Verdure means vegetable…

Ciao from Toscano!  I am writing to you from the beautiful hills of the Tuscan countryside.  D, his family, and I arrived in bella Firenze (Florence) three days ago.  We have been enjoying some gorgeous weather, delicious food, and beautiful wine!  The first two days have been an absolute whirlwind — D’s younger sister, E, had never been to Florence before, so of course we couldn’t miss seeing all the sights.  The first day was spent walking the city, taking in the resplendent cathedrals and world-renowned works of art, and finally, a little shopping (we are in Italy after all!).  Although Italy is known for being the birthplace of pasta, it is totally possible to eat healthfully and still enjoy yourself immensely.  Here are some great tips for eating healthy food on vacay (and you really can apply this anywhere):

One of the best things about Italy is the importance of la famiglia (or family).  Dining out is an experience, and meals here are truly shared events.  As such, many dishes are served family-style so that everyone can enjoy!  This is a dream for anyone looking to stay healthy.  Not only is food savored, which leads to less overeating (it takes 15 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that it is satisfied!) but dining can be an extremely enjoyable and memorable part of exploring culture and having a fantastic and memorable vacation.

Luckily, Italians love their side dishes!  The trick is here is enjoying rich dishes like pasta and meats in moderation, and loading up on the fiber-rich and filling vegetables sides or contorni.  One of the most pleasant surprises about Tuscan dining is the amount of delicious, fresh, seasonal verdure or greens that is available to enjoy.  Most of my meals have been accompanied by either a lush green salad with little pieces of pecorino cheese, walnuts, and ripe pear, or side dishes of spinach, artichokes, or whatever else is fresh and available.  Italy, of course, is nothing without its pastas, but the servings are quite small in most restaurants (pasta here is really an appetizer rather than an entrée).  Try ordering one or two pasta dishes to share with the table, so that everyone can get a couple of bites (enough to enjoy but not be a huge CALORIE BOMB).  Entrées can be quite hearty, so those are great for sharing too!  I recommend anything grilled — steak, chicken, fish — you really can’t go wrong there.  Be careful when it comes to the bread and the wine though…I know it’s the toughest part when you’re hungry and there is a huge plate of bread in front of you…  I try to enjoy one or the other at dinner — if the bread looks particularly fresh and delicious, I’ll have a small piece with some fresh olive oil and skip the wine (or have just a little sip).  And vice versa if the wine is truly unforgettable.  At lunch I skip it completely (who really needs all that much bread anyway when the rest of the food is SO much more delicious!)  Finally, we come to dessert.  I have become absolutely obsessed with the delicious, cute, little cups of espresso at the end of my meals.  And really, when you’re walking around sightseeing all day the pick-me-up effect of caffeine is really fantastic!  Another thing Italy is quite famous for besides its fresh, amazing pastas is of course, Gelato.  And really, the gelato here is unlike anywhere else in the world.  However, while D can eat three gelatos a day or more  on his quest to try every flavor that Italy has to offer — that wouldn’t be the best healthiest choice for me.  Lucky for me I get a little lick of whatever D is having, or a bite of whatever delicious dessert we share at dinner and don’t feel deprived (but still get to enjoy!).  But remember, just one or two bites and then pass the dessert along – after all, Italy is all about the sharing!

That’s it for now!  Stay posted for more healthy tips from Italia!  Pics to be posted shortly….

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