Italian Diet Secrets
How the Italian people manage to stay slim in the land of pizza and pasta.
Italian Diet Secret No. 2: Stop When You're Full
Italians are not concerned with calories because they stop eating when they
are full, says one Rome physician.
"We eat by our stomachs, not by our heads, and since we dine leisurely,
we get the signal that we are full and can just enjoy a coffee and the
company," says Stephano Gumina, MD, PhD.
Gumina also describes a very active lifestyle, with lots of walking or bike
riding, especially in urban areas of the country. Then there's the
Mediterranean-style diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish a
few times a week, lean meats or chicken, whole grains, olive oil, and red wine.
All of this helps Italians enjoy long lives, he says.
"Where we differ from Americans: We eat small portions, do not eat after
dinner, never in front of the television, computer, or while sitting sedentary
reading a book, and no junk food," he says.
In addition, Italians usually satisfy a sweet tooth with fruit instead of
higher-calorie desserts. A typical dessert could be fighi e albicocce
-- figs and apricots picked from the garden trees. In southern parts of
Italy, the enormous and delicate lemons are the basis for desserts such as
gelato and lemon ice.
Italian Diet Secret No. 3: Balance Quality and Quantity
On the sunny Amalfi coast up in the village of Ravello, the famous
"Mamma" Agata runs a fabulous restaurant overlooking the sea, teaches
Italian cooking classes, and plans to publish her first cookbook next year.
She sizes up Italian eating plans quite simply: "We balance the quality
and quantity of ingredients -- not too much fat, just enough carbohydrates,
lots of fish, chicken, and turkey, and just a little red meat."
"People think Italians eat a lot every day but they are wrong, because
while we do eat a big family meal on Sunday, the rest of the week we eat small
portions of healthy foods, such as pasta, vegetables, lean meat, fish, and
cheese," she says. "But we never drink soda [or eat] chips, junk foods,
Olive oil is the preferred oil, used extensively in cooking and on salads.
But you won't typically find it on the table for bread dunking as we enjoy in
America. Italians enjoy the healthy, monounsaturated fat, but don't overdo
"Healthy fats are better than trans or saturated fats, but olive oil is
fat, has the same number of calories as other fats, and needs to be eaten in
limited quantities," says Gumina.
Italian Diet Secret No. 4: Enjoy Simple, Fresh Food
The Tuscan diet is loaded with beans, which are high in protein and soluble
fiber that fill you up for a long time for very few calories. Riboletta
soup and pasta e fagioli are two popular hearty dishes that feature