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Eat Healthy, Eat Italian!

Eat Healthy, Eat Italian!

Looking for advice on how to enjoy a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle? The Italians have a lot to teach us! The Italians, like other Mediterranean cultures have perfected the art of eating well while living healthily. Here are a few lesson from the Italians that we can adopt in our own lives to improve our health.

Italian Diet Secret #1: Eat Healthy Foods

A fairly small breakfast begins the day – often simply coffee with milk (not cream or half and half) and a small biscuit. A healthy lunch is composed of prima piatti (first plate) – a sandwich and salad, or a small plate of pasta and secondi piatti (second plate) a small piece of fish or chicken and vegetables.

Rather than sugar-packed snack foods, kids enjoy a mid-day snack of yogurt or fruit and adults may simply have coffee or cappuccino made with milk (not laden with heavy whipped cream).

The Mediterranean-style diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, fish a few times a week, lean meats or chicken, whole grains, olive oil, and red wine. All of this helps Italians enjoy long lives.

The dinner meal is served early enough to allow complete digestion before sleep. A typical Italian dinner might include pasta with a tomato or vegetable sauce; a small portion of fish or meat; vegetables; and fruit for dessert. Rather than heavily sweetened carbonated beverages or carb-loaded beers, mineral water is the preferred beverage, along with a glass of red wine (high in anti-oxidants). Portion sizes are kept small compared to our Godzilla-sized super-portions big enough for a small third-world nation.

Italian Diet Secret No. 2: Eat with Moderation

Italians are not big calorie-counters. Rather, when they're full, they stop eating. Simple! Their dedication to leisurely meals provides enough time for the 'I'm full' signal to reach from stomach to brain – and then they listen to it!

Italian Diet Secret # 3: Balance Quality and Quantity

Italians balance the quality and quantity of ingredients - not too much fat, just enough carbohydrates, lots of fish, chicken, and turkey, and just a little red meat.

The traditional image of the large family meal is partly myth. While families do enjoy large meals together on Sundays, the rest of the week they eat small portions of healthy foods, such as pasta, vegetables, lean meat, fish, and cheese. You will never see Italians consuming great quantities of soda or eating carb-heavy chips, junk foods, or mayonnaise.

Italian Diet Secret # 4: Keep it Simple and Fresh

Italians have learned the important lesson of a diet loaded with beans; beans are high in protein and soluble fiber and they fill you up for a long time for very few calories and at a very low cost. Pasta e fagioli is a traditional, popular 'peasants soup' made from cannellini or borlotti beans and pasta such as elbow macaroni or ditalini and cooked in a base made of olive oil, garlic, minced onion, and spices, along with stewed tomatoes or tomato paste.

Southern Italy is known for dishes made with fresh fish, herbs, artichokes, capers, and gigantic lemons. Pasta is served al dente, with a little olive oil or tomato sauce and vegetables, and always in small portions.

Italian Diet Secret #5: Eat Smart, Don't 'Diet'

Because they eat simple meals that emphasize fresh ingredients and consume right-sized portions, Italians don't need to 'diet'. They learn to eat well and only enjoy something sweet on occasion, and this way they are not frustrated.

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