I’ve been thinking about sugar since we came here. Like, a lot. Which is very easy since sugar is everywhere around.
It seems the “sugar trap awakening” that happened in Sweden a couple of years ago, and is I think still happening, simply is not on the agenda here. It is like there´s a huge gap in knowledge about different types of sugar, and what it does to you.
Here, on a normal grown up lunch menu, the offered drink is a glass of juice. Most often orange. When “nice” it is freshly squeezed. A whole glass, once a day, for a grown up person. In Sweden, sparkling water is offered. Lingonberry juice in the less enlightened places. At school it is water or milk. I hear now that even milk is being challenged. Here in school it is water or juice.
In Sweden, sugar is not offered automatically with coffee anymore, you have to ask for it. I haven’t heard anybody do that in a long time. Here, you get two packs of sugar for a small espresso. And it is seldom left unused.
At day care in Portugal they serve the children fruit yoghurt and sweet biscuits as an afternoon snack a couple of times a week. An alternative is milk with chocolate cereals. Birthdays and celebrations mean cake. Sometimes instead of the snack. In Sweden they ask for parent ok before serving ice cream for midsummers once a year.
Going to the bakery is a story on its own here, it is like walking into a candy store of dough, frosting, egg creme, chocolate. In other words sugar. The amounts that are stacked up everyday bear witness to how much is sold. The only bread available is white, and a substantial part of it is sweet. White to semi-white bread with muesli is called sporty bread.
Your normal grocery store has their own bakery and the varieties of bread seem endless. When looking for serious dark bread, like the German or Danish variant that are actually dark brown with rye and sometimes seeds, you will have to leave the bakery section and go to the healthy shelf. Yes it is one shelf. One shelf out of what, a hundred maybe, in the store. There you will find the real dark bread, just next to diet foods.
And anyway, maybe that is not the problem, but rather maybe, the fact that there is no alternative available. I seriously often do not know what to order instead, it is easier simply not to order anything.
Vegetables are rare. Or, really, they are soup ingredients, otherwise, rare.
Statistics tell you that 40% of Portuguese children are obese. 40%. Obese. I find it hard to fanthom. Portugal is also one of the countries with the highest diabetes penetration and hence insulin users.
It isn’t like you go around the streets here and see lots of fat persons. Not at all actually. But cardiological disease is common. And gyms are frequent only in educated, wealthy areas.
As a matter of fact it is living proof, that it isn’t just about looking good, it’s about feeling good inside and out and living a good long healthy life.
It’s not like it’s always good with control and not letting the children enjoy a juice or cake or two. Or as a grown up to have such self control you can never relax or enjoy. Sometimes I have even found it depressing to be in a Swedish grocery store on a Saturday, official candy-is-ok-day. Children, and parents, easily become overwhelmed and the whole buying process easily becomes needy and addictive, not joyful and allowing.
But hey, I know which ending I prefer.