What we can learn from the Italians
A week spent in Italy recently was a stark reminder of how much we can still learn from the Italian when it comes to food and nutrition. No, I am not talking about the amazing pasta, gelato and pizza which we already do pretty well but rather the way they enjoy their food and the way food fits into their everyday lives. Here were my key take home messages.
1. Time to eat and time not too
Forget the potato chips, chocolate bars and cakes and muffins paraded at every café, corner store and coffee shop. Italians focus on their main meals. They sit down to eat them and they are proper meals, rather than quick snacks of wraps and sushi on the run. When you sit down and enjoy real meals at the table you naturally have a more nutritious diet.
2. Coffee is simple
Forget a double shot almond milk caramel Latte, coffee is consumed in small cups, at the café (not slurped walking to work) and it is basic – espresso, cappuccino and even their Lattes have a lot less milk. The less milk we consume, the less of the natural sugar lactose we consume which adds up for many of us when we down a couple of large milky lattes each day.
3. Forget the snacks
Unlike us who take every single opportunity to eat each day, snacking in Italy plays a much smaller role. There is less snack food available in generally, no banana bread or muffins in sight and the snack food aisle in supermarkets is half the size of ours. Overall this means less eating in generally and a much bigger focus on the main meals.
4. Shop daily
In a number of the cities we visited we actually struggled to find a supermarket. Forget a block size shop filled with processed foods, rather most towns had small stores for life’s necessities and rather the market stalls played a much bigger role when it came to buying the daily bread, fish and fruits and vegetables needed for that night’s meal. The smaller the shops, the less we buy and the less we eat. It is very simple.
5. Portion control
We may serve ourselves massive plates of pasta and risotto but traditional serves in Italy are small. A thin pizza with a couple of toppings or an entrée sized pasta is all that is serves so while they do eat their carbs, they do it in the right quantities.