Just adjusting to the schedule can be hard; about 80% of the day’s calories are eaten after 2 o’clock. Rather than giving you some idealistic Mediterranean diet idea, I’ll write a brief overview of what, and when, a Spaniard eats during a day.
Breakfast. Around 8 o’clock.
Cookies. Cafe con leche (espresso with a lot of milk).
First snack. Around 11:30.
Another coffee. A bocadillo (small, simple sandwich, usually ham and white bread)
Lunch. Around 2:30. Largest meal of the day.
For example: pasta or soup, followed by salad, followed by a piece of meat, chicken or fish with french fries. Always served with loaves of white bread. Followed by a small desert, usually a yogurt, a piece of fruit, and finally another coffee.
Second snack (called a merienda). Around 5 o’clock.
Piece of cake or cookies and possibly a chocolate milk with churros (pretty interchangeable with breakfast).
Tapas (optional, more of a weekend/late week thing). Around 8 o’clock after work.
Small beers, olives, chips, small plates of ham, paella, patatas bravas or tortilla.
Dinner. Around 10 o’clock.
Salad with pasta and a smaller piece of meat than at lunch. A heavier option is meat, french fries and eggs is quite common, all fried in olive oil. Followed possibly by more yogurt or cookies and fruit. Served with bread and beer or wine.
In sum, Spaniards eat a lot. I’d venture to say more than the average American, as ridiculous as that sounds. But they have some things in their favor to protect them against our towering obesity epidemic. First, they are southern Europeans, who seem to put on less weight; second, they walk and move around a lot and sleep very little. They also smoke more and certainly incorporate more vegetables into the diet than most Americans.
Currently, however, obesity is becoming an epidemic, as in most developed countries, so soon their children may be as puffy as your average American. Some of my friends have told me that Spaniards did not used to eat this much, mainly because of years of poverty. Nowadays, huge quantities of olive oil and bread cost much less than they do in the States; a loaf of bread can be got for less than 40 cents, and a large bottle of olive oil for a couple of Euros.
Now that I’m basically on the Spanish schedule—though I don’t think I’ll start eating cookies for breakfast any time soon—I actually rather like it.