Resources about European traditional foods

Thursday, 10 December, 2009

A new report on traditional European foods and a series of accompanying recipe cards have been published by The British Nutrition Foundation, on behalf of the European Food Information Resource (EuroFIR) project, a European Network of Excellence on food composition databank systems, to give an overview of traditional foods eaten in European countries.

Traditional foods have played a major role in traditions of different cultures and regions for thousands of years. They include foods that have been consumed locally and regionally for an extended time period. Preparation methods of traditional foods are part of the folklore of a country or a region. Traditions are customs or beliefs taught by one generation to the next, often by word of mouth, and they play an important role in cultural identification.

Dr Helena Soares Costa from the National Institute of Health in Portugal has been leading the traditional foods work package within the EuroFIR project. She explains: “Unfortunately, throughout Europe, some traditional foods are at risk of disappearing due to altered lifestyles. Therefore, it is important to study and document traditional foods to sustain important elements of European cultures.”

Therefore, a work group has been set up within the EuroFIR project to collect information on traditional dishes from different European countries. The main outcomes of these are presented in the two publications launched by the British Nutrition Foundation.

The synthesis report gives an overview of traditional cuisines and foods in 13 European countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Turkey), including some information on historical backgrounds for each country.

Whether traditional foods are healthier than modern foods has also been discussed in the report. Dr Elisabeth Weichselbaum, who is a Nutrition Scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation and also one of the authors, says: “Traditional foods are great because they generally use local products, which is good for the environment. However, traditional foods are not automatically healthier than modern foods. The impact of traditional foods on our health depends on their nutritional composition.”

In the recipe card collection, more than 60 recipes from 13 European countries are available. The recipe cards are available in English and the mother tongue of the respective country. In addition to the recipes, nutritional information on energy, protein, total fat and saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugar, dietary fibre and sodium are available on the recipe cards as well.

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