Since I arrived back in the UK, I have realised how many food-related things I took for granted. Aside from all the trendy cafes and restaurants (freakshakes, never-ending variety of street food festivals, and arguably the best burgers in the world, anyone?), I am blown away by the sheer amount of healthy, affordable, high-protein food options available in the supermarkets.
This is in stark contrast to what was on offer in France (a very limited selection at, frankly, ridiculously prices) and Morocco (um… nada). In case any of my international readers are planning a trip to any of these countries, I compared the three in terms of the protein sources on offer, the quality of said foods, and the cost.
The UK’s food selection is very similar to what I have seen in the US. There is a huge market for healthy foods, and an increasing number of cafes offering healthy, protein-heavy meals.
One of my favourite cafes in London is The Good Life Eatery in Chelsea. I hate myself for admitting this, but one of the first things I did when I touched down in London was head over for a £7 smoothie. To its credit, this bad boy (containing Sun Warrior protein powder, almond hazelnut butter, banana, avocado, almond milk and raw cacao) kept me full for six hours.
There is also an increasing number of health food stores such as Whole Foods and Planet Organic popping up everywhere, offering many of the same healthy products you would find in the US. Even my local corner store stocks quinoa chips, coconut water and my favourite high-protein yoghurts.
Even the smallest corner shops stock a wide variety of high-protein, on-the-go options. These include salads, hardboiled eggs, protein shakes and bars, yoghurts, cottage cheese and even hummus and chopped veggies. In addition, there is a wide variety of meats, including chicken (breasts, thighs, mince and the whole bird), multiple types of fish, steak and sausages, as well as vegetarian options such as legumes, tofu and eggs.
Of course, the UK also has a plethora of supplement stores (like GNC) and websites offering protein powders and other products – it seems these days you can find just about any type of food infused with protein powder (I’m currently loving protein pasta!). You can place an order on a site such as My Protein (shameless plug: please use my referral code MP37983951 for a discount) or Muscle Food and receive it the next day. Talk about efficiency!
I took all of the above for granted. In Paris, you can’t even buy peanut butter, let alone protein bars! Even the larger supermarkets have a very limited selection of meats (the cheese section is always bigger than the meat section!) and the smaller shops are lucky to offer anything other than deli meat.
While Paris offers an enormous selection of yoghurts, they are always the high-sugar, low-protein flavoured varieties. Discovering Fage or Chobani yoghurt was a rare blessing.
One thing France does have a good supply of is tinned tuna and eggs – which I lived off during my time in Paris. There is also a butcher on almost every street, which the UK does not have.
During the entire three months I spent in Paris, I found only one pharmacy that stocked one brand of protein powder. There were a few large health food stores around, but they only stocked even more expensive fruits and vegetables (think €15 for a packet of strawberries) and gluten-free cakes.
That said, France is still light years ahead of Morocco. During the five weeks I spent there, I did not see a single supermarket. There are indeed some, but they are way out in the suburbs. In the cities, there are only small food stands that sell soft drinks, juices, chocolate and bread – the foundation of any healthy diet!
You can buy dead animal carcasses from vendors on the street, but let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to spend your whole trip recovering from food poisoning.
One of the sons in my host family had brought protein powder back with him after travelling to America, and he guarded it like gold.
In the UK, you can easily find regular, free range and organic meat produce in almost every supermarket. There are also numerous farmers’ markets dotted around, and most of the restaurants offer good quality meat.
Like in the US, there seems to be a push for people to eat more free range sources of meat and eggs. Due to increased options and competition, these products are not as expensive as they once were.
In France, you can also buy readily free range eggs and most butchers will offer free range produce. In my opinion, the quality of meat is superior in France compared to the UK.
You couldn’t pay me to eat the meat off the side of the road in Morocco. I’m no princess (I’ve eaten off street carts in Asia and Central America, for example), but no way am I eating meat which is literally crawling with flies and has been left out in the sun all day.
In the UK, meat and other types of protein are ridiculously cheap. I can buy a pound of chicken for £3, a fresh piece of salmon for £1.50, a dozen free range eggs for less than £2 and convenient snacks for £1-1.50 a pop. My protein powder is nonsensically cheap, at £14 per kilo.
The costs of protein-rich foods in France are about double than in the UK. While cheese, bread, pastries and wine are cheaper in France, other foods such as fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains are slightly more expensive, but meats are outrageously expensive. Some British expats living in France even do their grocery shopping in the UK!
On the regular, I paid £1.20 for a tin of tuna, £5-6 for two small chicken breasts, £5-7 for a fresh piece of fish, and £4 for a pre-made salad (I’m using old conversion rates since the pound is in the toilet at the moment!). Like in most cities, buying meat from the butcher is even more expensive.
I’m sure the costs of meat in Morocco would be very cheap, but I don’t know if it would be worth the potential salmonella.
As you can see, in terms of options and costs for high-protein foods, the UK is the winner by a landslide. It’s crazy to think that a country which is so close to England is so different in its food offerings. However, in my opinion, France is still the best country as it has baguettes and pain au chocolat!
I have learned my lesson regarding the sheer lack of protein and, when I return to Paris in August, I will take two bags of protein powder with me. I don’t even like protein powder that much, but it’s a good option to have when the other choices for protein are so few and far between.
One thing that you must remember is that gyms are still a very recent phenomenon in France. Perhaps in five years, there will be more options available as more people take up healthier lifestyles.
As for Morocco, I think the country is doomed…
Have you ever experienced a big food shock when living in a new city/country?