8

votes

What are the Dutch doing right?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created July 02, 2011 at 12:20 PM

I've been visiting Amsterdam for the last few days, and I'm astounded at how tall, lean, and healthy the locals look. And yet, when you go to a museum and look at the paintings of the 17th Century Dutch, many appear overweight and sickly, with some even morbidly obese.

Unlike most of the First World, the Dutch seem to be getting leaner. And while I don't know much about their health statistics, they certainly look healthy (especially compared to the American and British tourists walking around). What are they doing right?

7d3a7b532811b6cfa2de09acdf52d145

(610)

on June 22, 2012
at 08:22 AM

I ate the most sugar of all my 4 brothers (I only ate white bread with cheese & a glass of buttermilk at every dinner and ate lotsa candy when I was a kid, oh boy..), and I'm by far the tallest. So eating your vegetables won't make you grow tall, eating sugar is! ;)

4ec0fe4b4aab327f7efa2dfb06b032ff

(5145)

on June 21, 2012
at 06:13 PM

I've seen bike racks in Amsterdam that, relative to the size of a bike, are as big as mall parking lots in the States.

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on June 20, 2012
at 12:34 PM

I agree Amanda- first things that came into my head... Bikes!

475795ced7d9abcd46649cdb39e7d2e9

(0)

on April 07, 2012
at 01:08 PM

I tottally agree, I'm a dutch woman tried to get my kids paleo food to school. They disagreed the food we gave. It took the kids too long to finish, blablabla. Eventually we give them bread with baked eggs or some cheese. But when i'm talking to collegea's and tell them i dont eat grains, they ask what to eat for breakfast or lunch? I tell them to make it up. Be creative. because of the comments, i gave up eating all day making it IF all day and eating everything in the evening. hmm delicious...

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 25, 2012
at 01:59 AM

I agree on the social support factors- I can't imagine living with free health care and support for daycare, education, vacations etc when I need it. It makes a big difference on how much time you can spend enjoying your free time and being active.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 25, 2012
at 12:10 AM

I'd kill for some of that herring right about now. Mmmmmmm.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 25, 2012
at 12:01 AM

Pfff, hein? This is starting to sound like the TinTin thread.

D4d83e7981ca572aaaa19fc620bb54f1

(467)

on February 24, 2012
at 10:08 PM

I think the danes look happy and healthy despite being often overweight. The sad thing is that they eat a lot of bread and pastry. But at least they avoid processed foods and also eat a lot of dairies, eggs and meat, although not grassfed. Cheese from raw milk has only recent become legal, but the first batch hasn't arrived at the shops yet, as far as I know. The only raw milk cheese I can find here comes from france. Raw milk still illegal.

D4d83e7981ca572aaaa19fc620bb54f1

(467)

on February 24, 2012
at 09:59 PM

lol for the clogs!

121a16aded2bed8dca492d3c9662ef4c

(1327)

on February 24, 2012
at 07:04 PM

Don't forget the Dutch predilection for refined, white flour doused with large amounts of fine, white sugar. Poffertjes, anyone? I think the bicycle saves many. But don't think that obesity isn't on the rise in the Netherlands, too -- it most certainly is.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 24, 2012
at 06:00 PM

Well we have some really cool chocolate makers. Pfff, why can't we be famous for grass-fed steaks or coconut oil or something like that...

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on February 24, 2012
at 04:41 PM

Leige-style sugar waffles? I'd kill for one of those right now. Never understood why Belgium was famous for chocolates, I don't think I ate any while I lived there.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 24, 2012
at 03:08 PM

Living in France I learned that pizza is a food eaten with an Esso steak knife and fork. It's not intended to be stuffing for American turkies.

A03adfdd71be77f20e07d800bc19e3c4

(390)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:53 PM

I agree with you there. Wrapping perfectly good vegetables in plastic is one of these ideas that probably seemed logical for somebody. That somebody should be put on sedation, the heavy kind.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:53 PM

It's interesting to compare American Dutchie-land with the original. Same height, bigger waistlines. The rich diets are probably responsible for the height. We Norwegians never got taller from it, so no doubt there's genetics too. The flatness and smallness of the Netherlands definitely works in favor of increased activity.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:46 PM

Didn't Belgians invent moules frites? The French co-opted lots of Belgian good ideas. Well maybe not Belgian wine...

56f585aeed92954cf45b94d3f5b3df98

(146)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:41 PM

Maybe white bread isn't the problem. Refined flour has the hull and germ removed, and from what I've read, the problem is found in these two parts of the grain. http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2010/3/12/the-argument-against-cereal-grains-ii.html

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:18 PM

I was one of those "white bread with hagelslag" kids btw. I wasn't allowed to eat cereal though because my mother found it too processed.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:17 PM

Very good point. In Belgium we have fry shops, in the Netherlands they have these things. Horrible food.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:16 PM

Waffles on occasion :D. I haven't eaten a waffle for probably 10 years. I really never understand why Belgium is famous for their waffles, while they really should be famous for their beer, fry shops and chocolate ...

B9673e4701dbf7017da7d75e9a44da6d

(609)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:12 PM

The only downside about all the grocery stores is, in Amsterdam anyways, it's a monopoly of one chain that is TERRIBLE. Wrapping all your food in plastic? *shudder*. I go to the farmers market.

B9673e4701dbf7017da7d75e9a44da6d

(609)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:58 PM

That is not true! Dutch people DO NOT cook more than North Americans and they are obsessed with fast food! I've been living in Amsterdam for 8 years and am shocked by the amount of pre-made microwavable foods Dutchies eat. Sure, they are tall and "lean" but the amount of WHITE bread, cheese, milk and processed foods they eat is not doing their insides any favours. If they aren't obese, it's genes and the fact that they ride their bikes so much. But believe me, it's NOT because they eat well.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 11:20 AM

Do they still call McDonald's "McKotzen" in Germany? All the kids at the school I went to when I was an exchange student called it that, and I thought it was wonderful. Being from the US I felt like I had to apologize for the existence of a McD's built right into the old town gate whenever I had the chance.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 11:10 AM

I was looking at photographs today that were taken during Great Depression in Tacoma, Washington, and there seemed to be roughly the same percentage of overweight people in those photos as there are today. So, either nothing has changed, or when people either can't afford meat, or avoid it, waistlines expand.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 11:04 AM

I love this idea that it is bad city planning if you have to travel far to get vegetables. In many urban areas in the US there are "food deserts" where there aren't any grocery stores, only restaurants and convenience junk food stores. Out in the country you usually have to drive at least 15 minutes to get a grocery store.

2bdc990a200584a385650cf68475f095

on August 19, 2011
at 09:35 AM

Google "Dutch oven"

5106e04faba829f2a9dafca259da174e

(40)

on July 05, 2011
at 05:18 PM

Stephan Guyenet would agree with you. (BTW, I'm Dutch. Our national food is indeed quite horrible).

2e060a5edde44c1fe77abcf8d3997e01

(865)

on July 05, 2011
at 06:58 AM

I couldn't find any info on the soybean oil consumption, but they rank twelfth in cancer rates. So less cancer than the U.S., Canada, etc. And smoking is still widespread.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94

(4359)

on July 04, 2011
at 01:09 PM

Faulty premise. The Dutch have one of the highest cancer rates in the world. They are also the top consumer of soybean oil inthe world. Go figure.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 04, 2011
at 09:14 AM

dutch are very friendly.and they had for some time a good oranje team.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 04, 2011
at 09:12 AM

What do you mean. I think people not proper understand. you mean woman. Or you mean ovens? or you mean barbacue?

