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Healthy dining options in Barcelona?

My boyfriend and I are visiting Spain for 10 days next week. We'll see friends in Madrid for a few days, then head to Barcelona for four nights (Nov 1- Nov 4), Girona for 1 night, and rioja wine region for the last weekend with our Spanish friends. Living in New York City, I would consider myself a foodie and have been lucky to enjoy some of the best restaurants around the world both here and abroad. That being said, I am incredibly nervous about 10 days of eating tapas. I'm a very health-conscious woman and would like to avoid eating heavy meals and fried tapas the entire trip. Please help with some guidance!

1. General Question: What are the "healthiest" tapas options? What key terms should I avoid?

2. Barcelona: I have been reviewing the board for the top restaurant choices. Are there any top restaurants known for being organic or "clean" preparation? I tend to learn toward seafood, raw or cooked, to avoid cream, butter, sauce etc. Any lunch recommendations for good salads or simply prepared seafood? We are staying at the Passeig de Gracia.

3. Girona: I have tried to get a reservation at Cellar de Can Roca, but they only offered lunch and we are cycling. Any hints on how to get a reservation? What would the second best option be in the area?

4. Rioja: If by chance anyone knows some must-see wineries, please share. I really enjoy unique experiences such as sensory tastings etc.

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  1. "1. General Question: What are the "healthiest" tapas options? What key terms should I avoid?

    Avoid nothing. Barcelona ingreidnets are not known for any kind of pollution or toxicity. I don't quite understand your concern. Mediterraneans are much healthier than , excuse me, your countryfolk, therefore don't worry.

    "2.Are there any top restaurants known for being organic or "clean" preparation? I tend to learn toward seafood, raw or cooked, to avoid cream, butter, sauce etc."

    Avoiding cream butter sauce is not necessarily healthy but it's your choice...
    I strongly suggest you go for what is best in Barcelona Catalan cuisine, and try to pay less attention to your habitual dietary habits. You live wherever you live everyday, but you go to a fantastic special eating town like Barcelona perhaps less often than everyday, so just enjoy the experience.

    "3. Any lunch recommendations for good salads or simply prepared seafood?"

    Barcelona swims in seafood. Near the Passeig de Gracia, there are many good eateries, including a lot that we talk about all the time, including recently, which you can easily research. If you are allergic to sophisicated preparations, tapas bars like Cerveceria Catalana (not far from you), El Quim and Cal Pep have delicious simple sautéed seafood .

    "`Girona: I have tried to get a reservation at Cellar de Can Roca, but they only offered lunch and we are cycling. Any hints on how to get a reservation? What would the second best option be in the area?"

    Can Roca is unique. Cycle when you get home, have a great meal chez Can Roca.

    Bon voyage.

    1 Reply
    1. There is much truth to Parigi's response but I'll try to be more sympathetic.
      From my many visits to Barcelona, I have never considered the food to be unhealthy or heavy though I am not much of a health expert. If you can be more specific: other than avoiding animal fat and deep frying, what else do you consider "heath conscience"? This might help getting others to comment. First is don't expect the meat to be completely trimmed of fat as fat paranoia does not exist to the extend as in the US. One thing is that portion size is smaller and many dishes, meat such as pork is use as a "flavoring" and a complimentary role. You will find plenty of non-fried food: plancha, sauteeing and braising are very common. You will not run into leafy salads often though there are plenty of vegetables served room temperature. Plenty of seafood in just about every type of restaurants. Rice are very popular, so is bread in pintxos places if you want to avoid carbo. One thing I’ve found is the heavy use of salt which is difficult to avoid
      1. There is such a variety of tapas that it is difficult to list them. I would copy pages from a good guidebook such as Time Out that has a good glossary of food terms. It will give you Spanish as well as Catalan words for the types of meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, etc.
      2. I do not know any restaurants that only uses only organic products in Barcelona. Generally, better restaurants source their products better. You will rarely find butter or cream used except in desserts. Olive oil is use liberally. Leafy salads are rarely seen in traditional tapas/pintxos places. There are several chains that has all one can eat salad bars. El Ravel has many newer eclectic places that claim to be organic as well offering salads of all sorts. Much of it is not what we would consider traditional. Unless you are doing modern Catalan cooking, most seafood are simply prepared without heavy sauces. One will find raw seafood and more complicated (not heavy) seafood dishes at modern Catalan restaurants. Your staying at the Pg de Gracias is not relevant as the center of Barcelona is very compact. Do stay away from the eating places on the beginning of the Pg.
      3. El Celler de Can Roca: if they are booked out for dinner, the only advice is call them early of the day if there is a cancellation. If you are into the best ingredients simply prepared, an alternative is Hispania in Arenys de Mar. It is on the coast rather than inland of Girona. The cooking is rather traditional, not molecular. Much of the produce, meat and produce are grown, raised or caught especially for them.

