Italians like to eat. They REALLY like to eat. And who can blame them? Pasta, pizza, risotto, olive oil, parmesan, gorgonzola, pecorino, mozzarella, parma ham, bresaola, speck, salami, tiramisu, Amadei chocolate… not to mention all those scrummy wines, from the well known Chianti and Pino grigio to the less well known but equaly wonderful Aglianico and Franciacorta.
Yes food in Italy is pretty damn good. So good in fact that you end up asking yourself the million dollar question… How do they all stay so slim? Well I asked myself the same question when I first got here, as I started to (inevitably) put on some weight – not much, I’m too vain for that – but some, nontheless. Then I realised: You don’t just have to EAT like and Italian, you have to LIVE like one! So, here are the rules you need to eat (and live) like an Italian:
1. Eat a light breakfast. Many Italians don’t eat breakfast at all, and those that do often just go for a small croissant (and I mean small, not US portions) and a coffee, which migt be an espresso or a cappuccino. You would never catch an Italian eating a full English breakfast!
2. Take a long lunch. After little or no breakfast, you will be ravenous. If you try to rush lunch now, you will just end up eating far too much. So take it slow – the company I work for in Italy has a lunch break of 1hour 30minutes, and most entrepreneurs take even longer. Sandwiches at your desk? Not a chance. Our offices look like the Marie Celeste at 13.15, and you know what? It makes people MORE productive, not less.
3. Eat a full six course meal. Yes, you read that correctly, six as in 6. Antipasto, primo, secondo, contorno, frutta e dolce. Oh, and a coffee of course. Look at it this way, if you cut the portions right down (and Italians often do, with the portions being smaller than the the US or the UK and them sharing them between them despite this) you get: starters with cheese and cold meats, to fill a corner and for proteins, fats and calcium, a small pasta dish for carbs, a small potion of meat for lean protein, a potion of vegetables for vitamins, minerals and fibre, fruit for the same reason, and desert… well, for your psychological wellfare. Then the espresso is needed to give you the kick to get back to work.
4. Drink red wine. The Italians and the French both drink copious amounts of the stuff and are fit and slim despite not following strict diets. I’m not sure if this works or if there is any science behind it, but I am happy to have a small glass with dinner each night. You know, just in case.
5. Eat in company. Rather than mindlessly muching in front of the TV, which researchers have shown will increase the amount you eat at a sitting by up to 288 calories. Italians tend to sit down and eat as a family, or will go and visit friends.
6. As an extension to point 5, get moving! Italy is made for walking in. The cities are hard to drive in, full of residents only areas, one way streets and extortionate city centre parking; so even if sport isn’t your thing, that is no excuse not to go an a nice walk!
There you have it. Some common sense, enjoyable ways to enjoy Italian food without expanding your waistline too much.