Food in Belgium: How to Avoid the Belgian Bulge

In a country where the national delicacies are beer, chocolate and hot chips, you're in danger of picking up a couple of extra kilos – not so much an exotic parasite.


Waiter serving Belgian waffles to customers Belgium Photo © Getty Images/Arterra

Over-indulging in Belgium is a genuine travel health issue; the tendency to overdo it can leave travelers feeling sick, and too much alcohol is a leading factor in injuries for backpackers. Even if you don't drink, others around you will, and it can get ugly.

The History of Beer in Belgium

Belgians take their beer very seriously, and the country is home to one of the greatest beer traditions in the world. In 2016, UNESCO added Belgian beer culture to the 'intangible cultural heritage of humanity' list. Beer in Belgium is as important as wine in France. Some beer brewing is governed by strict laws like those that control champagne production in France.

It's practically a religious experience. In medieval times, most beer brewing was done in monasteries, and each monastery developed a particular style, resulting in a variety of methods for brewing beer and a long list of different ingredients.

As the monasteries closed over the years, their beer brewing businesses were handed over to local commercial brewers, and many of these beers survive to this day. They are called Abbey Beers, and there are literally hundreds with a range of different tastes to choose from.

Beer drinking is entrenched in the Belgian culture – they've had hundreds of years to practice it, so don't try to keep up with the locals on your travels.

Police are cracking down on drink driving in Belgium, introducing extra checks along motorways to catch drivers who are over the legal alcohol limit of 0.05%. In 2017, more than one in 10 of all accidents that caused death or injury involved drivers who were over the legal BAC limit.

Hot Chips and Beer in Belgium

Just as you'll have no trouble locating a beer in Belgium, you won't struggle to find something tasty to go with it.

Hot chips are one of Belgium's specialties, and each village has its own friterie (a traditional kiosk serving fast food) that serves chips along with other deep fried goodies. Visit any major tourist attraction in Belgium, like the bell tower in Bruges, and you'll find a cart nearby selling hot chips.

The hardest part is choosing which sauce to dollop on top – mayonnaise is the traditional choice, but there are plenty of others to choose from.

Belgian Chocolate and Waffles

After Belgium, your next trip will probably be one to the dentist thanks to two of its other national delicacies - waffles and chocolate.

The Belgian waffle, often served with either whipped cream and strawberries or melted chocolate, has become a favorite dessert and is widely available in cafes around the country.

Walk or Cycle Off the Belgian Carbs

The good news is that it's possible to leave Belgium without too much excess baggage (and we're not talking about your suitcase).

Towns like Bruges are mostly flat and very pedestrian (and bike) friendly, so walking or cycling is a great way to burn off those extra carbs you ate after dinner. Or, perhaps go for items like chocolate-covered strawberries to slightly increase the nutritional value of your favorite treats.

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