Eating healthy Italian food may seem challenging, but does not have to be. Italian food is naturally healthy consisting mostly of vegetables, fish and fruit. The "super-sized" pasta portions in America are not a true representation of Italian cuisine. In Italy, the portions of pasta, meats and sweets are very small, but satisfying. Here are some tips for eating Italian in a healthy, but satisfying way:
- Plan meals in advance and make a list before shopping. This enables you to stay on track and prevents you from filling the cart with random goodies.
- Choose wisely. Every ingredient you choose should be the best quality and healthiest choice available. Choose real food, whole ingredients. For example, if you are buying bread crumbs, read the ingredients list. Make sure there are not hidden trans fats or fillers that do not belong. Choose whole grain breadcrumbs, or buy your own raw ingredients to make your own. If you make a salad, and make a conscience choice for every ingredient in the salad.....it has to be good for you. Even if you are using olive oil in the dressing, you took the time to choose an ingredient that improves your health.
- Stop and think about how you are feeling and what your body wants. Many times people are overweight while being malnourished. This is because when we are not nourished by the food we eat, we do not feel satisfied. We have cravings for things that are not what our body needs. We may be dehydrated and not hungry at all. We continue to eat well after we are full, because we are not being nourished with the empty calories.
- "Eat the rainbow" which means always choose a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables. This ensures that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
- Practice the "5 ingredient rule". Read food labels and do not buy anything with more than five ingredients. Make sure that everything you buy is a real food or a whole food. Also, use five ingredients or less in your dishes. A simple homemade tomato sauce has tomatoes, garlic and/or onion, olive oil, salt/pepper and fresh basil. That is all it should be.
- Eat everything in moderation. You do not have to be on any particular diet plan to eat and live well. If you want to have dessert have it, but have a reasonable portion and make a good choice. If you want to have pasta, have it but have a salad-dish sized serving.
- Get creative and make meals interesting by occasionally substituting spaghetti squash, rice or quinoa for pasta. These foods make a great base for any sauce.
Eating Italian and eating well are not mutually exclusive concepts. If you make an effort to nourish and feed your body for energy and well-being, you can enjoy Italian food. Enjoy and Buon Appetito!