It’s just so obvious the further you go East the slimmer people are. Even just going to Greece you notice the difference. The average number of fat people declines. The number of people on motorised chairs in supermarkets and malls drops to zero.
I’m not saying that everyone is fat in the West while all Easterners are thin. Because that just isn’t the case. But on average Westerners are bigger and heavier and carrying more weight than their Eastern counterparts and it’s easy to see why. Good food is cheap in the East while bad food is cheap in the West.
Sure their are the well known fast food outlets in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand but the difference in price between these fast foods and the local healthy cuisine is virtually nil. In fact healthy, tasty street food in those countries is often cheaper than picking up fast food from a chain store.
Another big difference is portion sizes served. For instance a soft drink served with a meal is usually 200ml while soft drink serve in the West start at 375ml and get as large as 800ml. Potential four times as much sugar with each meal.
As budget long term travellers we look for food that isn’t to expensive. Eating well but frugally is important to our long term health and budget. We usually opt for high protein foods with lots of fresh veg. In Asian a beef noodle soup had all these things. Some rice noodles, bok choy, bean sprouts, chilly and some form of green leaf veggies plus 50 – 80 grams of meat. Usually they cost about $2 per serving.
In Asia we could often purchase five meals for $9-$15 dollars complete with drinks. In Europe this increased to $35-$50 to feed all five but the quality of the food went down. The ratio of carbohydrates v’s protein went up as did the ratio of sugar verses water. The level of fats stayed about the same unless we had “fries with that”.
In England “fries with that” is the cheap food. Pie and chips, Fish and chips you can buy as cheap takeaway meals for £3 pre serve without a drink, £5 with a drink. But it’s all carbs and sugar with a slab of protein squeezed in between. The deep fried potato is a “vegetable” but it’s the solitaire vegetable offered with the meal. Nutritionally we should probably eat the cardboard box the food is served in rather than eating the oil saturated potato starch.
So what about cooking for ourselves. In Asian it was often cheaper to eat on the street than purchase food items to prepare our own meals. The type of western meals we cook included ingredient that often cost more in those countries. Items like tomato paste, curry paste etc aren’t staple diet items and therefore cost a premium. Also the language barrier meant we found shopping in the markets more stressful than shopping in the western style supermarkets which of course sold their product at a premium price.
In Europe shopping was easier. We often found ingredients that were familiar. But the cost of fresh produce sky rocketed. Simple items like zucchini (courgette) cost $2 a piece. We use zucchini and carrot as a pasta substitutes. Shredded and blanched they makes a fantastic spaghetti substitute with a Bolognese or Carbonara sauce. But at $2 it cost about twice the price of a bag of spaghetti. Therefore we find ourselves eating pasta and rice instead of vegetables.
When you add this to the abundance of cheap flour based foods like bread, pastry and cake. Exquisite sweets and chocolates. Our diet in the West has become lopsided towards the carbohydrates and sugars.
As marathon runners we know the detrimental effects a diet high in carbs and sugar can have on our weight and performance, but it’s the cheapest food we can afford. We are trying hard to find alternatives in the form or fresh veg but traveling means theres no place to store fresh items between meals and they are heavy. Perhaps we should invest in a motorised esky.
Doctor friends have studied the detrimental effect of the high carb and sugar diet and written many articles on the subject and as marathoners we are aware that we must find better alternatives but the price of quality food in the West is a barrier.
I can’t help but wonder what’s happening to people who don’t really understand the effects our affordable Western diets is having on the population as a whole. People who eat high carb, high sugar diet day in day out with out the knowledge of a rigorous fitness routine or first hand travel experience. They don’t have the experience to understand the effect of this diet and probably aren’t as aware of their body’s needs as we are and as financially challenged as ourselves what alternatives does the West offer these people.
It’s the main contributing cause why the population in the West are loosing the battle of the bulge.