Food & Drink

The German Diet – Bratwurst & Schnitzel Still King?

For a nation that loves its bratwurst and schnitzel, the German diet has changed over recent years to include more healthy options and international cuisine.

As is often the case with clichés, they may be some truth in them, but pork knuckle, dumplings and litre tankards of beer aren’t part of an average person’s daily menu in Germany.

Although many Germans still eat a comparatively large amount of meat, most people now favour a more modern and healthy way of cooking. In fact Germany isn’t even in the world’s top ten when it comes to eating meat. The USA heads the rankings with 122 kilograms per person per year.

Before you start to panic, don’t worry, Germans still love their meat. EurActiv recently reported on the Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection’s latest nutrition report, detailing the German diet and eating habits. A majority of Germans continue to eat more meat than the European average. According to the ministry’s report, which Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Christian Schmidt (CSU) presented in Berlin, 83% of respondents said that they would eat meat several times a week.

German diet meats

The Three S’s

In particular, men cannot seem to go without their schnitzel, salami and steak. Some 47% of men eat meat on a daily basis, whereas for women, the figure is 22%. Only 3% of respondents said that they never eat meat. In terms of vegetarians, 6% of women said that they never eat meat, but only 1% of men said the same. Germany finds itself topping the European table in terms of meat consumption along with Denmark, Spain and Portugal.

The results of the report show that Germans’ consumption of meat and ready-made products has stayed rather constant, although 70% of respondents said that they believe that their diet is healthy and balanced. While nutrition experts advise that individuals consume a maximum of 300-600 grams of meat a week, about 30 kg a year, the statistics show that the actual figure is somewhere around 61 kg, in addition to the consumption of pasta, which a third of those surveyed said was their preferred meal. Furthermore, around 30 kg of each German’s yearly intake comes from animal feed, industrially-recycled products or ends up in the bin.

The general change in lifestyle has modified traditional German eating habits considerably. Many Germans, for instance, now eat their main meal at dinner time rather than at midday and the classic German breakfast is often substituted by an American style breakfast with cereals.

Foreign cuisines have become an integral part of the German diet, and Italian favourites such as pizza and pasta are now as common in Germany as they are anywhere else. Most German towns, no matter how small, have an Italian restaurant and ice cream parlour. Some new foreign cuisines have also been introduced to Germany, due in part to the many migrants from southern and central Europe, whilst Turkish specialities like Döner Kebab and Börek have been around for many years. In bigger cities you will often see Greek and Yugoslavian restaurants while Asian food has also become very popular. Less noticeable, but typically German, are the many Schnellimbiss stalls which offer German variations of fast food like Currywurst, (fried sausage with a spicy tomato sauce) Pommes Frites (chips), Kartoffelsalat, (potato salad) and Frikadellen, (meat balls).

German diet meat

Contrary to popular belief, Germans aren’t the world champions in this field; they’re not even European champions. That distinction goes to the Czechs, who drink an average of 144 litres a year. The Germans are lagging behind with an annual per-capita consumption of 107 litres. And consumption is falling at the rate of about two litres per person per year. Instead, the Germans are turning more and more to mineral water, of which they drink almost 150 litres every year. The Germans can’t even maintain their image as “potato kings”. They eat about 60 kilograms a year, which is no comparison to Russia (250 kilos) or Ukraine (200 kilos). Bringing up the rear in the consumption rankings is, in fact, South America, where the potato originally came from.

German Diet – Daily Eating Habits

Frühstück (Breakfast)

The classic German breakfast consists of a variety of breads and rolls, honey, jam, and coffee or tea. For those who prefer a savoury start to the day cheese and cold meats are also served. For a more lavish breakfast you may also be offered a boiled egg, yoghurt or quark (a very popular cream cheese), fruit and muesli or cornflakes.

Mittagessen (Lunch)

Traditionally the midday meal is eaten quite early (between twelve and one o’clock) and is the main meal of the day. More often than not it consists of potatoes, vegetables and meat. In Catholic areas no meat was eaten on Fridays with a fish or egg dish being served instead.

Kaffee und Kuchen (Coffee and Cake)

On Sundays an additional snack is often served in the afternoon. A variety of cakes are prepared and offered to family and friends. In Germany you will often be invited “zum Kaffeetrinken” (meaning coffee and a substantial intake of cake) rather than lunch or dinner. The cakes that are served depend largely on the season. In summer, for instance, you might be getting a freshly made plum or strawberry cake (Pflaumenkuchen, Erdbeerboden) whereas in winter you might be offered a Christstollen or Früchtebrot which are both made with dried rather than fresh fruit. The variety of cakes available in Germany is countless and some have become quite well known outside Germany, like the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Gateau) and Apfelstrudel.

Abendbrot (Dinner)

The dinner is often eaten at about six o’clock. As the name suggests (Abendbrot, literally evening bread), it is usually a cold meal served with different kinds of bread, a selection of cheese, cold meat and salad. A small hot dish (often leftovers or a soup) may also be served. Many people take black or herbal tea with the meal. Since most Germans start their day fairly early they tend to eat their meals earlier in the day than Irish people. Restaurants serving traditional German food often do not provide hot meals after ten o’clock.

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