Healthy Italian Dining Habits to Adopt

Looking to get healthier? Here is the ultimate guide on how to improve your diet while eating Italian Food

Most of us can agree that Italian food is delicious. But scoffing microwaved lasagna or cold delivery pizza in front of the latest Netflix show is hardly dining like an Italian.

While Italy is the land of pizza, pasta, and prosecco, it’s also one of the healthiest countries in the world, thanks to its food. Healthy fats, fresh produce, and yes – even delicious pasta contribute to its low obesity rates. Those Italians certainly know how to live. 

If you want to enjoy a delectable diet with a healthy lifestyle, it’s time to start adopting some Italian dining habits as your own. Here’s how to get started:

FOLLOW THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

Let’s start with an obvious one. The Mediterranean diet is renowned as the healthiest in the world, so it’s time to ditch the sub-par burgers and bland hotdogs for a fresher, tastier, life-extending diet.

You may find foods like anchovies as foreign as Italians find bright yellow cheese powder appetizing but eating fresh foods like an Italian means consuming more real whole foods. It’s time to leave the preservatives, additives, and fake foods behind for a healthy diet.

Did you know that nitrates, aspartame, MSG, and high-end gastronomy ingredients like dry ice and liquid nitrogen are banned from Italian restaurants?

The diet native to southern Italy is known for its whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and olive oil. It also contains moderate levels of fermented dairy products, poultry, fish, wine, and a small amount of red meat.

Olive oil is an essential part of any Italian dinner table. It’s packed full of flavor and health benefits. For example, it’s high in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and is believed to reduce your risk of depression and osteoporosis and protect your brain tissue against Alzheimer's.

You can bet that when there's a whole host of fresh pasta, produce and fish around, Italians aren't microwaving additive-packed, sugary microwave meals for dinner.


MAKE LA PASSEGGIATAS PART OF YOUR EVENING ROUTINE

A stroll isn’t just a stroll in Italy. It’s an event. 

Between the hours of five and eight pm, locals often engage in la passeggiata. This cultural tradition involves smartly dressed Italians taking to the streets and piazzas to walk. They wander, gossip, window shop, and speak with friends and neighbors.

This tradition has roots in Italian courtship rituals whereby walking in public was a method to announce women were available for marriage. Today, all Italians take part in la passeggiata.

This evening walk after dinner is an excellent way to digest food, enjoy the surrounding scenery, shut off the TV, and connect with friends and family.


TAKE A LONG LUNCH AND HAVE A LIGHT DINNER

For many of us, lunch is a light, quick meal that delivers the necessary fuel to help us power through a busy day. Then when it’s time for dinner, we’ll have a large, rich meal and end up heading to bed with a full stomach.

But for Italians, lunch is considered the most important meal of the day. Many businesses close for lunch so people can head home, tuck into a filling meal, and rest before work. In various parts of Italy, this tradition is known as ‘riposo’, ‘pennichella’, or ‘pisolino’, and it’s a practice we should follow.

Eating a light dinner will help you rest better, have less heartburn, and improve digestion. Consider taking a break around lunchtime to enjoy a filling lunch and then have something simple and light for dinner.


MAKE IT FAMILY-STYLE

Do you tend to like splitting several menu items when you dine out? Then you may enjoy the practice of dining Italian family-style.

Sharing your dishes means you can order both the lasagna and the spaghetti bolognese – and maybe even the grilled fish – and enjoy them all instead of being stuck with one dish.

This social tradition can also boost your well-being. After all, prioritizing social relationships can improve your mental health, morbidity, and mortality. And eating with others can make you more altruistic.

Ellie Swain

Ellie is a full-time freelance writer, focusing on topics like food, travel, lifestyle, and retail. Her work has been published in Forbes, The Guardian, The Evening Standard, The Daily Beast, Euronews, and more. In her spare time, she loves traveling, visiting new and interesting restaurants, watching live music, and taking beautiful photos.

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