I would be effortlessly healthy…if I lived in Morocco
Last month, I traveled to the NW corner of Africa, to the land of bellydancers, camels, kasbahs, ancient medina cities and the Sahara. After spending many-a-milestone dinner at Buckhead’s famed Imperial Fez or Inman Park’s now-extinct Casbah (remember that place?), I had long-dreamed of a culinary expedition to Morocco.
A 10th anniversary gave me the excuse to do just that. So I set out on an edible adventure, indulging in every local delicacy that I could get my right hand on. It wasn’t until the flight home, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, that I realized my clothes were fitting a little bit looser.
What the…how did that happen?
Let’s take a culinary tour through a typical day in Morocco…
We started our day with Omelet Tajine with fresh tomatoes, onions and spices, served with Moroccan Mint Tea. It was so delicious and filling that I didn’t even notice the healthful benefits of this protein powerhouse meal complete with a serving of fresh, organic veggies and antioxidant-rich, metabolism boosting green tea.
While walking, walking and more walking in the pedestrian-only ancient medina, we admire gorgeous oranges growing in the city trees. Right on cue, we spot an OJ stand. Perfect timing for a mid-morning refreshment.
Morocco is known for their freshly-squeezed orange juice, and (sorry Florida) it really is the best. Unlike the processed OJ that you find on the shelf at your friendly American grocer, this stuff is the real deal. No added sugars; just pure pulpy 100% orange rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C. Ahh, a thirst-quenching, natural energy booster. Just what we needed to fuel a good-natured haggling session shopping in the souks.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day for Moroccans, and warrants a two hour break for this indulgent multi-course meal.
A common first course is a chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion (sometimes olives and artichoke too) with fresh parsley, cilantro and cumin, marinated in a light olive oil and vinegar lime dressing. Served cold, this juicy garden-fresh salad is a refreshing welcome on a sun-drenched Marrakech afternoon. This instantly became one of my favorite dishes from the trip that I could eat over-and-over again (and I did). This salad is rich in essential nutrients, low calorie, and the olive oil adds just the right amount of healthy fat.
The main course is almost always (surprise, surprise)…tajine. This iconic Moroccan dish is a stew of meat and veggies, spices, and sometimes fruits and nuts, slow-cooked on a bed of oil in a conical earthenware pot. The slow cooking brings out the natural flavors and juices, making this dish taste absolutely sinful, yet it earns a gold star for being the role model of a well-balanced course. On Friday, the holy day, Moroccans often eat a 7-vegetable couscous.
For desert? Always fruit. Restaurants often serve your table a whole fruit basket of the season’s freshest bounty. My favorite? Orange wedges sprinkled with cinnamon. Why didn’t I think of that before?!?! So simple, and absolutely genius. Oh yes, and also, let’s not forget the mint tea.
More Walking, More Shopping, More…Tea?
In case you haven’t already guessed it, Moroccans love their tea. It is the cornerstone of Moroccan hospitality. We were kindly offered tea with every meal, every handshake, and every rug shop negotiation session. Even a nomadic goat herder invited us into his home (in the middle-of-nowhere Sahara desert) for tea! Don’t you dare turn it down, or you’ll insult your host.
We easily drank tea 3-5 times a day, which just-so-happens to be the recommended intake for optimal cancer-fighting and metabolism-boosting health benefits. Although the locals do love to load it up with sugar cubes, it isn’t an issue to get it served plain, and we preferred it that way.
Dinner is usually leftovers from lunch, but of course as travelers, we couldn’t pass up a fancy meal complete with bellydancers. We admit, this was the most touristy thing we did during our visit, but it sure was fun. The menu was very similar to lunch; more yummy & guilt-free deliciousness.
Morocco really has this healthy thing figured out
Perfectly balanced meals with protein, healthy grains, veggies and fruit.
Fresh herbs and spices add flavor without adding calories.
Abundance of local produce.
Lots of walking. Pedestrian-friendly lifestyle makes burning calories effortless.
Lunch as the main meal. No big meals before bed, which is a metabolism-killer.
Scarce fast food. We covered a lot of ground — from the coast to the mountains to the desert — and only saw two.
Little-to-no alcohol, pork, dairy. Tis’ the Islamic way.
No added chemicals like MSG and artificial sweeteners that are common in the U.S.
Healthy superfood ingredients like chickpeas, fava beans, cumin, tumeric, ginger.
Copious amount of tea. Don’t forget to watch that sugar intake!
Ashlee is our marketing gal, a 10-year veteran of the HomeGrown family. She enjoys good food, camping, photography, and spending time with her husband and two-year-old son. Other travels include Iceland, Cuba, Thailand, Peru, France, Italy, Costa Rica, Mexico, St. Lucia and others that she cannot remember at the time of writing. Her favorite Dragon Bowl is the Ancient Grains Superfood Bowl.