88905cfc5bb098ad3830671a1af373a8

(803)

on July 04, 2011
at 02:06 AM

we, the US, led the world in this direction and now it's up to us, Paleo hacks etc., to lead the world back.

0e4e5882872d6a7c472ea51aec457e66

(1994)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:52 PM

Well said, Felix! "Those who study these statistics suggest that the Dutch emphasis on early childhood care, a diet rich in dairy products and thus high in protein, and a fairly even distribution of wealth have contributed to making the Dutch the world’s tallest people. In contrast, in America, pockets of poverty, which contribute to poor childhood nutrition and lack of available healthcare, as well as immigration of shorter racial groups to America, have resulted in a shorter average height." http://www.wisegeek.com/which-country-has-the-tallest-people.htm

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:37 PM

Do you think the swedes are healthy? on eyeonarctic they reprot on the healthy swedish saami. Do you think the swedes are healthy?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:35 PM

i heard that its hard to get real raw milk cheese. Its on the real milk website. Even when its labeled raw its heated above 40degrees Celcius.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:33 PM

im from germany too. Nice to here your story. Yeah we have to check here what is grassfed and what not. Meat Dairy industry in Germany is a big questioning. By the way Campina a big milk industry in germany raises their cows in Netherland. And they promote with GMO free food and cows who be on pastures. The famoused brand for campina is "Landliebe" (coutrylove?") In germany if you not see the pastures or the cows on grass, you better take organic. i have been in the blackforest mountains and the milk thier (RAW) taste unique. Cause the pasutres are full of divers herbs.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 03, 2011
at 04:39 PM

I'm trying to shift that in my life. I was miserable working so much and felt guilty for taking life slower. We have our priorities misplaced and it has a huge negative impact on our health.

A65499f2f8c65602881550fe309cd48c

(3501)

on July 03, 2011
at 04:25 PM

I want to go to there....

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:40 PM

Olivia, the contrarian in me does agree with you. I mean, with the outright levels of pure fatness in the US, constantly running up against the "skinnyfat" argument does feel odd. However, for certain segments of our population (that i happen to be around a lot, but i know this is not representative of the norm) I do feel the need to stress that "skinnyfat" is a reality. I know a lot of babyboomer runners, etc that just eat sugary crap all the time but run like dogs and are thin, emaciated, totally unhealthy etc but as long as they're not fat they think they're good.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:37 PM

Recently, the maatjes (soused herring) season started. That's when a lot of people start eating raw herring as a tradition. Pretty paleo, right? When the herring is fatter (around mid-june) the queen does a blessing and the season starts. Of course, they're also very open-minded people, they made weed legal, they're very friendly, very educated. I'm belgian, and I know quite a lot of dutch people. They do bicycle a lot, but honestly I don't think they're leaner than belgians.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:36 PM

spot on. What continues to amaze me about the US (and yet I'm a part of it cuz all i do is work, too) is that we just simply live to work. A lot of other people seem to work to live. Far and away the biggest factor in all my friend's lives is work. Work first; everything else comes second. The idea of anything challenging this even a little right away brings out that latent protestant work ethic-y critique that immediately associates working less with laziness, sloth, not-holding-up-your-end, etc.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:32 PM

i stay away from paranoid ranting but man when i read things like your last paragraph it really does kind of make you stop and think: the whole world is increasingly going in one direction, its kinda scary.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:30 PM

Beastie, I think you are correct but I have to just add that while i think your "tall" comment is right, your "thin" comment is not right. I just don't think there are groupings of people genetically born to be not-thin. I think all people are born with the same propensity to be naturally thin.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:28 PM

nice report. man, you make me want to move there.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:27 PM

not an answer at all. this would be better posted as a comment.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:26 PM

Nico, i like your comment. I feel there is a general consensus perhaps growing in the paleo community that indeed its not what are eating with paleo (or any other diet: veg, vegan, ornish, etc) but rather its the near total exclusion of processed things, known-to-be-inflammatory foods, etc that is the key.

4290b251413da20f5524202e302625b6

(0)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:27 AM

Food is certainly a major contributing factor. We(I'm Dutch) are statistically the tallest people in the world followed by the Danish. Food and lifestyle when growing up do help a lot. We do see large groups of children cycling together to school. As a matter of fact all their movements to and from places are mostly by bike. Once they grow up and become adults they shift towards cars but even then it is often faster to go by bike in stead of taking a car. On the other hand we have also had our tv shows "the biggest loser" only our haviest people where about 200 kg or 440 pounds.

02736efa3fda31740e8890eed0cb663d

(1813)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:04 AM

You have to consider just how much crap Americans eat. Almost anyone does better by comparison.

2e060a5edde44c1fe77abcf8d3997e01

(865)

on July 02, 2011
at 07:54 PM

Nate--Agreed. The number of people on bikes is crazy here in Amsterdam. So much so that I'm afraid to be a pedestrian dragging along a six-year-old child--not for the cars, but for the bicyclists on cellphones.

Bdede2dbc411f2533a7e6f13674ade51

(804)

on July 02, 2011
at 07:28 PM

The amount of people on bikes seen in Amsterdam, or even Haarlem or Maastricht for that matter, far outnumbers people on bikes in Portland. Not even close. But, Portlanders have many, many, many other things they can do to keep active just outside their front door. (I'm from Oregon myself)

2e060a5edde44c1fe77abcf8d3997e01

(865)

on July 02, 2011
at 06:53 PM

I have Googled it. However, frustratingly, all I find is speculation (such as in the link you offer). Everyone seems to think it's the dairy or bicycling, but many other Northern European countries are big dairy consumers and bicycling is very popular in my own chubby American city of Portland, Oregon (although, admittedly, not to the extent it is in Amsterdam).

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on July 02, 2011
at 04:37 PM

I hate how the "thin isn't always healthy" argument is immediately pulled out whenever someone asks why a certain population as a whole is on the thin side. Don't get me wrong, I agree it's true that thin doesn't always = healthy, but come on. If most of them are thin and look healthy it's reasonable to use that as a proxy to assume that they're doing something right and are doing much better as a society than most first-world countries which, as Ashley Roze said, are just getting fatter and fatter. I doubt they are all secretly skinny walking metabolic syndrome cases.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on July 02, 2011
at 04:35 PM

It's just tiny bit obtuse. No, thin doesn't always = healthy, but come on. If most of them are thin it's reasonable to use that as a proxy to assume that they're doing something right and are doing much better as a society than most first-world countries which, as Ashley Roze said, are just getting fatter and fatter.

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on July 02, 2011
at 04:30 PM

Yep, you cant make good cheese from poorly kept cows :)

71af94295988d55cd3b8340e619729d0

(255)

on July 02, 2011
at 03:58 PM

Hmm, a bit surprised by this comment. Adding a note of caution that thin doesn't automatically = healthy is shutting down?

Aa1d5fbb9d8051538161c9a03afd384e

(226)

on July 02, 2011
at 02:19 PM

In fact, obesity is associated nowadays with low socioeconomic/cultural populations, as these are victims of lack of a correct education and cheap junk food ..

