How the Dutch stay slim

How the Dutch stay slim

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Nutritionist Mandy Dunlop reveals eight secrets that help the Dutch keep the bulge at bay.

What is it about the Dutch and their great love of fattening food? If they are not nibbling on deep fried meat rolls they are happily scarfing down fat sodden oliebollen. Yet judging by their slim figures, they effortlessly manage to ward off the bulge. The Dutch after all, are one of the least obese populations in Europe. So what are their slimming secrets?  As an expat nutritionist, I went on a mission to find out.

 Dutch cheese at the market in Delft (Andrew Griffith,

1. Portion control

The Dutch love greasy foodstuff but have cleverly mastered eating in moderation. You will rarely see supersize portions served in restaurants here and one will often come away from a meal feeling satisfied as opposed to ‘'stuffed." Indeed, portion control is a fundamental tool to weight management in the Netherlands. Unlike America and the UK, who have progressively adopted a ‘go large' approach to eating, the Dutch are still a good few years behind in these food trends.

2. Milking the benefits

Dutch people like to drink milk, a lot. Luckily, milk is a healthy choice if you are attempting to lose weight. Not only is milk low in calories, but also an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D and protein, which have all been linked to weight loss. In fact, recent research have shown that frequent consumption of low-fat milk helps reduce body fat in both men and women. Flavoured milk such as chocolate and coconut are favourites of the Dutch and available fat-free (0 percent vet).

3. Guilt-free snacks

Although the Dutch might have you believe that they eat only deep fried snacks, this is normally only a weekend indulgence. To stay in control of their weight, the Dutch prefer low-fat nibbles: ontbijtkoek, Dutch ‘'breakfast cake" is a popular choice. This scrumptious cake can be bought as a sliced snack and with less than 1g of fat per serving, is virtually fat-free. Another popular bite is the eirkoeken (egg cake). These spongy delights are low in fat and high in protein-ideal for filling you up.

4. Good timing

Unlike other Europeans who traditionally eat their evening meal after 8pm, the Dutch prefer to eat earlier at about 7pm. Although eating late is unlikely to result in weight gain, it may, however, contribute to more rapid fluctuations in blood sugars, ultimately leaving you more susceptible to overeating. So, eating earlier may minimise cravings and help you to make more sensible food choices.

5. Balanced lunch

Lunch in the Netherlands is usually a quick and light meal at around 12.30pm. A popular choice is cheese and meat layered on fresh bread. This provides a sensible balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat, which, in combination, keeps blood sugar levels balanced. Having a portion of good quality protein such as ham or cheese for lunch will also leave you feeling more satisfied and less likely to snack in the afternoon.

6. Coffees not lattes

The Dutch drink a lot of coffee. In fact, after the Scandinavian countries, they are the world's largest consumers. Surprisingly however, there is not a huge selection of coffee choices available here. The Dutch prefer black coffee over commercial lattes and mochas, which is good news for weight-watchers. Black coffee is fat free with only four calories per cup whereas lattes can contain up to 300 calories. Perhaps the Dutch were onto something when they named the latte koffie verkeerd, meaning "wrong coffee."

7. Cheese please

The Dutch love this stuff. When you consider that Dutch people have been making cheese since 400 AD, it's had little impact on the nation's waistbands. The secret ingredient: calcium. Cheese is a rich source of this essential mineral, which has been shown in numerous studies to enhance weight loss. Cheese is also a good source of protein, which boosts metabolism and can help burn an extra 150–200 calories per day. The key is to eat full fat cheese in moderation and choose low-fat varieties whenever possible. 

8. Bicycles

The Dutch travel almost everywhere by bike. These two wheeled contraptions are so well-ingrained in Dutch culture that on average, each household owns at least three. Just going for a gentle 30 minute ride can burn 200 calories and if you're going out for dinner, be sure to take it along. Research has shown that leisure cycling after eating turns more of the consumed calories into heat, resulting in faster weight loss.


Mandy Dunlop is a nutritionist and massage therapist with a nutrition and wellness practice in Maastricht. She provides one to one nutrition consultations as well as an online nutritional therapy service. For more information or nutritional advice, you can contact Mandy: or visit:


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3 Comments To This Article

  • Hugo posted:

    on 9th August 2011, 16:43:32 - Reply

    What a non sense article.
    Almost all dutchs drink coffie with coffie melk.
    Cheese doesnt help to burn fat, it helps to burn an extra 150-200 calories per day ?????
    Just going for a gentle 30 minute ride can burn 200 calories (thus is better to eat cheese than ride a bike ?

  • gym buddy posted:

    on 9th August 2011, 12:46:12 - Reply

    I can not agree with you more! Sounds to me like a hidden advertisement.
  • Gym Freak posted:

    on 9th August 2011, 12:21:06 - Reply

    Key words in this article - fat free, calcium, weight loss. [Edited by moderator] 1) since when no fat means u lose weight..its all about calories - 1 kg of body fat =7000 calories. drink oil, eat cherries it does not matter - to lose 1 kg of fat u need to burn 7000 calories 2) Eating protein makes you lose weight..("...calcium, vitamin D and protein which have all been linked to weight loss"). again count the calories - what about these poor vegetarians who dont eat meat or drink milk (are they all morbidly obese??) 3) "...Cheese is also a good source of protein which boosts metabolism and can help burn an extra 150-200 calories per day) 100 gr Edam cheese = 357 cal. so how exactly do you lose weight with this (compare with 100 gr honey=300cal) 4) "...Research has shown that leisurely cycling after eating turns more of the consumed calories into heat, resulting in faster weight loss" - according to this exercising after meal is the best way to lose weight ( as opposing to simply making you hungry faster and make u eat more) - contradicts all the preexisting theories...must be a very alternative research Really!!! Please!!!