This is a guest post from Kristie who blogs at Mamma Prada about the Italian diet.
For those of us who love Italian food; pasta, pizza and tiramisu. It’s a mystery how Italians are generally a very slim nation.
I’ve been married to an Italian now for over ten years. These are the tips I’ve gleaned from watching his friends and family.
What to eat in the morning
Breakfast is always very light with a small black or white coffee, even a cappuccino is dramatically smaller than you find in the UK. Coffee is drunk together with a couple of biscuits or a cornetto, which is a small croissant if you are having breakfast outside the home.
After 11am or after meals, milky coffees are no longer drunk due to the effect the milk has on your digestion.
Banish the snacks
Italians aren’t keen on snacks, they tend to eat decent sized meals and then abstain in between. They don’t have the same devotion to crisps and nibbles. There are only a couple of flavours of crisps in each supermarket and these are normally just ready salted or rosemary! They enjoy them but usually just as part of an aperitivo before dinner.
Fresh is best
Most Italian foods are based around the freshest produce. Many people shop daily and locally. Others grow much of their own vegetables and share with neighbours and family. Due to the hotter weather, it’s normal to get considerable crops from your gardens and you then use what you have even if you’re eating courgettes for months! Doesn’t the below bruschetta look amazing?
Fats and diet foods
Whilst here in the UK you can find ready made meals which are created by diet brands, this is very unusual in Italy. People try to eat healthier if they are dieting rather than consuming ‘diet products’. For example they don’t opt for the sweetner with 0 calories they just cut out sugar.
When it comes to fats they use butter only for cooking particular meals (it’s never put on bread) and mainly stick to using olive oil.
The British/American custom of dipping bread into olive oil and balsamic vinegar doesn’t exist in Italy. Bread is only served with certain meals (not with pizza) and olive oil is considered too precious to use in this way.
We all love the idea of Italians magically inhaling huge plates of pasta and staying trim. However the way Italians eat their favourite dish is really the key to keeping off the weight.
A primo (starter) is when you have your pasta dish. This is normally a small portion of around 80-100g of pasta. Served with finely chopped vegetables in the sauce or meat or fish which is cooked for a long time so the pieces are very small or the same size as the pasta shape.
This makes the meal; smaller than the portion size we are used to. Very easy to digest due to the size of the pieces and when eaten as a vegetarian option this type of meal uses the food combining method of only eating carbohydrates and vegetables together.
The second course (secondo) is then meat or fish with just vegetables. The portion of meat or fish is smaller than what we would expect because you’ve just eaten a plate of pasta. Plus again you are only giving your body protein and vegetables to manage together which is easier for the body to process.
What about the Prosecco?
Throughout the day people stick to water and barely any fizzy drinks.
If you go out to a bar then you could have an alcoholic drink. However it’s normal for people not to drink alcohol at all and to have a Sprite, Limonata or a Crodino. Alcohol is consumed in much smaller quantities and it’s common to have just one drink in the whole evening and not to drink unless you are eating. This is why you are offered some nibbles with drinks during aperitivo time.
As you can see the key with the Italian diet is to strip back a lot of our modern conveniences and use just local, fresh food. Allow yourself to really enjoy each meal and make it a great one so you don’t need to snack. Eating the Italian way can then be very healthy and easy to incorporate into your lifestyle.
To read all my posts with tips and experiences of various diets, exercises and lots more check out my comprehensive Weight Loss section.
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