Italian food has a reputation for being heavy and is usually avoided for dieters and health conscious people. With that in mind I was surprised when I visited Italy that everyone seemed to be in such good shape! It didn’t make sense, how can they have all of these carb and fat heavy dishes and still maintain their figure? After a few days and a few meals I soon realized how they did it!
A lot of the downtown areas are very walkable and everyone is walking around, to the grocery store, farmers market, to work, for lunch…you get the idea. Italy is also FILLED with parks and they are never empty! There are always people strolling around, taking advantage of the huge green areas to relax and unwind. Green areas are proven to decrease stress and improve your hormones!
Slow it down
Mealtimes are quite a leisurely experience with locals often enjoying a glass of wine at lunch even during the work week. So eat like a local and stop in between bites to have a conversation or to look around. Eating slowly allows your body time to digest and send a signal to your brain when you’re full.
Large breakfasts are not part of the custom in Italy. in Italy. A pastry and a coffee make for a typical breakfast. Coffee drinks aren’t very sugary but very traditional, like a shot of espresso or a light cappuccino.
The food is lighter!
Despite how Italian food is served outside of Italy, with heaps of cheese and oil, traditional Italian food is a lot simpler. They use very fresh, natural ingredients and stick to the basics. Salt isn’t heavily used and even cream based sauces are light relative to what you may be used to. The majority of the diet comes from plants, a small amount of dairy, hardly any red meat, and a healthy serving of good-for-you fats. Stick to local restaurants “off the beaten path” where there are no english menus or people standing outside calling you in to eat.
Earn your desserts
Like we said earlier Italian cities are very walkable and beautiful to explore by foot or bike. Make sure the pedometer feature is turned on in your smartphone (usually part of a health app) and set a goal of steps before you can have a scoop of gelato or taste a rich cannoli. If you choose to try a gelato, look for artisinal (“artigianale” in Italian) for homemade gelato as they use real fruit and nuts instead of syrups – you’ll immediately be able to tell the difference not just by taste but also by color. The processed gelato often served to tourists will be really bright, sometimes almost neon-like colors.