“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Healthy Italian Lifestyle

Our balcony overlooking the pool in Ischia, where I swam everyday

It's summer, which means that the odds are, if you’re a woman, at some point you went on a diet to look good in your bikini or little white dress. While I mostly write about all things food, I wanted to write about the healthy Italian lifestyle. Which brings me to this….

Last summer, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I had the pleasure of spending a month in Italy. My days were spent studying opera, shopping, relaxing, sight-seeing and eating. It was really la dolce vita or the sweet life. It was a magical time. I am so excited to say that I will be going back in just a few short months.

While in Italy, my mother and I ate some of the most delicious food we have ever had. Fresh pasta, thin crust pizza, moist mozzarella, bread right out of the oven, vegetables just picked, beans, homemade pastries, creamy gelato. We tried it all. As any young female on vacation though, before I left I was a little concerned about gaining some weight.

I have always led a very healthy lifestyle. I don’t drink or smoke. I eat whole grains, fruits and vegetables and limit my intake of meat and exercise 4-6 days a week. I wanted to try to maintain that lifestyle the best way that I could in Italy, while still getting to enjoy the food that this glorious country has to offer.

So we arrived in Italy. We were in Rome for a little less than a week. By the sixth day we were in Ischia and here’s the funny thing….. my shorts were looser. I went to Italy with them fitting perfectly and within a week they were too big. I was amazed. I had not been skimping on anything. I wanted to experience all of the food and I was! In Ischia my shorts continued to get loose. And then I realized that there was a reason for all of this.

The Italians do not really eat processed food. They do not use corn syrup. While they certainly do enjoy pasta, they use it as a first course, meaning there is a lot less of it. A typical serving of pasta in America is usually two to three times bigger than a recommended portion size. Italians eat fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and beans. A serving of gelato is also nothing like a serving of ice cream here. The large serving in Italy is really more of a medium over here and while that doesn’t sound like that big of a difference, every little thing adds up.  In Rome, everyone walks everywhere. That’s exactly what my mother and I did. We walked EVERYWHERE. Except for late at night when we took a cab back to our hotel, we walked everywhere. In Ischia, our hotel had the most beautiful outdoor pool surrounded by palm trees with a view of the mountains. I swam 20 laps every day, on top of taking walks up to four times a day with my mama.
I really took to the lifestyle (except for all the smoking of course.) I could do not believe that eating all of this tempting, wonderful food was resulting in weight loss! Here is an example of a typical day of eating while in Italy.

Breakfast: Yogurt, toast with nutella or cornetto with nutella (or another tempting pastry) and a cappuccino or frappe (a coffee milkshake, yes, I had milkshakes at breakfast!)  

Lunch: In Rome- A few slices of thin crust pizza with a side of fried vegetables, capresse salad or pasta.

In Ischia- Tarallis, pesto, beans, cheese and nuts

Dinner: In Rome- Fish with a side of vegetables, pasta or pizza and a few slices of bread

In Ischia- A few slices of pizza

Dessert: Two scoops of gelato (sometimes twice a day!!)

So as you can very well see, I was not depriving myself. Like any sort of lifestyle or diet, whatever you prefer to call it, it is all about moderation and getting in some exercise. You can have your gelato and eat it too!