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girlonthego Feb 2nd, 2013 08:42 PM

healthy eating in switzerland and italy
I have looked for a similar topic in the search, but have not found one. Is it easy to get your food very plain without oils or butter in restaurants in italy and switzerland? My 18 year old DD follows a rather restrictive diet, very plain fish, salad, eggs, vegetables, greek yogurts, etc... She is a pretty serious athlete and her diet is important to her.
The rest of us will eat almost anything, but I know this is important to her and would like to be able to have her be happy too. We will be staying in Lake Lugano, Zurich, Florence and Rome.
Any opinions on travelers who maybe had food allergies that they had to work around? Thanks!

Michael Feb 2nd, 2013 08:48 PM

This restaurant in Zurich has a big self-serve table, but it is vegetarian:

girlonthego Feb 2nd, 2013 09:01 PM

Thanks Michael! I think she might like this one! I am book marking. I think Switzerland will be easier with her diet than Italy.

girlonthego Feb 2nd, 2013 09:39 PM

Also, do they sell the greek style yogurts in italy and switzerland?

lavandula Feb 2nd, 2013 10:01 PM

If you are looking for Greek-style yoghurts I think you will be able to find them relatively easily, but if you are having trouble, in Switzerland look for food shops run by the Turkish community. (Especially in German-speaking Switzerland.) They do a thick Greek-style yoghurt.


Toucan Feb 2nd, 2013 11:34 PM

I've had no problem finding greek yogurt in Switzerland at the Coop stores. It's popular pretty much everywhere these days and in fact the breakfasts provided by some hotels served this generic yogurt that was not labeled but sure tasted like greek yogurt. For the other foods, shopping the fresh food street markets for lunches then special ordering at most places was not a problem. Eating healthy in Switzerland was not as hard as I expected.

I believe Italy is basically the same situation however, I was not training while there so I can't say from experience.

I applaud your daughter for her committment to nutrition in training. It can be difficult and expensive with lots of planning required. But it makes all the difference on race day!

goldenautumn Feb 3rd, 2013 02:41 AM

There is Greek yoghurt in the larger supermarkets in Florence and Rome, but your hotel is most likely to have sugared, flavored yoghurt. Your daughter will find restaurant menus something of a challenge if she is trying to avoid oil, and she should learn to read them so she knows how to spot grilled fish and meats ( "alla griglia") or simple roasts ("arrosto").

All salads in Italy come without dressing, but most of them consist of nothing but lettuce. In Rome, she might keep an eye out for "carpaccio" -- which is thin sliced cold beef or thin slices of smoked fish served with oil on the side which she can ignore. In Florence, she will find many restaurants offer plain white beans as a side vegetable ("contorno") as well as boiled potatoes ("patate lesse"). Vegetables that are listed as "vapore" are steamed.

Grilled vegetables often take up a lot of oil (eggplant, mushrooms). Vegetable buffets, which are very popular in Rome, are usually swimming in oil. Most egg dishes will be oily (and cheesy) except for the hard boiled eggs she might find for breakfast at your hotel. Also, most bread and breadsticks will be oily.

One of the most popular of Florentine dishes is bistecca, which is huge piece of beef seared on a grill without oil. Your daughter will probably not want to eat a whole serving herself, but if one of you is willing to split it with her, that would suit her diet. In Rome, you are likely to find most meat dishes are oily -- lamb and pork. If you want decent fish in Rome, you need to do some research about which restaurants do it well (and serve it fresh).

You might find asking for specific recommendations on the Chowhound website's Italy forum helpful.

goldenautumn Feb 3rd, 2013 02:43 AM

My post above was unclear about side vegetables -- all of which are termed "contorni" on an Italian menu. In Florence, a plate of white beans will be listed on the menu either as "fagioli" or "cannelini".

Dukey1 Feb 3rd, 2013 02:49 AM

How hard is it going to be for here to continue EXERCISING?

goldenautumn Feb 3rd, 2013 03:00 AM


This is a typical Roman menu, including the bad and incomplete translations, and it is the menu of a truly excellent Roman eatery. You can see how limited it is when it comes to offerings for your daughter. The "safest" choices are all listed under the "contorni" section of side vegetables. The meat dishes are puzzling as to whether they will have oil or not.

If your daughter wants to eat with you in restaurants and really wants to stick with her diet, she will find that much easier to do if she learns some essential Italian words to identify what she wants. Most Roman and Fiorentini wait staff know some English, but she can't count on that. If she wants salad or vegetables without oil, grilled beef or chicken, or steamed or grilled fish, she should learn how to say those simple words in Italian. Google translate is a fine place to start. She can just type in "grilled beef without oil" and memorize.

downtownbrown Feb 3rd, 2013 04:39 AM

Let me be blunt. Can't speak for Switzerland, but I think you're going to have a problem in Italy that's going to make this trip an annoyance rather than enjoyable, unless you rent an apartment and shop for and cook your own food.

hollywoodsc Feb 3rd, 2013 04:02 PM

Personally, I think you'll find the food in Italy far healthier than you'd find in most American restaurants. You can always go to a local farmers market and put together picnic or bag lunch. Salad with dressing on the side, sides of veggies, grilled can ask for that anywhere. Obviously you're traveling in different countries and will need to be a bit flexible but I don't see a problem.

asps Feb 3rd, 2013 05:01 PM

In Switzerland you could consider eating at self-service restaurants in Coop and Migros centers. They are cheaper than restaurants and most foods are cooked in front of you; you can ask to have them without sauces.

