Nutrition plays a key role in a person’s overall health and well-being. Adequate nutrition provides the nutrients necessary for growth, development, maintenance of optimal bodily functions and prevention of disease. Although each person is unique and may have individual nutritional needs, there are some general guidelines for healthy nutrition that I usually consider in consultation for those seeking an English-speaking nutritionist in Madrid.

It is true that in supermarkets or regular markets we may not find the same foods as in our home countries. However, in Madrid we can find all kinds of foods from different cultures, you just have to know where to look. That’s why, as an English-speaking nutritionist, I usually recommend different markets depending on what we are looking for. In addition, I often remind us to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure we get all the essential nutrients, to make sure we control portion sizes by learning to listen to your body’s hunger and satiety signals, and that we should also limit processed foods and added sugars to reduce health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Finally, we should exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight, strengthen muscles and bones, and improve cardiovascular and mental health.

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Specific advice for vegetarians and vegans

Vegetarians and vegans in Madrid can face some specific challenges due to the predominantly meat-centred food culture in Spain. As an English-speaker nutritionist living inn Madrid, I come across a high percentage of people who do not consume any meat and/or fish at all and who, therefore, upon moving here have certain barriers when it comes to shopping or eating out. These include:

  • Although the situation is improving, some restaurants may have limited options for vegetarians. Vegetarians may find that menus do not offer a sufficient variety of meat-free dishes. Even so, we should always make sure that the place we go to has some choice of fish if we eat fish or pulses. If we opt for the first option, it is easy, as there is a wide range of fish and seafood on offer in our country. Remember that, even if it is vegetarian or vegan, it does not have to be synonymous with healthy. For example, pasta with tomato sauce, although healthy, is not balanced.
  • Food labelling in our country is very precise, but nevertheless, vegetarians may need to pay extra attention when reading product labels to make sure that they do not contain animal ingredients or other additives, preservatives or other unhealthy ingredients. This is why we should rule out foods high in saturated fats and those with a high sugar content. For example: A veggie burger may be healthy if it contains only vegetables and pulses, but not if it contains additional ingredients.
  • It is necessary to consume a variety of vegetable proteins by including foods such as legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans...), tofu, tempeh, edamame, quinoa, nuts and seeds in your diet to ensure you get enough protein. Sometimes the gastronomic offer in our country is different from that in your home country. Therefore, as an English-speaking nutritionist in Madrid, I recommend that all meals incorporate these types of foods to help maintain muscle mass.
  • We must ensure an adequate intake of micronutrients such as vitamin B12 and calcium. Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products, so vegetarians may need supplements. Calcium can be obtained from foods such as fortified almond milk, tofu made with calcium sulphate, broccoli, kale, almonds and sesame seeds.
  • Ensuring a good intake of iron: Plant-based iron (non-heme iron) is found in foods such as spinach, chard, legumes, dried fruits and fortified cereals. Combine them with foods rich in vitamin C, such as peppers, broccoli, or citrus fruits, to improve iron absorption.

Despite these challenges that vegetarian eating in Madrid can present, our city offers a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options in restaurants, supermarkets and local markets. Many restaurants now have specific menus for vegetarians and vegans, and there are numerous shops specialising in vegetarian and vegan products. In addition, vegetarian and vegan communities in Madrid are growing, making it easier to exchange information and recommend vegetarian-friendly places.

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Specific advice for people who do sport

As an English-speaking nutritionist in Madrid that exercises quite often and play different sports, I can tell that people doing sport in Madrid may face some common dietary problems, especially if they are not receiving proper guidance on sports nutrition. This can be a problem if you also do sport outdoors where, depending on the time of year, your needs change. Also, if we have just moved to another city, we can make the mistake of eating as we did before and the type of training has changed.

  • Firstly, I see a lot in consultation that people who do sport tend to overtrain and underfeed. Some athletes can fall into the cycle of overtraining and underfeeding, which can result in decreased performance, chronic fatigue, loss of muscle mass and risk of injury. It is important to recognise the importance of proper nutrition to support recovery and athletic performance.
  • Inadequate hydration: Madrid's climate can be hot for much of the year, increasing the need for adequate hydration during exercise. Lack of adequate hydration can negatively affect athletic performance and increase the risk of dehydration and heat stroke.
  • Excessive processed foods: In Madrid, where the food culture often includes a wide variety of processed and fried foods, athletes may be tempted to consume too many foods high in empty calories, saturated fats and added sugars, which could negatively affect their health and athletic performance.
  • Plan your meals around training: Eat a meal or snack containing carbohydrates and protein approximately before exercise to provide adequate energy and nutrition. After exercise, consume a meal or snack containing carbohydrate and protein to support muscle recovery and replenish glycogen stores.
  • Dependence on supplements: Some people who play sport may rely excessively on sports supplements instead of obtaining necessary nutrients from dietary sources. If not used properly and under supervision, supplements may not be necessary and potentially have negative side effects.
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To address these dietary issues, it is important for athletes moving to another country where they do not control local foods to seek nutritional guidance specific to their individual sporting needs. Working with a registered sports nutritionist can help design a balanced eating plan that meets energy, nutrient and recovery needs to optimise sports performance and overall health.

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