23 June 2015 More Than Gazpacho: Spanish Dietitians’ Tips to Losing Weight

Eating tapas, gazpacho soup, and paella rice dishes and interviewing two Spanish dietitians during my sabbatical in Seville have given me the opportunity to look into the Spanish way of living and bring back new ideas for my weight loss clients in the states. Even though you have probably heard similar weight loss tips before, knowing that these recommendations cross cultural lines, can help motivate a person to continue to focus daily on simple healthy lifestyle changes rather than on a crash diet which can slow your metabolism and lead to future weight gain.

What do Spanish dietitians recommend to their clients to lose weight?

  • Aerobic exercise
  • Eat 2 pieces of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables each day
  • Cook at home every day
  • Sleep or relax at least 7 hours per day

Aerobic exercise

Recommendations for exercise in Spain focus on the number of exercise times per week, rather than on the number of minutes per week that a person should exercise. If you want to maintain your weight, exercise three times each week; if you want to lose weight, exercise five times per week.

Try the Spanish way and do an exercise you enjoy to increase your heart rate three to five times per week. If you don’t know where to start, walk three to five times per week. If you have never joined a gym, sign up for a trial month membership with a friend and participate in a variety of drop-in classes. From flamenco dance classes to Zumba classes to mini-trampoline classes, participating in a variety of classes here is Spain has kept my mind and body active.

Since both Spanish dietitians I interviewed have expanded their expertise by completing more education in physical therapy, Pilates and as personal trainer, I think this demonstrates the importance of exercise in losing weight and maintaining weight loss.

Eat 2 pieces of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables every day

Since 2006 when the economic crisis began in Spain, both dietitians remarked that people are eating more cheap bread products (you can buy five white bread rolls for about one dollar here in Spain!) and less fruits and vegetables. However, similar to the States, these dietitians recommend buying fruits and vegetables in season when produce is cheaper. Also, watching for sales (either fresh, canned, frozen or dried) and then buying in larger quantities can also stretch the food budget and help one eat 5 fruits and vegetables each day.

Cook at Home Every Day

Especially since the price of tapas is so inexpensive in southern Spain, approximately two to three dollars for each tapa and people enjoy the sociability of eating out with friends, many Spaniards are used to going out to eat daily. However, finding a fruit or vegetable on the menu is few and far between. Thus, these dietitians recommend cooking at least one meal at home every day.

Since beans are inexpensive and healthy, Spanish dietitians encourage people to bring out their pressure cookers and cook more legumes (dried beans) similar to what their grandmother’s did. Beans are a good source of protein and cheap!

Sleep or relax at least 7 hours a day

In a country, where the concept of an afternoon siesta started because of the heat of the afternoon, it sounds odd that dietitians here have to alert people to sleep or relax at least 7 hours to help lose weight. However, since the weather is cool in the evenings, and people enjoy starting supper at 10:00 in the evening and then start work at 8:00 in the morning, clients need to be reminded to get at least 7 hours of sleep a day.

By following these universal healthy lifestyle choices of doing aerobic exercise three to five times per week, eating five fruits and vegetables per day, cooking at home each day, and sleeping at least 7 hours a day, one can lose weight in America or Spain. The Spanish kitchen is more than gazpacho soup; however, here is a great recipe I translated from my Spanish class. Que aproveche!

Spanish Gazpacho Soup

In a blender, place

  • 4-6 cups of washed fresh, chopped tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ½ green pepper, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cucumber, with ½ skin on, coarsely chopped
  • ½ piece of dried bread dipped in water (to thicken it)
  • ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper (to taste)
Puree until smooth. Chill for two to three hours before serving. Top with a chopped hard-boiled egg and finely chopped pieces of jamon iberico or a flavorful ham.


Martha Henze

MS, RD, Traveling Taste Buds, LLC

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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