Learn from the world’s healthiest country, Italy, when it comes to making enjoyable everyday changes to your eating habits.
Are you struggling to keep up a healthy eating regime? Then look to Italy for the answer to your problems – it was named as the healthiest country in the world in 2017.
It can be hard to break the habits of a lifetime when it comes to food. That’s why it’s a great idea to take inspiration from ‘Italia’ to discover the secrets behind the long and healthy life typically enjoyed by Italians.
That doesn’t mean going on a diet – because we all know that strict diets often lead to failure – but instead, making subtle, but important, everyday changes to your lifestyle.
Italians are well known for their love of fresh fruit and vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, lean meats and fish. Staying away from heavily processed foods and relying on the traditions and recipes of our ancestors has undoubtedly helped to contribute to our world-beating healthy status.
Famed for its pasta, pizza, prosecco and, of course, prosciutto, Italy was ranked as the world’s healthiest country in 2017 by the Bloomberg Global Health Index of 163 countries.
Yet even though foods like pasta and pizza are carb-heavy, we eat them with fresh produce and healthy fats. And it’s not just what we eat, but how we eat that makes the difference.
For some top Italian eating tips read on, and make a commitment to enjoying an Italian attitude to food this year…
Eat mindfully and slowly
Italians like to enjoy long lunches and leisurely meals, taking time to enjoy each mouthful, so don’t immediately launch into that dinner or snack. Rather, take a moment to think about the food or drink that you are about to eat. Eating mindfully may sound a bit mystical but it’s really just common sense – take the time to chew your food slowly and don’t rush it. Often we eat without really thinking about what we are doing, or when we are doing something else, such as watching TV or checking our phones. So the next time you sit down for dinner, pay attention to what you are about to eat and enjoy the sensations of eating it. Appreciate the texture of your food, the aroma and the taste. Enjoy each mouthful and savour the flavour.
Use fresh ingredients and avoid preservatives
In Italy, we enjoy what is known as the ‘Mediterranean diet’ which prioritises whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, legumes and freshly baked (rather than long-life) bread. We flavour food with herbs and spices and celebrate the health benefits of fresh produce. Natural food is important to us, and Prosciutto di San Daniele is as natural as can be, made from just two ingredients – pure Italian meat and sea salt. We don’t use any additives or preservatives in our air-cured prosciutto, and any form of freezing of the meat is forbidden.
Switch to olive oil
Instead of using butter or margarine, try consuming more olive oil, which is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which play an important role in brain function.
Shop local and seasonally
In Italy, our weekly food markets are very important to us. While it’s good to do a big supermarket shop from time to time, when you get to know the sellers at your local farmers’ market then you can ask them about their products face-to-face, as many of them will have grown the items themselves. When you shop for seasonal foods you have the comfort of knowing that you are enjoying the earth’s bounty and respecting its natural rhythms. So tailor your recipes to the seasons, eating lightly in spring and summer and choosing more comforting and filling foods in autumn and winter.
Everything in moderation
Italians have been eating pasta, cheese and pizza for hundreds of years yet the country doesn’t face an obesity crisis. Why? Because portion size is important to us – eating healthily is to do with how much you eat as well as what you eat, so don’t overfill your plate.
This is to do what how we eat, as well as what we eat. Remember when the whole family sat together and enjoyed a good meal? If such memories are in the distant past for you, you’re not alone. More and more of us eat on the run, or at different times or even in different rooms from our nearest and dearest. But taking the time to appreciate food with family or friends whenever you can is as important as eating well. If you live alone and can’t eat communally, that’s OK too, just remember to eat mindfully, enjoying every mouthful!