laugh as it shows just how much us Germans love chewing our bread! J
Being more mindful about nutrition
I’ve started to look closely at what the smaller shops in Germany are offering. Nowadays, it’s not just being organic that’s important but products also need to be ethically and sustainably produced – without packaging. People have started to go shopping with their own containers to buy flour, sugar, herbs, washing powder, soap etc. The shops that offer this service are simply called ‘Unverpackt’ (‘Loose’ or ‘Unpacked’).
Last but not least – a personal story
A friend of mine in Germany, who is very much into healthy living is currently trying to change her lifestyle to a more sustainable one. She inspired me to try something to bring more awareness to the amount of food we, as a family, waste each week – something that has often played on my mind.
Not only is she strict about reducing the amount of plastic waste, she has also come up with a unique idea of placing a jar in a kitchen cupboard in which each member of the family needs to put money in to the value of the food they throw away. Initially, her family thought she was crazy, but after the first month they were all shocked by just how much money was in the jar! After a while, with everyone becoming more mindful about what they threw away, the amount of money in the jar started to reduce. Their ultimate aim is to get close to zero and only eat what they have in the fridge.
It made me realise just how often my family say “I don’t fancy that tonight” and one of us would head off to the supermarket to buy something that we do feel like eating. It’s criminal that we waste food just because we just don’t fancy it at that moment in time.
I’m only telling you this story because it proves just how much our lifestyles are changing in Germany. I know it’s only one person, so it’s not representative of the whole population but the general trend is a definite shift towards a more mindful existence. If you take a trip to Berlin, you’ll certainly see how these trendy new concepts are developing. It seems that it’s not only the younger generation who are changing the way they live but the older generation have also taken these new challenges on board.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong believer in ‘Everything in moderation’ but I do like to be open-minded and enjoy reflecting on my own lifestyle from time to time. Even if we take little steps at first, we will get there in the end. Everyone has to start taking responsibility for our planet. Just like Tesco’s slogan – Every little helps! J
So, next time you go to Germany, why not try out some alternative places to eat? Quite often, chefs are very innovative in reinterpreting regional and traditional meals. I’m a food lover and I constantly enjoy discovering somewhere new, which I’ll definitely share with you here. So, look out for my next blogs.