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The Typical Diet in Spain

author image Berit Brogaard
Dr. Berit Brogaard has written since 1999 for publications such as "Journal of Biological Chemistry," "Journal of Medicine and Philosophy" and "Biology and Philosophy." In her academic research, she specializes in brain disorders, brain intervention and emotional regulation. She has a Master of Science in neuroscience from University of Copenhagen and a Ph.D. in philosophy from State University of New York at Buffalo.
The Typical Diet in Spain
Paella is a popular Spanish rice dish that originated in Valencia. Photo Credit: Denira777/iStock/Getty Images

In Spain, the typical diet consists in a small breakfast, a midday snacks, a large afternoon lunch, a late afternoon snack and a late evening meal. The Spanish diet consists of a lot of foods high in carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, fried potatoes, rice dishes, sweet rolls and hot sweet chocolate. Fish, eggs, pork sausage, cheese, herbs and spices are also common ingredients of the Spanish diet.

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Spanish people typically do not eat much in the morning. Traditionally, they start off with a café con leche, which is strong coffee with frothy hot milk, accompanied by wheat crackers, a slice of toast or a croissant with cheese or jam. Churros, fried doughnut-like pastries topped with sugar and served with hot sweet chocolate are also common in the morning. Occasionally, breakfast will consist in a Spanish omelet with ham or a toasted roll spread with crushed tomato, olive oil and salt.


Traditionally, lunch is the biggest meal in Spain. It is served in the afternoon during siesta, which typically lasts from 2 to 5 p.m. Lunch often contains several dishes. It may start with a soup or raw cured ham, followed by a meat or fish dish and then a desert. The appetizer and main meal typically contain large amounts of garlic and olive oil. Bread is always served on the side for dipping in the sauces and oils. Traditional Spanish dishes include grilled sardines, basque tuna and potato casserole, chickpeas with sausage and paella, a saffron rice dish containing fish or chicken. The tradition of eating the largest meal at lunch, while still common, is, however, slowly changing because many people have long commutes to work, which prevents them from going home for lunch. American culture is also slowly having an impact on the Spanish culture.


Supper is typically served between 9 p.m. and midnight. In Spain, supper is much lighter than lunch and may consist of a Spanish potato omelet, a salad or a bowl of gazpacho, a cold soup made from tomato and other vegetables. Supper is almost always served with a green salad on the side. Sometimes, the evening meal is restricted to tapas, which is a light snack that consists of a variety of appetizer-like items, such as fried rings of squid, shrimp, sausage, meatballs, ham, salami, cheeses and olives.


Most Spanish people who follow a traditional diet eat two additional meals a day, one around noon and another around 6 p.m. Around noon, tapas, which are small-sized meals like appetizers, are a popular snack choice. When tapas are eaten as a midday snack, they tend to be lighter than tapas served for supper. A typical tapas dish is a small portion of garlic mushrooms, meatballs or cured ham. Bread with ham or salami is a common late afternoon snack, mostly eaten by children.

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