Life Lessons: How to Eat Like a Turk!

Anyone who visits Turkey will know that the cuisine is both sumptuous, diverse and loaded with rich dough and desserts, so how come for the most part, Turks are generally in good physical shape? Well, as you’ll see, there are a number of customs built into the culture that promote extremely healthy ways of eating to feel great and enjoy every meal to the fullest, without being weighed down and letting the number on the scale go up.

Here are some tips for eating like a Turk, keeping fit and savoring every bite!

The ritual of the meal

For the Turks, every meal is considered precious, although evident in restaurants, even at home, the table will be properly set for every meal and a sumptuous spread will be prepared, which will include cold and hot dishes. There is an inherent rule that at least three different dishes should be included in meals, which in most cases will include a soup, a vegetable dish with rice or bulgur, and almost always a large salad. Dessert at home, as is also the case in restaurants, often comes down to a selection of fruit. What will also be on hand with every home-cooked meal will be freshly baked white bread and, in many cases, multiple loaves.

So how does this work as a tip for staying in shape? Well, that’s because they thoroughly enjoy their meal and pay a lot of attention to a diverse range of dishes satisfying all tasty cravings with ingredients like yogurt, fresh greens, legumes, season, pickles, olives and tomato and red pepper paste. In other words, Turks enjoy satisfying, well-balanced meals that provide immense nutrition and therefore they eat well.

Turks eat slowly

With the exception of cases where Turkish people eat fast food such as a doner wrap or a fish sandwich, Turkish meals are usually long lasting. From Turkish breakfast to home-cooked meals to fish or kebab, Turks take their time and linger over every bite. It’s always fascinating to me how small plates of meze can sit on tables with parts still intact for hours. It’s not that it’s not delicious or that they don’t like it, it’s just that they savor every bite and take their time. You will also notice that although there are fast food options, drive-thru fast food chains are almost non-existent and eating in the car or while standing is also not a regular habit shared by Turkish people.

Anyone who visits Turkey will know that the cuisine is both sumptuous, diverse and loaded with rich dough and desserts. (Photo Shutterstock)

Water, oil or yogurt

The Turks actually have a whole genre of water dishes that consist almost exclusively of vegetable and bean dishes and the occasional meat stew. This means that the majority of Turkish dishes do not consist of creamy sauces nor do they contain many dairy-based ingredients, with the exception of yogurt, which we all know is loaded with healthy bacteria and therefore easily digestible. Meanwhile, there is also a kind of olive oil dishes and most of them are made with tomatoes and onions. Olive oil is excellent for digestion and a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, which is now considered by many to be the healthiest diet in the world. And that makes sense, because even meat and fish are prepared simply and not served drizzled with an extra thick sauce. Thus, the sauces are light and the nutrition is high in these dishes which form the basis of Turkish cuisine.

Many Western visitors will also notice that Turks don’t start their meals by spreading butter on bread and you’d be hard-pressed to get butter in most restaurants if you wanted it. Butter is a precious commodity and the baskets of bread placed on tables in Turkey are exclusively for lapping up the aforementioned lovely juicy dishes prepared with olive oil.

Turks love their spice

Dried herbs such as red pepper flakes and paprika, sumac, thyme, and mint are all spices that you can easily find on the table as condiments in any home or restaurant. All of these herbs are really healthy ways to spice up a meal. Also, many Turks like their dishes hot, and by that I mean spicy, which they get by sprinkling almost everything with red pepper flakes and eating whole peppers, which accompany almost any side dish, grilled or not, and in bowls of pickled peppers which are sometimes also offered on the side. Spicy foods are said to speed up your metabolism and so Turks definitely have that engine running all the time.

Turks love fruit

Turks almost exclusively consume only fresh seasonal fruits and produce and will do their utmost to try to source dairy and produce from certain parts of the country. Fruit features prominently in everyday cooking, especially during the summer months when plates of watermelon begin to adorn every table at every meal, including breakfast. Dessert is often just a plate of fruit, while other fruits and nuts such as plums and unripe almonds are also popular seasonal snacks.

Turks eat together

It’s a well-known fact that people eat less when they share a meal with others. This may also be the reason why Turks manage to stay slim as most of them share almost all meals with other people. Turks don’t tend to dine alone and instead invite everyone to join them. The more the merrier, that’s definitely the mentality here in Turkey, which makes every meal a good time and a lighter one. Turks also like to digest their meal with tea regardless of the time, then according to tradition, especially in the summer months, they will take a walk after a meal.

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