34a367e60db77270bd7096dc04270fdc

(4171)

on July 02, 2011
at 02:16 PM

Seems like people are missing Cliffs point. He was only commenting on the comparison the original poster made to the Dutch of today vs the Dutch of the 17th century depicted in their museum paintings. Paintings were not often done of the average joe, they are going to be of the wealthy people and back then they were large because they had money and ate more. It's possible the "average" Dutch people never had an issue with metabolic syndrome so what are they doing right might be what they've always done right.

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 02, 2011
at 01:31 PM

Why is this question be automatically shut down. Even skinny fat is better than most of Europe and the United states which is just incrementally getting Fat, Fat. there must be something in their lifestyle that's making them less metabolically deranged. Better public transportation so more walking, maybe less processed foods, etc.

06325b762f78a2b8aaa977161cca4a1f

(539)

on July 02, 2011
at 01:29 PM

Fatness isn't a rich people exclusive thing anymore because access to food is available to everyone. Amsterdam is a really fit city (everyone rides their bikes/ walks to where they're going. Like cliff said, they eat healthier overall and like the other European nations, they have a better *relationship* with food, a big attributor to health. Febo is saved for "special" (think brownies) occasions.

Aa1d5fbb9d8051538161c9a03afd384e

(226)

on July 02, 2011
at 01:28 PM

Jonathan, as Cliff said, "Being overweight was once a sign of affluence." Those paintings showed the singularity not the norm. Being rich during 17th century has nothing to do with enjoying a high economic level today... By the way, have you ever seen the Venus of Willendorf...??

2e060a5edde44c1fe77abcf8d3997e01

(865)

on July 02, 2011
at 01:09 PM

It's true that most of the paintings are of rich people, but the rich Dutch of today are not fat. So again, what are they doing right now?

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32 Answers

25
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 02, 2011
at 03:58 PM

We also need to look at their social policies. They have more frequent and longer vacation, better healthcare, better maternal care and leave, better access to child care, and they walk more. Those factors lead to less stress and overall health. Plus...they cook more than we do and don't rely on fast food :)

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 03, 2011
at 04:39 PM

I'm trying to shift that in my life. I was miserable working so much and felt guilty for taking life slower. We have our priorities misplaced and it has a huge negative impact on our health.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:36 PM

spot on. What continues to amaze me about the US (and yet I'm a part of it cuz all i do is work, too) is that we just simply live to work. A lot of other people seem to work to live. Far and away the biggest factor in all my friend's lives is work. Work first; everything else comes second. The idea of anything challenging this even a little right away brings out that latent protestant work ethic-y critique that immediately associates working less with laziness, sloth, not-holding-up-your-end, etc.

B9673e4701dbf7017da7d75e9a44da6d

(609)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:58 PM

That is not true! Dutch people DO NOT cook more than North Americans and they are obsessed with fast food! I've been living in Amsterdam for 8 years and am shocked by the amount of pre-made microwavable foods Dutchies eat. Sure, they are tall and "lean" but the amount of WHITE bread, cheese, milk and processed foods they eat is not doing their insides any favours. If they aren't obese, it's genes and the fact that they ride their bikes so much. But believe me, it's NOT because they eat well.

56f585aeed92954cf45b94d3f5b3df98

(146)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:41 PM

Maybe white bread isn't the problem. Refined flour has the hull and germ removed, and from what I've read, the problem is found in these two parts of the grain. http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2010/3/12/the-argument-against-cereal-grains-ii.html

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 25, 2012
at 01:59 AM

I agree on the social support factors- I can't imagine living with free health care and support for daycare, education, vacations etc when I need it. It makes a big difference on how much time you can spend enjoying your free time and being active.

Eed7dabde3d61910685845e04605267f

(2934)

on June 20, 2012
at 12:34 PM

I agree Amanda- first things that came into my head... Bikes!

16
E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on July 02, 2011
at 12:57 PM

The paintings are of rich people. Being overweight was once a sign of affluence.

European countries generally eat healthier then the US and UK from what I've read

Aa1d5fbb9d8051538161c9a03afd384e

(226)

on July 02, 2011
at 01:28 PM

Jonathan, as Cliff said, "Being overweight was once a sign of affluence." Those paintings showed the singularity not the norm. Being rich during 17th century has nothing to do with enjoying a high economic level today... By the way, have you ever seen the Venus of Willendorf...??

Aa1d5fbb9d8051538161c9a03afd384e

(226)

on July 02, 2011
at 02:19 PM

In fact, obesity is associated nowadays with low socioeconomic/cultural populations, as these are victims of lack of a correct education and cheap junk food ..

06325b762f78a2b8aaa977161cca4a1f

(539)

on July 02, 2011
at 01:29 PM

Fatness isn't a rich people exclusive thing anymore because access to food is available to everyone. Amsterdam is a really fit city (everyone rides their bikes/ walks to where they're going. Like cliff said, they eat healthier overall and like the other European nations, they have a better *relationship* with food, a big attributor to health. Febo is saved for "special" (think brownies) occasions.

2e060a5edde44c1fe77abcf8d3997e01

(865)

on July 02, 2011
at 01:09 PM

It's true that most of the paintings are of rich people, but the rich Dutch of today are not fat. So again, what are they doing right now?

34a367e60db77270bd7096dc04270fdc

(4171)

on July 02, 2011
at 02:16 PM

Seems like people are missing Cliffs point. He was only commenting on the comparison the original poster made to the Dutch of today vs the Dutch of the 17th century depicted in their museum paintings. Paintings were not often done of the average joe, they are going to be of the wealthy people and back then they were large because they had money and ate more. It's possible the "average" Dutch people never had an issue with metabolic syndrome so what are they doing right might be what they've always done right.

13
A03adfdd71be77f20e07d800bc19e3c4

(390)

on February 24, 2012
at 10:56 AM

Another Dutchman here. Coming from a coastal town, I make the following observations:

  • At least along the Dutch coast fish is a staple food, available to almost everyone who has relatives in the fishing industry. In my hometown there is a tradition to bring free of charge fish to non-fishing relatives. I have cousins who actually catch and prepare incredible amounts of fresh shrimp themselves when there is an upcoming party.

  • The Dutch national kitchen is a variety of the west German farmers kitchen, so lots of high yield energy food, including lots of fats and carbohydrates. Historically this got offset by hard labour. It is simple cooking, and bereft of all added extra's.

  • ??Up until the EU intervened local slaughterhouses were fairly common, my parents used to get fresh meat from the butchers in incredible amounts. My grandfather was a CEO, still he had chickens in the yard and even a pig (50s-60s)

  • Meat or fish is served at every dinner, and fast-food is not considered proper dinner. It is considered rude to serve guests take away, fast food, or pizza. my mother would probably strangle me if I ever served that to guests. Fast-food is considered a "snack".

  • Obesity is frowned upon, as it is considered a sign of a lack of eating disciplin, laziness or lower status. A family of obese people will be deemed "poor". In social settings obese people will often apologize with various medical reasons.??

  • Sports is socially required. Doing no sports whatsoever is frowned upon and considered unhealthy. People will try to convince you to do something.

  • Due to a centuries old trading tradition exotic foods are quite common and have found their place in the national kitchen. "Colonial" cooking is very common: Indonesian, Surinam and antillian dishes are known to everyone.

  • an influx of immigrants since the late 50s has influenced how the Dutch handle and select food. There's interesting research on that.