Speaking for both Italy and Switzerland, while you can try to get food as simple as possible in restaurants, the way to go is renting an apartment and cooking on your own, or going to restaurants only once a day. I think that having breakfast in your hotel and then having to meals each day in restaurant is fairly imcompatible with a diet.

Greek yogurt is available in Italy (the most common brand is Total). Plain yogurt without added sugar is easily available as well - also in no-fat version - and would be a possible alternative. (If in doubt, read the composition on the label - if it has 12% carbohidrates it has added sugar, if carbohidrates are in 5% range it is plain yogurt). In Italy Vipiteno is the best brands; in Switzerland Coop seels very good Graubunden plain yogurt, Migros in Lugano should have a local yogurt marked "Natür" (the umlaut on the ü means that it is a Ticinese dialect of Italian origin, not German!) made near St. Gotthard pass that should be eaten to be believed.

girlonthego Feb 3rd, 2013 05:26 PM

Thank you all for responding!!!! I am noting many of your recommendations!

nytraveler Feb 3rd, 2013 05:44 PM

I understand why she is trying to avoid butte - but olive oil - and the hwole mediterraneoan diet - is much healthier than the average diet in the US.

Certainly she can get plain grilled meat or fish - she just needs to learn how to ask for them. And steamed vegetables are also usually available, but I wouldn't get upset over a little olive oil

StCirq Feb 3rd, 2013 05:56 PM

<< I think Switzerland will be easier with her diet than Italy.>>

I think just the opposite.

WildWanderings Feb 3rd, 2013 10:36 PM

In Switzerland, if you eat in Restaurants, ask for

"steamed vegetables without butter"
"Gedämpftes Gemüse ohne Butter"

"grilled fish, or steak without oil or butter"
"Fish gegrillt, or Steak gegrillt ohne Öl oder Butter"

"salad without dressing"
"Salat ohne Salatsauce"

Self-serve restaurants buffet style would probably be best, and they can be found more and more, and not only in Migros, Coops, Manor, larger Jelmoli department stores, Moevenpick etc.

As for training, larger hotels often have fitness facilities. Ask for Vita Parcours - public training trails - and of course, running, Nordic walking and biking are possible anywhere.

Natur yogurt (Greek style)can be bought in every store.

justineparis Feb 4th, 2013 12:17 AM

I think its hard to grill fish without at least a brush of oil on the grill, wouldn't baked fish be a better choice?
And as stated, as for fats, olive oil is the best choice and one can't truly avoid all fats in life so lesser of two evils.
My experience in Italy is that yogurts were available in every food store, so may I suggest you pay attention when taking hotels and always get hotels with mini fridges ,, that way you can store a few of the types of yogurts your dd likes. This is something I always do,, no matter when I am in Europe I look for rooms with mini fridges. Some people say they don't like you to stock the fridges with food but I have never stayed in a hotel that complained to me about it .

goldenautumn Feb 4th, 2013 04:10 AM

Baked fish is really not common in Rome and Florence, unless you are in a fancy high end restaurant. Most fish is cooked whole to order -- although it is possible to get tranches of fish or filets of swordfish or tuna in some restaurants and you can ask for it steamed (vapore). Taking the skin off a whole grilled fish will get rid of the oil.

The real problem is that in both Rome and Florence, fresh fish is usually one of the most expensive things you can order from a menu. If smoked or cured fish is not out of the diet, very thin slices ("carpaccio") of smoked swordfish, or smoked tuna, or smoked salmon is often found on the menu as an antipasta or salad dish. The word for smoked in Italian is "affumicato."

If one specifically needs non-fat Greek yoghurt, my experience is that in Italy you will only find that in the supermarket chains. You can probably find some plain non-fat Italian-brand yoghurt in smaller stores (including bakeries), but not always. When you do find it, then it is good to buy more than one and put it in the mini-bar or ask the hotel or b&b, host to store it for you so you can have it with breakfast).

I think it is a good idea to rent an apartment, but I also think that if your daughter eats her dinner at 7pm in the apartment, then she can join the family at the restaurant and simply order a few vegetable side dishes for her and it won't cause a fuss so long as the rest of you are eating full meals.

goldenautumn Feb 4th, 2013 04:36 AM

One more tip for Italy:

If you are in a supermarket shopping for yoghurt, you might also pick up packets of air-dried beef slices -- bresaola -- to slip into the mini-bar fridge. They are thin and lightweight.

You can also find packets of thin-sliced smoked fish at the store, and also cans of water-packed tuna (pop-tops).

Even without a kitchen, a small stock of yoghurts and other proteins might be quite helpful. There is good fresh fruit and veg everywhere you go in Italy that needs no refrigeration.

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