The Central European and Russian diet is comprised mainly of animal protein, vegetables, and fruits. Foods are prepared most often either baked or boiled. Garlic, cabbage, pumpkin, and onion are staples of diets in these regions. Dairy is often consumed as milk, sour cream, cheese, and yogurt. Popular herbs and spices include basil and paprika.
The socioeconomic situation in the democratic part of Europe, the Soviet bloc, and in the United States after World War II played a part in the development of the central European and Russian diet. The United States and the European democratic states were prosperous countries with effective economies and a rich variety of all kinds of foods. The Communist states, however, had ineffective centralized economies and lower standards of living. The amount of various foods, especially foods of animal origin, was almost always insufficient in the USSR and the majority of its satellite countries. Data on food consumption compiled by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) confirm that meat consumption between 1961 and 1990 was substantially lower in the USSR, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria than in Western Europe or the United States. Similarly, the consumption of milk and butter in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania was significantly lower in comparison with Western and Northern Europe.
Diets from this region have developed in response to numerous factors including climate, environmental agriculture, and influences of neighboring countries and cultures.
Borshch is a traditional soup of the region and is made primarily with beets, vegetables, and meat. Pastries called pirozhki may include fillings of potatoes, cabbage, meat, or cheese. Fish is also a staple, including caviar.
Grain products serve as a foundation for hearty food substances, such as breads and cereals, providing fiber and carbohydrates in the diet. Meat and fish allow for high intake of protein and minerals. Dairy products, such as eggs and cheese, serve as important sources of calcium.
With the collapse of Communism, higher consumption of healthful food has occurred, including a substantial increase in the consumption of fruit and vegetables, a decrease in butter and fatty milk consumption, and an increase in the consumption of vegetable oils and high-quality margarines.
High prevalence of smoking and alcoholism has been an important factor in high cardiovascular disease mortality rates, especially in Russia. Alcoholism has evidently played a key role in the extremely high incidence of cardiovascular disease mortality, as well as in the numbers of accidents, injuries, suicides, and murders. There is no way to determine a reliable estimation of the actual consumption of alcohol in Russia, since alcohol is being smuggled into the country on a large scale.
Trends in lifestyle, smoking, food selection, alcohol consumption, and other areas will be determined by both economic and political factors. The successfulness of continued economic transformation will be a key factor in improving diet choices, nutritional options, and the health status in post-Communist countries.
Traditional cuisine of the central European and Russian diet has long been adhered to by individuals of these regions, dating back to Medieval days, with continued intake of many of the same foods during modern times. Individuals from these regions maintain celebrations (such as Maslenitsa) and feasts that still include foods and favorite dishes from long-held traditions.
See also High-protein diet ; Protein .
Bender, David A. A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. 4th ed. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Kindle edition.
Counihan, Carole, and Penny Van Esterik, eds. Food and Culture. 4th ed. New York: Routledge, 2018.
World Health Organization. “European Health for All Family of Databases.” http://www.euro.who.int/hfadb (accessed March 20, 2018).
World Health Organization, Avenue Appia 20, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland, +41 22 791-2111, Fax: +41 22 791-3111, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.who.int .
Revised by Laura Jean Cataldo, RN, EdD