  • the Dutch government is very active in health issues. Active promotion of a healthy lifestyle is a government task, and although recession is taking it's toll, subsidies are quite common. Unhealthy habits are actively discouraged by government measures. In the fifties 70% of the population smoked, last year only 25% smoked. Smoking is getting to be synonymous with socially unacceptable.

  • The food industry is quite regulated, with several fora where they speak with health professionals and government bodies. Consumers are organized as well, and have quite a powerful lobby.

  • Cycling and walking are considered preferable modes of transport. Employers will actually subsidize a bicycle with government aid, and an extensive cycling infrastructure exists and is maintained. Going to a nearby supermarket with a car is considered lazy and unnecessary.

  • Supermarkets and food stores are always planned to be in relative walking distance. It is easier to go out and find fresh food, then it is to find fast food. Except food delivery off course. A Dutchman will rarely have to travel more then five minutes for lettuce, and if he does, it is considered bad city planning. In the selection of a house the distance to shops is usually a variable.

  • People are encouraged to make conscious decisions in all areas. Poor health choices are not considered to be a fault of the supply or society, but rather a fault of the consumer. "Just because it is there, doesn't mean you have to eat it". ??Taking McDonalds to court for obesity would be considered frivolous by Dutch standards.

B9673e4701dbf7017da7d75e9a44da6d

(609)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:12 PM

The only downside about all the grocery stores is, in Amsterdam anyways, it's a monopoly of one chain that is TERRIBLE. Wrapping all your food in plastic? *shudder*. I go to the farmers market.

A03adfdd71be77f20e07d800bc19e3c4

(390)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:53 PM

I agree with you there. Wrapping perfectly good vegetables in plastic is one of these ideas that probably seemed logical for somebody. That somebody should be put on sedation, the heavy kind.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 11:04 AM

I love this idea that it is bad city planning if you have to travel far to get vegetables. In many urban areas in the US there are "food deserts" where there aren't any grocery stores, only restaurants and convenience junk food stores. Out in the country you usually have to drive at least 15 minutes to get a grocery store.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:53 PM

It's interesting to compare American Dutchie-land with the original. Same height, bigger waistlines. The rich diets are probably responsible for the height. We Norwegians never got taller from it, so no doubt there's genetics too. The flatness and smallness of the Netherlands definitely works in favor of increased activity.

13
Bdede2dbc411f2533a7e6f13674ade51

(804)

on July 02, 2011
at 03:58 PM

I go up to Holland a few times a year and each time I'm up there, I try to visit a market to buy butter and cheese. The first time I did this, I asked the guy working the dairy trailer if the cattle used to produce the butter/cheese/etc. were grass fed. He looked at me funny and said, "Of course. What else would cows eat?" I probed a bit further and the guy assured me that the majority of cows were kept outside and grazed naturally. In the winter, they were fed hay. When I told him I lived in Germany, he chuckled and said he now understood why I was buying so much butter and cheese to take back with me.

The Dutch are well-known for being very active people. In every city I've been to in the Netherlands, most people do in fact use a bike for transportation or walk. The Netherlands is not a big country, but I run in to Dutch people all the time skiing, camping, hiking, and climbing in the Alps.

Overall, I would say, yes, the Dutch are a very healthy looking people. Probably the healthiest in Europe that I've seen. However, you do see your share of overweight (not obese, though) people out and about. Keep an eye out when you walk by a McDonalds or Burger King. They are packed with young people. It's the same here in Germany and everywhere else we go in Europe.

Fast food has definitely become more prevalent over the five years that I've lived here. It will be interesting to see if what has happened in the US happens here. The Germans are very concerned as statistics have now shown that they are as fat as Americans are overall. Will this happen in other European countries? Who knows, but if the youth keep chowing down the fast food like they are, it won't be long before they catch up to Germany and the US.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:33 PM

im from germany too. Nice to here your story. Yeah we have to check here what is grassfed and what not. Meat Dairy industry in Germany is a big questioning. By the way Campina a big milk industry in germany raises their cows in Netherland. And they promote with GMO free food and cows who be on pastures. The famoused brand for campina is "Landliebe" (coutrylove?") In germany if you not see the pastures or the cows on grass, you better take organic. i have been in the blackforest mountains and the milk thier (RAW) taste unique. Cause the pasutres are full of divers herbs.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 11:20 AM

Do they still call McDonald's "McKotzen" in Germany? All the kids at the school I went to when I was an exchange student called it that, and I thought it was wonderful. Being from the US I felt like I had to apologize for the existence of a McD's built right into the old town gate whenever I had the chance.

7
89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on July 04, 2011
at 04:57 PM

Ironically, what they are doing right might be the consequence of them something doing wrong. They can not cook! Their food is horrible!

I'm a Belgian, so their southern neighbour, and I know! They are constantly coming to our country to enjoy our delicious food and beer. And if they have eaten and drunk al they can, the burn the calories by making a lot of noise!!

And they are cheap!

By the way, the Dutch and the Belgians try to make fun out of each other on every occasion we have. So: ;-D. In reality we really like each other, but just a little bit...

cheers

(ok, bring on the stupid belgian jokes!)

5106e04faba829f2a9dafca259da174e

(40)

on July 05, 2011
at 05:18 PM

Stephan Guyenet would agree with you. (BTW, I'm Dutch. Our national food is indeed quite horrible).

7
98f3567b2e64c6f8192d5ababdba3e09

on July 02, 2011
at 04:15 PM

Thanks for all the compliments. Being Dutch and living in the Netherlands we are a couple of years behind the USA. So as a Nation we are getting fatter and fatter but we are right now on a level where you guys were in the 90's. Furthermore we are indeed more active almost everyone owns a bike and most of us use it on a daily base. We also walk a lot. I to smile when I hear about cornfed cows. Whe send the cows out into the fields during the warmers seasons and in stables during winters. They eat grass al year long.

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on July 02, 2011
at 04:30 PM

Yep, you cant make good cheese from poorly kept cows :)

5
Ffc7e0ecad8e8831b528c5d4921377cc

(942)

on July 02, 2011
at 02:55 PM

Silly answer I read on line "The Dutch are so tall because their country is so low. They have to be tall to see over all the dikes!"

Seriously, from Googling, it appears that they eat lots of meat, dairy products and fresh, inexpensive vegetables. And they get plenty of exercise. Genetics is a factor, of course. And good health care for all.

There is lots of information about this online, e.g. Why are the Dutch so Tall and Healthy. Google for it.

2e060a5edde44c1fe77abcf8d3997e01

(865)

on July 02, 2011
at 07:54 PM

Nate--Agreed. The number of people on bikes is crazy here in Amsterdam. So much so that I'm afraid to be a pedestrian dragging along a six-year-old child--not for the cars, but for the bicyclists on cellphones.

2e060a5edde44c1fe77abcf8d3997e01

(865)

on July 02, 2011
at 06:53 PM

I have Googled it. However, frustratingly, all I find is speculation (such as in the link you offer). Everyone seems to think it's the dairy or bicycling, but many other Northern European countries are big dairy consumers and bicycling is very popular in my own chubby American city of Portland, Oregon (although, admittedly, not to the extent it is in Amsterdam).

