Italian cuisine is known for being delicious. It gave us the wonders of pasta and pizza. You might not know that it’s also one of the healthiest cuisines out there, with lots of fresh produce and healthy fats. Italians boast a remarkably low obesity rate. Let’s take a look at some of their eating habits that we should all adopt.
You won’t see an Italian shoveling food into their mouth in a rush and hyping back to their desk still chewing the last bite. Nope, they make a point of mindfulness at mealtime. In fact, it’s not unusual for workers to go back home on their lunch break.
More than 50% of the Italian populace considers eating a legitimate leisure activity. It’s also often a social affair. The point is to enjoy good food in good company. Meals are a time for catching up with friends and loved ones and appreciating delicious foods prepared with lots of attention.
You don’t have to have lunchtime hangouts if that doesn’t appeal to you, of course. But definitely do take a leap from the Mediterranean book and slow down. Eating at a more leisurely pace is one of the best things you can do for your diet.
Firstly, it lets you enjoy your meals more, and notice all the scents and aromas. Secondly, when you give your stomach enough time to catch up with your palate, you avoid overeating. It actually takes a moment for the feeling of fullness to register in your brain. We overeat because the good taste keeps us going after the hunger is already satiated.
Eating mindfully helps you get in better touch with your body’s digestive system. You’ll get better at noticing when you’re not hungry anymore. This means that you feel full with smaller portions, which can help you lose weight. You stop overloading your stomach. It becomes easier to digest the food, so you save yourself some bloating, heartburn, and other unpleasant effects of overeating.
Consider adopting the Italian habit of family-style dining. This can be with your actual family, friends, or colleagues. Go eat as a group and share. Italian cuisine is popular throughout Europe and beyond, in the Americas, Asia, and Australia. We guarantee that your local restaurant staff would love to see you embracing this aspect of their culture.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with nutrition, it’s about the link between physical, mental, and emotional health. Humans are social creatures. Sharing food is a powerful way to form new bonds and strengthen existing ones. Strong social bonds, in turn, have many positive effects on your wellbeing.
They improve your mental health and emotional resilience because you have a network and feel supported. You also become more altruistic, because food and sharing are something we all have in common. Good social relationships also reduce the mortality rate.
As a bonus, it’s just fun to share dishes. You can order several different courses, have some of each, and nothing gets wasted, instead of feeling stuck with one or two options portioned to a single person.
Italians cook with wholesome ingredients and practically zero processed or prepackaged stuff. This is so deeply ingrained in the culture that you’ll see it in Italian chefs all around the globe. A quality Italian restaurant in Western Sydney will have the same approach to its menu as one located in the heart of Milano.
This cuisine boasts a rich palette of fresh fruit, vegetables, unrefined whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish. Red meat is present in very small amounts. Of course, there’s also the trademark olive oil. All of this guarantees a diet packed full of healthy omega fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and good protein.
One interesting food trend to note is that Italians have some kind of pasta dish several times a week. This might sound bad (especially if you want to slim down), but the secret is in moderation. The individual servings are actually fairly small, around 100 grams (approximately 3.5 ounces).
Altogether, it’s a rich, tasty, filling diet, great for your health. Since there are so many fruits and veggies featured, little red meats, and no unhealthy fats, it’s great for your heart. They insist on fresh ingredients with no additives, so there’s much less risk of obesity.
The cuisine is friendly to people with chronic conditions, intolerances, and restrictive diets. Many dishes can easily be adapted to cater to vegans or plant-based eaters.
You don’t have to suddenly become a connoisseur and have a bottle with every meal. Just consider having an occasional drink or using it as an ingredient. Red wine enhances the flavor of many dishes, so you’ll find it in numerous Italian recipes. Sauces are the first idea, but it’s really quite versatile.
If you like to cook your own meals, consider learning a few wine-based recipes. They will add that bit of refined zing to your lunches or dinners, especially when you have friends over. Red wine also has health benefits, particularly for the heart. The trick is to have it in moderation: one or two glasses per day.
Everyone’s metabolism works differently, but if you can, try to have larger portions at lunch and smaller ones at dinnertime. We won’t get into your breakfast habits: maybe you just can’t eat much right out of bed and that’s okay. If you have a big meal before bedtime, though, it can mess up your sleep cycle.
Your body will be burdened with digesting a lot of food, instead of slowing down to rest. On the flip side, if you don’t have a big enough lunch, you will lack calories when awake. This means lower energy levels and lower productivity.
Italian cuisine is more than a cooking style, it’s a philosophy. Adopt their mindful, wholesome approach, and enjoy a healthier, happier life.