The Netherlands is frequently acknowledged as one of the healthiest countries in the world. Their understated acceptance of these accolades leads you to believe that they truly do have the secret to good health and that it might indeed be worth some investigating! In the months following the holidays, the Dutch rarely seem to be bogged down by the cobwebs of seasonal indulgence and bounce right back into embracing the new year. The secret to their success surely lies in numerous factors, but one of the most important elements is definitely their unique diet. Here are a few of the nation’s favourite – and healthiest – specialities.
Given its curious name, Stamppot is definitely worth investigating. This ultimate comfort food is a medley of warm mixed vegetables and comes in myriad combinations. Traditionally, Stamppot is made with a base of mashed potatoes – any number of additional ingredients can be added to that, including endive, kale, spinach, onions, carrots, turnip greens and Sauerkraut. The possibilities are endless, and more modern versions of this dish have introduced leeks, rocket, beets, mushrooms and sweet potatoes to the mix. The key to Stamppot’s health benefits is that it uses fresh, single-source ingredients that retain their original flavour. To top it off, a tasty smoked sausage called Rookworst is usually added on the side as an excellent source of protein.
2. Erwtensoep/Snert with Roggebrood
Despite its seemingly complicated name, Erwtensoep, also known as Snert, is one of The Netherlands’ simplest and most beloved dishes during the colder months. This hearty soup, which is made from green split peas, celeriac, onion, various cuts of pork, leeks, and potatoes, warms the heart and soul on the coldest of Dutch days. Traditionally, it’s served with Roggebrood, a Frisian rye bread that’s used to soak up every last drop of this rich soup. Erwtensoep is emblematic of Dutch cuisine and their love of simple, fresh ingredients to create dishes that don’t skimp on flavour or richness. During the coldest months of the year, street vendors cater to ice skaters and others who venture outdoors, serving this blissfully comforting concoction as a warm winter snack.
3. Dutch Haring or Hollandse Nieuwe
Haring, also known as Hollandse Nieuwe, translates to ‘Dutch new herring’, and is probably the best known dish of The Netherlands that you have never heard of. The dish may be something of an acquired taste, but for the sake of adventure and for its numerous nutritional health benefits, you should at least try it once. The most popular method of consumption involves eating the fish with raw onions or gherkins and tossing it back in one gulp.
The Dutch and the herring go back thousands of years, and the success of the Dutch colonisation and wealth can be attributed in some part to the little fish. Thanks to its wide availability, high protein content and omega fatty acids, the Dutch people have thrived.
The Netherlands is a country that has won numerous ‘Best Of’ over the years. The population’s mental and physical health is the envy of the world, and yet their reserved humility should spark the curiosity of all travellers seeking to start a post-holidays detox. Certainly go to The Netherlands for the fresh air, the history and the architecture, but be sure to experience the culture and the cuisine, and perhaps gain an insight in to the secret of their health and success.