Bdede2dbc411f2533a7e6f13674ade51

(804)

on July 02, 2011
at 07:28 PM

The amount of people on bikes seen in Amsterdam, or even Haarlem or Maastricht for that matter, far outnumbers people on bikes in Portland. Not even close. But, Portlanders have many, many, many other things they can do to keep active just outside their front door. (I'm from Oregon myself)

4ec0fe4b4aab327f7efa2dfb06b032ff

(5145)

on June 21, 2012
at 06:13 PM

I've seen bike racks in Amsterdam that, relative to the size of a bike, are as big as mall parking lots in the States.

4
B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 24, 2012
at 11:59 AM

When you look at the standard american diet, the diet of a typical american family :

what-are-the-dutch-doing-right?

You have to look really, really hard to find paleo stuff in that. Even the meat is probably full of nitrates, there are no vegetables, ... eveything is processed and packaged.

Now compare this to the standard dutch diet, which now probably has it's fair share of processed products, but still has a lot of potatoes, cheese, fish and veggies. A lot of bread too, but it's not as processed (I haven't been able to find statistics about this).

My family has been eating a paleo meal every day : lunch is a meal with potatoes, veggies and a piece of meat (mostly pork, sometimes fish or chicken). We ate bread a lot, but still : the biggest meal of the day is paleo. When I look at students around me, some eat paleo apart from one thing : PUFA oils (probably because bread tastes bad and students don't care much for their health). Again, compare this with the picture above. That's probably 10x better.

So, all in all, diets in Europe are way better most of the time. Still, you can't call them paleo at all. That's where I don't agree with this question : you might think dutch people are really really healthy, but I disagree. A lot are, but there are tons of sick people, just like in America. Less sick, but still sick. I love looking for diseases around me : skin diseases, hair loss, restless leg syndrome (a guy next to me in class), depression, lipodystrophy, ...

The last thing I wanna mention is traditions : the dutch have a couple of traditions, but I'll mention two big ones : when maatjes-season starts and the queen gives a speech, they all start to eat maatjes (raw herring). Also, ice skating and riding a bike is extremely popular. While some of you might see cardio as a bad thing, it still is better than sitting on your ass all day. Never forget there's more to health than just what you eat.

Still, every country has it's problems : Americans just manage to have all those problems at once :). But take Belgium : we swallow tons and tons and tons of medicines each year, we have very high suicide rates, ... I attribute this to vitamin D and wasn't very happy when I heard the government wanted to start veggie-days each year (removing the last source of vitamin D would be disastrous I think).

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 24, 2012
at 03:08 PM

Living in France I learned that pizza is a food eaten with an Esso steak knife and fork. It's not intended to be stuffing for American turkies.

4
5106e04faba829f2a9dafca259da174e

on July 05, 2011
at 05:17 PM

Interestingly enough, the Dutch were the shortest, sickliest people in Europe up until about 1945 or so. After World War II, large gas reserves were discovered and the country became extraordinarily wealthy.

So what you're seeing is not the results of a uniquely Dutch lifestyle but rather the results of wealth, which, throughout every culture in the world, is the only sure fire predictor of health (and then good health in turn drives tallness, btw). If you were to look at the health statistics of the top 10% earning households in the United States, you would also find similarly tall, healthy people.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 11:10 AM

I was looking at photographs today that were taken during Great Depression in Tacoma, Washington, and there seemed to be roughly the same percentage of overweight people in those photos as there are today. So, either nothing has changed, or when people either can't afford meat, or avoid it, waistlines expand.

4
3eb3f79868b24b3df4450ea2d4f9a5d5

(2387)

on July 03, 2011
at 08:50 AM

Living just a couple of kilometers to the dutch border in Germany, I often travel there and also meet a lot of dutch in my neighbourhood.

My guess would be a combination of genetics and lifestyle as the key ingredients.

1) Genetics: Driving through small villages across the border it always strikes me how much different the silhouettes of people look. Women in the netherlands look more... womanly and men more manly. A lot. Hips, shoulders - everything is more pronounced, has a clear outline. I don't know a lot about genetics, though. But they clearly look different on average (not just because of the more tasteful clothing).

2) The dutch as a people appear to be WAY more happy and friendly. The social system makes more sense to me as it seems to leave more choices for the individual, there's less standardization, less pressure, more diversity (compared to German standards). It seems to me that they care less about unimportant things and more about what truly matters to them. The result, as I see it, is more happiness. And as I tend to say: Happiness is healthy.

As an aside, I recently saw a video/talk stating tha the dutch now displaced the US as being the country with the tallest people on the world. I think it (the veideo) even was in a paleo/nutrition context but I just can't remember where I found it.

A65499f2f8c65602881550fe309cd48c

(3501)

on July 03, 2011
at 04:25 PM

I want to go to there....

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:28 PM

nice report. man, you make me want to move there.

0e4e5882872d6a7c472ea51aec457e66

(1994)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:52 PM

Well said, Felix! "Those who study these statistics suggest that the Dutch emphasis on early childhood care, a diet rich in dairy products and thus high in protein, and a fairly even distribution of wealth have contributed to making the Dutch the world’s tallest people. In contrast, in America, pockets of poverty, which contribute to poor childhood nutrition and lack of available healthcare, as well as immigration of shorter racial groups to America, have resulted in a shorter average height." http://www.wisegeek.com/which-country-has-the-tallest-people.htm

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 04, 2011
at 09:14 AM

dutch are very friendly.and they had for some time a good oranje team.

4
64e47a1fe9f405f6b1159b22d7e9d59f

(100)

on July 03, 2011
at 08:38 AM

Being born in Holland, but now living in Sweden I can see differences.

When thinking about making dinner, the Dutch think: what vegetables shall we have tonight, and then they complete with meat, while here in Sweden they think: what meat are we going to have, and then they may have a wow-sallad consisting of a sallad leaf, some tomato slices and some cucumber. The dutch eat a lot more cooked vegetables. A homecooked steady dinner around 17-18 o'clock is also very satiating.

Being lean can be explained by bicycling, yes. The country is very crowded and parking your car in Amsterdam is not fun. So every citizen owns a bike. My grandmother still biked when she was 83. Short distances, flat country. It's not at all that fun to bike in Sweden, though I try ;)

Being tall I always have got explained to me that we drink so much cow milk, and that cow milk makes us grow tall.

BUT: I also have noticed that the dutch dairy is much sweeter than the swedish. There are desserts that the swedes don't have. Could also be that all the sugar (eaten as dessert, not raising the blood sugar that much after a meal maybe?) makes us grow tall.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:37 PM

Do you think the swedes are healthy? on eyeonarctic they reprot on the healthy swedish saami. Do you think the swedes are healthy?

7d3a7b532811b6cfa2de09acdf52d145

(610)

on June 22, 2012
at 08:22 AM

I ate the most sugar of all my 4 brothers (I only ate white bread with cheese & a glass of buttermilk at every dinner and ate lotsa candy when I was a kid, oh boy..), and I'm by far the tallest. So eating your vegetables won't make you grow tall, eating sugar is! ;)

4
669790861549f3c6d54d88a65296ed19

(452)

on July 02, 2011
at 04:50 PM

Being a Dutchie myself...I have to say it also differs per region. Yes in The Northern parts peeple cycle a lot as a means of transportation,this also has to do with the fact that one indeed easily cycle 20km to&from work within reasonable timerange bc the landscape is pretty flat. However in The Southern part,where I live,there's increasingly more hills which makes it more of a struggle&time consuming to cycle 20km to work.So people here move around a lot less (also more unemployment),which can also be seen bodywise. Just one example of the many factors one has to calculate on the whole scheme.