      1. Re: Girona,

        Not quite sure what the issue is here.
        Lunch at Can Roca is virtually identical to dinner - 3* restaurants in Spain generally have the same menu at lunch (if they are open). And you'd be very lucky to get into ANY 3* place for dinner anywhere in the world with only 1-2 weeks notice (unless you lucked into a cancellation).

        Also, Girona is about 100km from Barcelona - and Rioja is maybe 500 km from Girona. If you can cycle to Rioja in even 2 days, then you should be able to cycle from Barcelona to Girona in time for lunch.

        There is also a good train link to Girona - could take your cycles on that all or part way.

        2 Replies
        1. re: estufarian

          Excellent train to Girona from BCN. On weekends it is packed with cyclists and their bikes. Great place to ride, that's why so many professionals (like Lance, among others) live and train there.

          I found an excellent healthy restaurant in Gracia called La Llavor dels Origens (c/Ramon i Cajal, 12) that features Catalan cuisine and wines, and "ecological" (organic?) meats and vegetables. Great restaurant! They also have 2 locations in el Born and one in L'Eixample. I've only been to the one in Gracia. They have a good website; check it out at www.lallavordelsorigens.com .

          1. re: ciclista

            PS- Re: Girona. I found a terrific restaurant in Girona called Cafe le Bistrot. Wonderful food!! What a lovely way to spend an afternoon. It was funny...I asked for a menu in castellano because my catalan is just ok, and the waitress said, "Hmmm. We don't have any in castellano...only catalan or English!" Gotta love those catalanes tan orgullosos! Take that, Franco!


        2. Do not miss Can Roca!!!!!

          1. Barcelona has way better restaurants than New York...and healthier, cleaner all around. Just avoid the tourist traps as in New York...Most Spanish restaurants only use olive oil. I think you have no idea as to what Spanish food (not Mexican, Peruvian, Brazilian, Cuban, etc.) is all about....Oh and also avoid Dunkin Donuts, McDonald's...

            1. If you stick with the seafood you won't have to worry about "healthy,' it will come naturally. (though as everyone has said already, "healthy" food is not a singular scientific reality. Why compromise 10 days of fun and cultural experience over something so dubious as nutrition science.)

              Coming from America the biggest difference you'll see is in the seafood. Most of what you eat in NY, even at the best restaurants, would be sub-par at a typical Barcelona seafood stand.

              If you're looking to avoid fried things, look out for anything "a la Romana." Calamares a la romana are fried calamari (But most places tend to be pretty good at frying and a well fried squid is no oilier than a grilled one most times)

              The simple seafood you're asking for is anything "a la plantxa" (plancha) - simply cooked on the plantxa (a sort of griddle) and served, maybe with some oil (or parsley and/or a bit of garlic).

              Since you are not looking for sauces or too much embellishment, you might do well skipping the fancy places and trying a few simple neighborhood restaurants. Barceloneta is a great place to find fresh, simple seafood but not necessarily a ton of comfort.

              1 Reply
              1. re: caganer

                Agree to all but wonder where you got your elegant nom de guerre?