How do Italians eat so much and stay so fit?
This is the most asked question on our retreats. You know we work very close with our chefs to create a menu that is diverse, authentic, healthy and delicious, so it’s no surprise that we eat a lot and enjoy every bite of it here in our retreats. At the end you are in Italy – food mecca.
Starting from Sansepolcro retreat, where our local chef Costanza, while running a small deli shop in town of Sansepolcro, also cooks for us in the villa. She is native from South of Italy and sometimes you can see her twist on the Tuscan menu. Her love for life, infectious smile and humble personality is a real asset to our retreat. She is our Italian grandma who teaches us to cook pasta and cooks the most delicious pizza! Also worth to mention is her polpette di verdure – vegetable ”meatballs” and BBQ day with grilled vegetables and bunch of fried and grilled goodies.
Where is Elba island retreat we have Laura, born and raised, native from Elba, she knows the island and what it offers inside out. From all the herbs and plants, finishing with fish in the sea. Laura is a member of chef and sommelier association on the island. Her cooking is light, effortless, innovative and brave. She is not scared to put new ingredients and flavors together, experiment with techniques until result is perfect!
Now to answering the question – how come with all this food Italians stay so fit?
Importance of food and proper alimentation is taught since childhood, together with importance of sitting down and having regular mealtimes. Italians are very strict about mealtimes: breakfast – whenever you wake up (we will talk about what they eat little later), lunch time 12:00 or 13:00, merenda – afternoon snack or drink 16:30-17:00, dinner around 19:30-20:00. They do stick to these timings, that’s why you also see siesta time around all the businesses in Italy, because food is like religion, it needs to be taken seriously. Dinner the same, if you are out for lunch – working, with friends, alone, then dinner is at home. It’s the time for all family to sit together at the table and recap on events of the day. We, in Dolce Mama, love this tradition so much! In this busy world and specially being a mother, we need to remember more to have moments like this, as challenging it may sound with a toddler, but the thing is the more you will do it, the more kids will adapt and get used to this tradition. Remember it’s all about routines?
We always have this conception when going to Italian restaurant – so much to choose from, antipasti (starter), primi (first course), secondi (main course), dolci (deserts), how do they eat to stay skinny?
So the normal Italian day menu would usually look like this: breakfast – cornetto (Italian pastry filled with crema, chocolate, jam) or any other pastry from Bar (yes Italians have breakfast in Bar) with Espresso or Capuccino. Then for lunch they would eat a plate of pasta. You would think – pasta? That’s a lot of carbs.. well, actually there are, but most of the pastas are also full of vegetables, and it can be quite a complete dish for nutrition. Another dish is risotto, the same as pasta have numerous variations, also packed with meat, vegetables and seafood. Pasta and risotto dish is considered as primo. This misconception of Italians eating full menu all day, every day is not really true. As per lunch they would eat only primo and desert, fruit, or maybe antipasto and primo.
When it comes to dinner it would mostly be proteins and vegetables, so dinner dish would be any kind of meat, fish and vegetables or salad. So the basic algorithm is – small breakfast, carbohydrates for lunch, proteins for dinner. You need to remember that your body is also a ticking clock and needs routine. Proper mealtimes at certain times will be beneficial for your digestive system and keep your body nourished.
Sitting down while eating is also very beneficial for your digestive system, as it will help your stomach and brain process the food and amount you are eating. Also talking and chatting at the table is very beneficial, as you eat slower and it gives time your body and brain to process the amount you have already eaten.
What about merenda (afternoon snack)? This is our favorite part of Italian day! Many Italians choose to have gelato (Italian ice cream) as afternoon snack. You will say: but that’s a lot of sugar! I have almost never seen an Italian person with a massive ice cream, like three/four flavors on a cone. It is usually us – tourists, that would like to try as many flavors as possible, and who can blame us? It’s so good!
Italians usually have their favorite flavors and they go for it, small copetta (cup) with one flavor of their favorite gelato! That all is washed down with espresso. Yes, there is a lot of coffee during the day. Coffee is also known for helping us to digest food, so maybe that’s the secret?
Italians let it loose on Sundays, holidays or any other family gatherings and celebrations. Then they eat, they eat a lot! Then it’s time for antipasto, primo, secondo and deserts. They are very proud of their food culture and traditions, and who can blame them, Italian food is hands down the best food in the world. When it’s combined with centuries of perfecting family recipes, being given from one generation to other, the sun that let’s vegetables and fruit mature to perfection, the best ingredients, passion for cooking and love for people. The result is always going to be amazing!
Be a part of Dolce Mama family and come to experience real Tuscany with us ♥
Creator of Dolce Mama retreats and
mom of 2