But cheese/dairy is indeed a pretty regular staple in most households.:) There's even this cheese,which now is the season for,that's called 'graskaas' literally translated "grass(fed)cheese". Every year in the beginning of spring,the cow's get to be&eat outside 24/7 again,grazing the fields. So this &most types of cheeses indeed don't need to be asked if they are from grassfed cow/sheep/goat.:)

However,like Rick said,we're going well on our way to the SAD standards. Low-fat products/dairy,wholewheat,eat 2 pieces of fruit a day etc. All kinds of hidden sugars/sweeteners and lots of MSG&other additives in food.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:35 PM

i heard that its hard to get real raw milk cheese. Its on the real milk website. Even when its labeled raw its heated above 40degrees Celcius.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:32 PM

i stay away from paranoid ranting but man when i read things like your last paragraph it really does kind of make you stop and think: the whole world is increasingly going in one direction, its kinda scary.

88905cfc5bb098ad3830671a1af373a8

(803)

on July 04, 2011
at 02:06 AM

we, the US, led the world in this direction and now it's up to us, Paleo hacks etc., to lead the world back.

121a16aded2bed8dca492d3c9662ef4c

(1327)

on February 24, 2012
at 07:04 PM

Don't forget the Dutch predilection for refined, white flour doused with large amounts of fine, white sugar. Poffertjes, anyone? I think the bicycle saves many. But don't think that obesity isn't on the rise in the Netherlands, too -- it most certainly is.

2
B9673e4701dbf7017da7d75e9a44da6d

on February 24, 2012
at 02:10 PM

Sure, the Dutch eat a lot of dairy and meat, but I would never, ever in a million years call a typical Dutch diet healthy. They are obsessed with potatoes and deep-fried food. Voila, where you'll find a crowd of Dutch people after the bars close:

http://www.julieaube.com/blogue/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/febo.jpg

A typical Dutch breakfast? White bread with margarine and a slice of cheese.

A typical Dutch lunch? White bread with margarine, a slice of cheese and maybe a slice of ham. If they have access to a canteen, it would be white bread with a fried croquette. A hard boiled egg is probably in the mix.

I get many strange stares when I bring my home-cooked meals into work.

Things the Dutch do get right: exercise, the amount of kale they eat (Boerenkool) and the eggs.

Any notion that the Dutch have established some sort of ultimate health lifestyle is bonkers. Many YOUNG Dutch kids will have white bread with hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) for breakfast and sugary cereal. It's crazy.

These are my observations living in Amsterdam for 8 years.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:17 PM

Very good point. In Belgium we have fry shops, in the Netherlands they have these things. Horrible food.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:18 PM

I was one of those "white bread with hagelslag" kids btw. I wasn't allowed to eat cereal though because my mother found it too processed.

475795ced7d9abcd46649cdb39e7d2e9

(0)

on April 07, 2012
at 01:08 PM

I tottally agree, I'm a dutch woman tried to get my kids paleo food to school. They disagreed the food we gave. It took the kids too long to finish, blablabla. Eventually we give them bread with baked eggs or some cheese. But when i'm talking to collegea's and tell them i dont eat grains, they ask what to eat for breakfast or lunch? I tell them to make it up. Be creative. because of the comments, i gave up eating all day making it IF all day and eating everything in the evening. hmm delicious...

2
Medium avatar

on July 03, 2011
at 08:59 PM

Most Northern Europeans are tall and thin. They compliment their already great genetics by getting plenty of exercise (they do tons of walking and biking), eating clean food, and (please don't kill me) having weed legally available. Seriously, it does wonders for stress. Check it.

1
Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on June 21, 2012
at 04:50 PM

So I'm very late in the game responding here, but I wanted to put my thoughts together into something meaningful, and I haven't had a chance until now. (Apologies for the humongous post. Downtime at work...wheee!)

I find threads like this interesting because they make us think about a lot more than food. We tend to get bogged down in nutritionism here sometimes. And don't get me wrong - I'm a bit of a biochem geek myself and have nothing against the research and study junkies, and mostly enjoy the debates about the nitty gritty. I do think most people get the greatest benefit from going Paleo/Primal just by eating real food, ditching the junk, and getting a little more physical activity and fresh air. As for the last 10-20% of "optimizing" or maximizing health and longevity, I think that's where the grams, ounces, percentages, and stearic acid vs capric acid, phytate/oxalate, and raw/cooked type arguments fit in.

BUT...threads like this make us broaden the perspective beyond food, and I think these other aspects of not just health and nutrition, but just LIVING WELL, play a very, very underappreciated role in all the things most of us are trying to achieve in our physical bodies and spiritual/psychological selves.

Soooo, with that in mind, here goes. There was a related thread here (focused on Italians rather than Dutch), and after reading both, there are a few things I've believed for a while that I've come to believe even more firmly.

What are the Dutch (and Italians, and lots of other cultures) doing right?

How is it that they can eat bread, cheese, pasta, pizza, and wine, and flourish? Their entire food culture is fundamentally different.

-- Like others have said, overall, other cultures tend to eat less total food than we do. A feeding frenzy at the Olive Garden is probably about as far as you could possibly get from a typical family dinner in Italy.

-- The food they do eat is REAL FOOD. (Meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and yes, cheese, yogurt, bread, pasta, and even baked goods - made with flour, butter, and sugar, rather than additives they can't pronounce and soy or cottonseed oils.) I don't go down most of the regular supermarket aisles anymore, but when I do, and I take the time to read labels out of curiosity, I am stunned, and I mean stunned by what passes for "food" in the U.S. I disagree with some of what Michael Pollan says, but I think one of the most brilliant phrases I've ever heard was his "edible foodlike substances." That is what fills so many shelves here these days. Sometimes I get down on myself when I have a couple of foods here and there that I consider "bad." But then I go down those aisles and look at what most people are consuming on a daily basis, and I realize that on my worst day, I wouldn't touch most of that with a 10-foot pole. Not to toot my own horn, but I guess the truth is, I've come far enough in my journey that there are "substances" I used to LOVE and eat often that I now literally don't even consider food. It's not that I have willpower and stop myself from eating them when they're calling my name. I honestly don't want them. They don't call my name anymore.

I look at the ingredients in breakfast cereals, "healthy" FiberOne bars, fat-free yogurts, salad dressings, baked goods, and I think about all the kids who can't sit still, all the women who are infertile or have other menstrual irregularities, all the people who hide in their houses because of horrible acne, all the people suffering from various iterations of IBS, all the obese people who are eating lots of "healthy whole grains" and fat-free items, and I. WANT. TO. GRAB. PEOPLE. AND. SHAKE. THEM. This is NOT rocket science!! It is not a mystery why all these "epidemics" are happening. The sheer ubiquity of additives, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, rancid oils, GMO foods, and other wackiness is astounding. (And terrifying. There are people who eat this kind of stuff every day, at every meal.)

