We had the amazing adventure of living in southern Italy for 3 years. Two of our children were born there and so was our passion for nutrition education.
It is no wonder to me why Italy ranks near the top in life expectancy worldwide. They have a contagious zeal for stress-free living and a much-envied ability to produce incredible, fresh food.
After all, where else was America’s favorite food invented (and perfected)? Yes, the pizza started not too far from where we lived in Naples, Italy.
Focus On Relationships First, Food Second.
This is one of the biggest healthy eating tips I learned from the Italians–good food always surrounds good company, and not the other way around. What do I mean by that? Simply put, relationships and conversation are more highly valued than the act of eating.
For example, the evening meal (the largest meal of the day for the Italians) is consumed with friends or family over the course of 3-4 hours. The food is not stuffed down quickly in large quantities but served in several smaller courses.
When Brian and I went out to eat in Italy, it was understood that that table was ours for the entire evening if we wanted it. And we often lingered for several hours, eating slowly as we talked. So when we left the table, we were not overstuffed or feeling bloated. We felt great, because we also had connected with each other during that time.
We try to pass this on to our kids as well by sitting down daily to eat together and taking time for conversation.
Make Extra Virgin Olive Oil the Oil of Choice, and Use It Daily.
Olive oil has numerous health benefits, mainly due to the fact that it contains monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. It may help reduce overall cholesterol and thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
The Italians (and other meditteranean cultures) use it almost daily, in their cooking, salads, sauces, etc. Olive oil in Italy is most recognized by it’s dark-green color, because it is the highest grade of olive oil (what we would call “extra virgin”). “Virgin olive oils contain the highest levels of polyphenols, antioxidants that have been linked with better health” (wikipedia.org).
So, the healthy eating tip here would be to substitute extra virgin olive oil for any of the following saturated fat sources in your home: butter, margarine, palm or palm kernel oils, coconut oil, and vegetable oil.
We use olive oil for anything from popping popcorn, to greasing a pan, and as the main oil in all of our salad dressings!
Make Your Own Pizza & Pasta Sauces.
We learned this health tip in Italy and got a little spoiled by it. Sauces taste so much better when made from scratch! (This could be something to try to awaken the taste buds of any picky eaters in your home too!)In fact, the Italians make just about everything from scratch.
Store-bought sauces can also contain a lot of unwanted ingredients: extra sodium, preservatives and artificial flavorings. These can all be avoided with a handful of fresh ingredients.
Try our own Homemade Pizza Recipe here!