Israel is celebrating her 69th birthday this year. The fledgling pioneer state of Israel’s early years has given way to a sophisticated start-up nation, with a diverse population and a rich culture. Food culture in Israel has developed over the years too, and global trends of healthy eating have made their way there as well. Here are 10 ways Israel is eating healthier today.
- A recent survey of Israelis revealed that 80% of Israelis eat vegetables every day. Unsurprisingly, the most popular vegetables are tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers. Go to any Israeli restaurant and most dishes are served with a side of Israeli chopped salad or a green leafy salad.
- Israel’s Health Minister Yaakov Litzman is planning a healthy eating revolution, including labeling foods in the supermarket according to nutritional value, to assist consumers in making educated choices about what they are feeding their families. The plan also limits advertising and marketing of harmful food and promotes health education programs.
- Restaurants across Israel are incorporating healthy foods into their diets. For example, Jerusalem’s famous Eucalyptus restaurant focuses on herbs, wild plants, and fruits which are native to the land of Israel. The restaurant is a member of the Slow Food movement, which is just what it sounds like – a contra to the fast food prevalent in developed societies.
- Veganism is taking off in Israel! In 2014, Israel hosted its first VeganFest, with 15,000 visitors who came to taste and learn. Tel Aviv, in particular, is a vegan’s dream, with lots of fully vegan restaurants to choose from. Mainstream restaurants around the country now list vegan options on their menu, making it easy to eat out with non-vegan friends.
- Israel’s cultural and ethnic diversity means that its people eat healthy starches from all over the world. They enjoy rice, corn on the cob, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans of all types, buckwheat (kasha) and barley. Every ethnic group in Israel has its own version of cholent/chamin which is eaten Shabbat morning and is full of nutritious starches.
- Israeli open air markets (shuks) and even the supermarkets sell mostly local produce so that people eat only fruits and vegetables which are in season. The produce is fresher than imported goods, and Israelis are encouraged to vary their diet, depending on what’s available for purchase.
- The IDF is teaching its soldiers about healthy eating through food preparation competitions which use ingredients generally found in army base kitchens. And vegan food is being introduced into army kitchens, for some 500 vegans who have requested it.
- Less red meat, more vegetables. Red meat can be expensive in Israel and vegetables are much cheaper. For financial and health reasons, Israelis love to slow cook or roast root vegetables such as fennel, sunchokes, turnips and heirloom carrots.
- Even the smallest grocery stores sell many alternatives to the traditional white bread – whole wheat bread, pumpernickel, multigrain and spelt can all be found on the shelves. And restaurants and kiosks let you choose between white bread or whole grain.
- Israelis love to hike and to take their kids on fun outings during school vacations. Many parents are replacing the snacks they used to bring with healthier alternatives, such as fresh fruit, whole grain bread and cut up vegetables.
It’s great to see how Israel is making strides in healthier eating. How are you becoming more conscious of your own food choices?