-- Money: In the U.S., we tend to value value. That is, we want as much as possible as fast as possible for the least amount of money. We think if we get a huge amount of food for a low price, it's a "bargain." And maybe it is, but only in one sense. Very few people seem to realize there's a reason those edible foodlike substances are so cheap here! Nobody stops to think how much a box of Cap'n Crunch would cost if we stopped subsidizing corn, or the price of Kashi if we stopped the soy subsidy. Not to mention the price of CAFO meats/poultry. Try getting bonesless skinless chicken breasts for $1.99/pound at the big box stores if we stopped subsidizing corn and soy feed, not to mention the issue of migrant and/or illegal immigrant labor in the slaughterhouses and processing plants. (Not trying to open that can of worms, just pointing it out. If they had to pay the usual U.S. worker benefits to those folks, I don't know how they'd swing $1.99/pound for pristine, clean, boneless breasts wrapped up all nice & pretty.)

We tend not to stop and wonder why this stuff is so cheap. It's bad enough that there are so many wacky things in the human food supply, but now we can't really even count on animal foods because farm-raised fish are eating corn and soy at this point, for goodness sake. And if you want the good stuff, you will pay more. (I agree that there are plenty of aspects of Paleo eating that can lower your food budget, but high quality meat and seafood is not one of them. Yes, if you have the space for an extra freezer, you can buy a quarter cow at a very reasonable price per pound, but not everyone has that option.)

I don't have the numbers in front of me, but haven't there been a bunch of assessments showing that in the U.S. we pay a far lower percentage of our income for food than most of the rest of the developed world? We want more for our money, but what are we getting more of? When we see sales of 2 for 1, or just something going really cheap, we have to wonder how it's possible that they can practically give the stuff away and still be making a profit after the store takes its share, the warehouse and shipping companies take theirs, they cover their PR and marketing costs, and pay all their employees. How dirt cheap are corn, soy, and wheat that Kellogg's can still make money selling a box of cereal for $3? And if the inputs are that cheap, why on earth would I want to eat them?!

-- Time: I haven't spent a lot of time in Western Europe, but the time I have spent has taught me something. I understand the European business/corporate climate is changing, but at least among the older generations, people wouldn't dream of eating lunch at their desk in front of the computer, wolfing something down with barely chewing and then racing off to a meeting. Their entire food culture is different. Food is nourishment. It's something to be appreciated, savored, and enjoyed, not shoved down one's piehole in the eight seconds one can find between the hundred other things they're trying to get done at the same time. That, I believe, is a uniquely American activity that, sadly, the rest of the world is beginning to emulate, much to their detriment.

-- Obesity/health: Things are changing. Many people commented on both threads that the Europeans (and even Asians) are catching up to us in terms of chronic disease and obesity. Their food supplies are changing, and they're becoming more sedentary. A double whammy. So when people travel to those countries now and make assessments about how healthy and lean people look, I believe them. But let's check back in 20-40 years and see what's happening, because the food supply in the U.S. has been wacko for a while now, but it's only been REALLY wacko for about 30 years. Let's see where autism, diabetes, obesity, chronic pain and infertility are in the rest of the developed world in a couple of decades. I think we can all make some pretty accurate predictions.

-- Stress: Other comments have addressed the issue that certain other cultures simply know how to lay back a little more than we do here. Someone else said it best: Some people work to live, others live to work. I have friends who pride themselves on working overtime (and they don't need the money), or amassing vacation time they'll never use. It's a real shame. We have this incredibly strict work ethic here, but what are we working for? Some of us spend so much time at work and have so much of our identity invested in our professional roles that we don't know who we are and what we stand for and value outside of work. And with regard to parenting, I'm not sure how things are in other countries with the endless stream of playdates, soccer games, violin practice, cheerleading, and nonstop go-go-go to the point where even a stay-at-home parent rarely has a second to themselves to breathe.

So how is it that the Dutch, the Italians, the French, the Spanish, or whoever else, can eat things we claim "would make us fat" or give us heart disease or blood sugar problems, yet stay healthy and vibrant? It's complicated and multifactorial but at the same time so very, very simple.

1
30cff8af9ac3249e63073a062fbf3e5d

(10)

on June 20, 2012
at 11:03 AM

I also live in the Netherlands and have to say that the Dutch diet is not what I would call 'healthy'. White bread is the substance for most breakfasts and lunches, indeed with something on top. Dinner is meat and potatoes. I know a lot of overweight Dutch people so the idea that they are all tall, lean and healthy is rather idealised in my opinion. It's easy to look from afar and dream that somehow another country has mastered the art of healthy living but I think you will find all countries have those who are and are not healthy.

They and the masai are some of the tallest people and like the Dutch they also drink a lot of milk so I guess there might be something in that.

However, activity in nature is common in the Netherlands and, for such a small country, they really make the most of their environment. They are always outdoors at the weekends, cycling, walking. They love crafts and things that involve working with their hands. I think that is maybe one thing that the rest of the world could benefit from, but overall I wouldn't ever promote a 'Dutch diet'.

1
Medium avatar

on February 24, 2012
at 10:53 PM

We bike everywhere! And we don't have any 'supersized' meals.

1
384e538fff93a3e704b9630a060ef8d8

on February 24, 2012
at 09:46 PM

I'm Dutch and happy the way our mother cooked for us when we were children; no soda's just fruit juice or tea. Vegetables, meat and patatoes for diner every night. Of course we got an occassional portion of french fries but absolutely no more than once a week. All three of us have grown up to be short but lean adults, without doing any exercise other than cycling to school, cycling everywhere. But I do not agree the that what Dutch people eat is totally healthy. A lot of grains (bread, pasta), plant oils, biscuits, chocolate bars, crisps, coca cola and fast food. Many people suffer from heart problems and cancer. I think it healthier compared to the US but lately I see a lot of kids who are already obese. Our goverment promotes eating grains and eat less (red) meat. But especially since going paleo I'm very happy to live here; grass fed beef, wild meat from the forrest (rabbit, deer, duck), fresh fish and a wide range of biological vegetables. It's not difficult to eat healthy here but parents play a crucial role (as they do all over the world).

1
01adafcb4dd4147c6af543f61eee60a8

on February 24, 2012
at 05:15 PM

They ride bicycles and walk in clogs alot which burns calories.

D4d83e7981ca572aaaa19fc620bb54f1

(467)

on February 24, 2012
at 09:59 PM

lol for the clogs!

1
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on February 24, 2012
at 11:42 AM

Primarily, it's the physical activity level that keeps them healthy. I lived in nearby Belgium for 5 months and effortlessly lost weight and got more fit. I ate what the locals did (which was fry shops, beer, waffles on occasion, etc...), but it's the more urban lifestyle of walking and biking around that has the most benefits.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:46 PM

Didn't Belgians invent moules frites? The French co-opted lots of Belgian good ideas. Well maybe not Belgian wine...

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 24, 2012
at 06:00 PM

Well we have some really cool chocolate makers. Pfff, why can't we be famous for grass-fed steaks or coconut oil or something like that...

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:16 PM

Waffles on occasion :D. I haven't eaten a waffle for probably 10 years. I really never understand why Belgium is famous for their waffles, while they really should be famous for their beer, fry shops and chocolate ...

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on February 24, 2012
at 04:41 PM

Leige-style sugar waffles? I'd kill for one of those right now. Never understood why Belgium was famous for chocolates, I don't think I ate any while I lived there.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 25, 2012
at 12:01 AM

Pfff, hein? This is starting to sound like the TinTin thread.

