Lifestyle, Travel

Real Food Highlights From The Mediterranean

The last few weeks have been pretty quiet on the posting front because I was lucky enough to be travelling through Europe for my summer vacation. Naturally, during my time overseas, I was inspired by the amazing and fresh food available that made it easy (and enjoyable) for me to make real, whole food choices while on the go.

We started out in Split, Croatia then travelled through Greece, visiting Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Ios. We ended the trip in Amsterdam, but admittedly, the food selection wasn’t quite as fresh or interesting as our Mediterranean stops. While I knew alcohol would be unavoidable (mostly out of choice – I was on vacation, after all!), and that we’d be eating 99% of our meals out, I wanted to commit to eating real food throughout the trip. Too often, it’s easy to abandon good habits by justifying poor food choices because we’re “on vacation”. I’ve been guilty of this mentality in the past, so wanted to stick to my guns as best as possible within the circumstances (i.e. not letting “perfect” get in the way of “good” – tough to control things like cooking oils and some seasonings used, but easy too choose high quality protein and veggies).

In the end, I’m pleased to report that this strategy lead me to some delicious discoveries worth sharing! Below are some of my favourite real food dishes I enjoyed throughout my stops in Croatia and Greece:

Grilled Fish & Local Veggies

Whole Fish & Veggies

A meal I enjoyed multiple times during my travels was freshly caught fish accompanied by veggies, both typically grilled. It was common for the fresh fish to be served whole, grilled (as pictured above) and accompanied by vegetables like grilled zucchini, eggplant, tomato, etc. and wilted swiss chard. I learned that the fish is typically caught locally, daily and most veggies are grown locally as well. While this required a bit of dissembling (removing bones, fins, head, etc), the grilled skin and mild, flaky flesh was well worth it!

Leg of Lamb

Leg of Lamb

I couldn’t not have lamb while visiting Greece! This dish featured a lamb leg, complete with a sprig of fresh rosemary spouting from the bone (LOVE me a dish with the bone still in place – feels so much more primal!). I must admit to passing the pictured potatoes along to my dinner-mate (tried to be mindful of carbs with the aforementioned alcohol consumption), but the meat itself was incredible and fell right off the bone. This was enjoyed with a big glass of local red wine while watching the world-famous sunset in Santorini.

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

It wouldn’t be a trip to Greece without enjoying a Greek salad! At home, I tend not to eat much dairy but will make the exception for high-quality cheese and yogurt – especially when it looks like THIS. Greek salads throughout Greece were usually topped with a gorgeous slab of feta as pictured here, with veggies cut in large chunks. I’m not sure if it was a coincidence, but every tomato I ate in Greece and Croatia tasted like the best I had ever eaten – it’s as if they ripen better over there. Another awesome discovery is that most restaurants in these countries feature olive oil and vinegar at each table setting instead of a pre-mixed salad dressing. I would usually have one of these as a side or top it with a skewer of grilled chicken or pork for hunger-curbing protein. Another real food win!

Fresh Figs

Fresh Fig

In Ios we stayed at a family-owned hotel, and by making friends with the owners, were introduced to an amazing secret: a tree full of fresh, organic figs on the hotel property! They would pick the figs every morning and bring a supply down to the hotel bar where they shared this incredible treat with us. Sweet, juicy and absolutely to die for!

The availability of these foods and the others I enjoyed (e.g. lots of veggie/meat-filled omelettes for breakfast; full fat yogurt, fruit and nuts as snacks) made it much easier to focus on satisfying, whole foods while avoiding packaged foods, junk and sweets/breads. While it did take a bit of conscious decision-making, the sheer abundance of whole food options on restaurant menus and in markets (seriously – almost every corner convenience store offers quality produce, meat and cheeses/yogurts!) meant I had no excuses not to make good choices to the best of my ability while traveling. It can be done!