Italian cuisine is a very good example of a Mediterranean diet, with all of the health benefits it implies (reduced risks of heart disease and cancer). If you eat well you live longer and you are happier. It is also true that the Italian food that you can buy outside of Italy is not as healthy as what you will find in Italy. If you have ever met an Italian, you would know that most Italian people really enjoy eating. So how do Italians keep fit when they eat so many dishes that are not so light? How do they manage to enjoy their food while also maintaining a healthy weight? If you are wondering about the secret way Italians stay healthy and fit while eating delicious food read about what you can learn on a cooking holiday in Italy!
The use of fresh ingredients is probably the most important feature that makes Italian food healthy. Italians prefer to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, everybody who has enough space tries to have their own garden. Italians do not really eat precooked food (and hardly ever junk food) as it makes no sense with all of the recipes from their “grandma” that would have been passed down from one generation to another. Enjoy simple and fresh food!
Diet? NO WAY! If you are on a diet you tend to force yourself into a new difficult habit too quickly and then you get frustrated because you can’t eat what you would like to. This can sometimes result in the diet not lasting very long because you have put on weight. Italians can’t say no to what they like most, so they prefer not to: a healthy extended diet is better than cutting out what you really love eating!
Italians eat leisurely. A meal for them is a time in which to relax and socialise (no TV, computer or reading). If you are relaxed you tend to eat slower and you feel full quicker. When their bodies tell them they are full, Italians stop eating and have a coffee while sitting and enjoying the company of their friends or family.
Portions are small so that there is enough food to go round (you can do un altro giro and have another portion if you are still hungry). There is no point in having a big portion because Italian meals are split up into a primo (first course) which is pasta or rice, then a secondo (second course) with meat (not only red meat!) or fish and a contorno (side dish) of vegetables (even better when seasonal and fresh). For normal meals Italians usually eat fruit instead of a proper dessert (of course special occasions are a different story).
Italians have big family meals on Sundays and for special occasions, during the rest of the week we always balance the quantity and quality of the ingredients: lean meat more often than red meat, a reasonable amount of carbohydrates, lots of fish and seasonal vegetables. Italians don’t drink soda or juices while eating, but prefer water (or a glass of wine). Italians don’t usually eat again after dinner.
Being active without realising it. After and/or before lunch and dinner most Italians need their passeggiata, a habit which is basically just a stroll during which you spend time with one or two people talking and wandering. The good thing is that generations (grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers, fathers and children) all walk together, in the countryside. A leisurely passeggiata after eating is surely what your body needs most after a meal and, most of the time, it is also what your mind needs as well.
If you are tempted to find out more about Italian food secrets why not joining Flavours cookery holidays this autumn?