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:42 PM

So the healthy countries in Europe are Switzerland, Netherland, France, Italy, Scandinavian countries, Danmark so far i know has the happiest people. Greece has healthy people. There are everywhere healthy people.

Its hard to stick healthyness to nationalism. And national borders. This is limited, What about stick it to geographic reason and social life.

Nice question!

D4d83e7981ca572aaaa19fc620bb54f1

(467)

on February 24, 2012
at 10:08 PM

I think the danes look happy and healthy despite being often overweight. The sad thing is that they eat a lot of bread and pastry. But at least they avoid processed foods and also eat a lot of dairies, eggs and meat, although not grassfed. Cheese from raw milk has only recent become legal, but the first batch hasn't arrived at the shops yet, as far as I know. The only raw milk cheese I can find here comes from france. Raw milk still illegal.

1
Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on July 03, 2011
at 04:37 PM

There is no reason we can't all incorporate a bit more Dutch in all our lives. Change is good

1
344102b6bc599c7c3f1f58ca0ac29513

on July 03, 2011
at 06:37 AM

Don't forget genetics. They're Northern Europeans - a genetically a tall, thin race. When I was there I had to ride a child's bike and I'm a 33-year old woman, but from a genetically small family!

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:30 PM

Beastie, I think you are correct but I have to just add that while i think your "tall" comment is right, your "thin" comment is not right. I just don't think there are groupings of people genetically born to be not-thin. I think all people are born with the same propensity to be naturally thin.

1
44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on July 02, 2011
at 04:29 PM

Dutch bicycle alot, much more than in many european countries, not uncommon to cycle 20kms to work everyday.

1
Eecc48184707bc26bce631485b5b7e34

on July 02, 2011
at 03:33 PM

Biologically appropriate movement is a huge factor. They're a very active culture. They also tend to be very organized, oriented towards planning - the culture as a whole. Which means they plan meals and eat (mostly) appropriately. They eat a ton of dairy, lots of fish and at least in the traditional dutch diet, organ meats as well. From the beginning of a child's life, they're very focused on sleep and schedules.

0
A1081af52b61372dbb3ed572d88968f4

(425)

on February 24, 2012
at 10:09 PM

I lived there for 3 years and still travel there a lot... and truly love the people. Although still doesn't make me an expert, in addition the above which seem sound, I just want to point out that more than other places I've traveled, they appear to have held on to the most nourishing traditional foods that are environmentally suited to them in their northern climate (e.g. grass fed cows, grass fed cheese, raw herring, kale, etc.). Things like carne (fermented) milk are atrocious to taste but must have been handed down for generations due to health benefits (you certainly would invent it for taste). There even must be a benefit to Erwten (split pea) soup as they eat it all winter long.

I wonder if we peel out all the surviving traditional foods they aren't good enough to overcome the clear problems (the huge amount of bread and sugar they eat as others note).

Seriously, even before going paleo I always wondered about this. I think this is actually a good scientific research topic. With their cold northern climate, might even be some interesting findings re some of Quilt's more provocative ideas (temps, light cycles, seasonal variations)?

0
9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 24, 2012
at 08:16 PM

I live in Amsterdam, I'm not Dutch. Here's what I've observed:

  1. They cycle everywhere
  2. They eat a lot of bread. I'm talking 4-20 slices of white bread a day.
  3. Their lunch is very light, mostly bread and carbs

So I've wondered about the same thing; #1 above is key I believe.

0
4ec0fe4b4aab327f7efa2dfb06b032ff

(5145)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:51 PM

You're in Amsterdam and posting on paleohacks?

0
B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on July 03, 2011
at 10:52 AM

Recently, the maatjes (soused herring) season started. That's when a lot of people start eating raw herring as a tradition. Pretty paleo, right? When the herring is fatter (around mid-june) the queen does a blessing and the season starts. Of course, they're also very open-minded people, they made weed legal, they're very friendly, very educated. I'm belgian, and I know quite a lot of dutch people.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:27 PM

not an answer at all. this would be better posted as a comment.

0
Medium avatar

(10611)

on July 02, 2011
at 03:19 PM

They eat a lot of starchy and fatty foods in addition to the dairy and meat.

They are not sedentary. In the hunter/gatherer sense they are stricter paleos than most paleo bloggers.

The tall part is a puzzle, but a lot of Dutch are. That in and of itself increases metabolism a bit.

4290b251413da20f5524202e302625b6

(0)

on July 03, 2011
at 06:27 AM

Food is certainly a major contributing factor. We(I'm Dutch) are statistically the tallest people in the world followed by the Danish. Food and lifestyle when growing up do help a lot. We do see large groups of children cycling together to school. As a matter of fact all their movements to and from places are mostly by bike. Once they grow up and become adults they shift towards cars but even then it is often faster to go by bike in stead of taking a car. On the other hand we have also had our tv shows "the biggest loser" only our haviest people where about 200 kg or 440 pounds.

0
71af94295988d55cd3b8340e619729d0

(255)

on July 02, 2011
at 12:55 PM

'Look' being the operative word here. Without those health stats, there's no way to know that they're not, for example, 'skinny-fat'...

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on July 02, 2011
at 04:37 PM

I hate how the "thin isn't always healthy" argument is immediately pulled out whenever someone asks why a certain population as a whole is on the thin side. Don't get me wrong, I agree it's true that thin doesn't always = healthy, but come on. If most of them are thin and look healthy it's reasonable to use that as a proxy to assume that they're doing something right and are doing much better as a society than most first-world countries which, as Ashley Roze said, are just getting fatter and fatter. I doubt they are all secretly skinny walking metabolic syndrome cases.

71af94295988d55cd3b8340e619729d0

(255)

on July 02, 2011
at 03:58 PM

Hmm, a bit surprised by this comment. Adding a note of caution that thin doesn't automatically = healthy is shutting down?

1da74185531d6d4c7182fb9ee417f97f

(10904)

on July 02, 2011
at 01:31 PM

Why is this question be automatically shut down. Even skinny fat is better than most of Europe and the United states which is just incrementally getting Fat, Fat. there must be something in their lifestyle that's making them less metabolically deranged. Better public transportation so more walking, maybe less processed foods, etc.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on July 02, 2011
at 04:35 PM

It's just tiny bit obtuse. No, thin doesn't always = healthy, but come on. If most of them are thin it's reasonable to use that as a proxy to assume that they're doing something right and are doing much better as a society than most first-world countries which, as Ashley Roze said, are just getting fatter and fatter.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 03, 2011
at 12:40 PM

Olivia, the contrarian in me does agree with you. I mean, with the outright levels of pure fatness in the US, constantly running up against the "skinnyfat" argument does feel odd. However, for certain segments of our population (that i happen to be around a lot, but i know this is not representative of the norm) I do feel the need to stress that "skinnyfat" is a reality. I know a lot of babyboomer runners, etc that just eat sugary crap all the time but run like dogs and are thin, emaciated, totally unhealthy etc but as long as they're not fat they think they're good.

-1
E286e6ba6ef6c4c4a31a749e59aa57e1

on July 03, 2011
at 09:35 PM

Theyve got great ovens

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 04, 2011
at 09:12 AM

What do you mean. I think people not proper understand. you mean woman. Or you mean ovens? or you mean barbacue?

2bdc990a200584a385650cf68475f095

on August 19, 2011
at 09:35 AM

Google "Dutch oven"

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