Why Are The Italian People Slim?
Italians are statistically among the slimmest people in the world, with only ten percent of the population in the obese range. How can that be? Italian food is famously delicious, and when served in other countries, the portions are huge. Italians don't eat breakfast. So how can they break all the rules and still end up with so little obesity? Today we are going to find out how people living in Italy stay so slim.
When tourists go to Italy, the restaurants sell them what they expect, and they never see how an Italian family has everyday meals. Is there a difference in what they eat? How do they manage to drink red wine with meals? There must be some striking differences in how ordinary Italians eat and what we think of as Italian Food. What is it that they do and we don't?
Breakfast is very simple, just a cup of coffee and a hard roll perhaps with jam. Some people take a break mid morning for another cup of coffee. Breakfast is not considered the most important meal of the day. Pasta is served every single day and olive oil is used liberally.
They break our diet rules such as no breakfast, eating pasta (and I'm not talking whole wheat here) every day, and they also use olive oil liberally. How can they do this and have so little obesity in the general population? We're going to find out, starting with a description of lunch and dinner in a modern Italian household.
Lunch and dinner are sit down meals served at a set table. The first course of pasta or soup is served in a small portion, about one cup, as a first course. Most Italian families have pasta every day at either lunch or dinner.
If you look at the organization of the second course, you will see a moderate portion of fish, poultry or, rarely, meat, and several side dishes of vegetables. The meal finishes with a refreshing leafy green salad simply dressed with olive oil and vinegar. Dessert is not served, but fruit, nuts and cheese are often brought to the table. You might see a bowl of good olives and a basket of hard bread on the table, but no butter. Red wine is usually cut with sparkling mineral water and is taken in moderation. Portions are modest and the variety of vegetable side dishes is endless. In some households, instead of cooking an evening meal, a tray of cheeses, meats, olives and fruits is brought out.
All methods of cooking are employed such as grilling, roasting and stewing. For instance, In mountainous Abruzzo a traditional lamb stew with fresh herbs is a popular winter dish. Many modern kitchens, especially in the country, have a wood burning grill and a brick oven just off the kitchen.
So that's what they eat. What else do they do? Both lunch and dinner are unhurried with plenty of conversation. People linger at the table talking. After lunch, people take a rest, then return to work or school. After dinner they take a stroll for an hour or so. People chat, children play, people smile and some stop for a small drink. Light exercise seems to be enough for city dwellers, and do remember, most things in smaller towns are within walking distance so people walk more. On a rainy day they might watch television. No snacks or drinks are served.
Now what have we learned? First of all, the stereotypical huge, rich meals that are so famous are only served on special occassions. They keep portions reasonable and eat from all the food groups. They take their time eating and enjoy the company as well as the food. Also, they don't eat many sweets.
And there you have it.
You can read more about real Italian meals in
- Never Cooked Italian? The Organization of an Authentic Italian Meal, by Kyle Phillips, About.com's expert on Italian cuisine.
- In Kyle's blog Welcome to Italian Food, you can read lots more and there are wonderful recipes too.
I've chosen a few typical Italian foods from the recipes submitted by Calorie Count Members and found them using the Recipe Browser.