Our Italian Adventure: Eating
Updated: Mar 26
How we moved to Italy: How has our diet changed since moving to Italy?
This part is called: Eating in Italy.
PART 16: I thought it might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps we took.
We are in Puglia until the end of September, then back again in the winter.
Our theme is: Eating in Italy.
Step 1: We all have different eating, exercise, and lifestyle backgrounds. I've trained at the gym for decades and try to eat a healthy high protein/low carb and fats diet. My proteins of choice include chicken, fish, peanut butter, and milk. I also try to eat at least two types of fruit per day and salads and other vegetables.
Step 2: The Mediterranean diet. We have all heard it: the Mediterranean diet is one of the most healthy for health and longevity. But many of us (including myself) think of the Mediterranean diet as anything we eat while we are in the Mediterranean area. So when we moved to Puglia, we found ourselves often following this eating regimen:
Breakfast: coffee and cornetto (croissant)
Lunch: A sandwich (panino) made at home or on the run, or some pasta.
Dinner: pasta or pizza.
That's all Mediterranean. Right?
Step 3: Eating and nutrition. We are learning that one has the OPPORTUNITY to eat healthy while in Italy, but it doesn't come automatically, especially when constantly grabbing meals while out and about.
Step 4: Advantages: Some of the advantages of eating healthy in Italy include: the produce is fantastic and fresh, especially from fruit stands and farmers' markets. (I can't believe how the tomatoes here taste like tomatoes without that slimy gel that comes out of our tomatoes in California when I slice them!)
Another advantage in Italy is all the neighborhood shops, whether it be butchers or other stores that sell specific parts of the meal.
Another advantage is that many butchers here in Puglia, and some of the smaller supermarkets, offer to prepare the food for you. If we want a roasted chicken or roast beef to order, we just let our local butcher know the day before. If we want a cheese and meat plate for friends coming over, we walk down to the small supermarket around the corner, and they prepare it for us for much less than in California.
Local stores allow one to develop relationships with the community, discover the best time to buy certain fruits and vegetables in season, and learn about new eating opportunities, such as the Sagra or village festivals.
Step 5: The Challenge. For us, the challenge is to take all the opportunities for healthy eating here in Italy and channel them into eating better. Grabbing pizzas and pasta every day, eventually, doesn't work since it is a lot of carbs and little protein.
We find that some planning, organization, and thought are necessary to reign in the carbs and integrate more protein and vegetables.
Step 6: Home cooking and going out to eat in Italy. I can't say we have mastered healthier eating yet, but we are making progress.
We found a place in Lecce that makes excellent chicken on skewers with a greek salad for 10 euros, so that is our go-to now for dinner on the town. We found another place in Santa Caterina that makes incredible fresh sandwiches with tuna (no mayo) or vegetarian, filling enough for lunch and dinner. So we have a few go-to places where we know we can eat healthily and keep within budget.
We have also learned to buy food more often than in California; we usually purchase fresh fruit and salad ingredients every other day or every day. Filling the fridge with delicious produce makes eating healthier easy and pressures us to consume it every day since, with no additives, the fruits and vegetables don't last.
Since I'm not much of a baker, we decided to buy an outdoor gas grill for the increased protein intake that I crave. Since we are renting, we have to work out the details, but barbecuing chicken or fish in the evening is something that I am comfortable doing in California, and I can duplicate that here. Buying a grill is the next step.
Step 7: Reflections on eating habits. Many of us who visit or move to Italy initially gorge ourselves on all the delicious foods. There is nothing wrong with that, for a time. But in the long term, healthy eating is essential for quality of life, so we don't want to ignore it. The pizza here is delicious, and the pasta is otherworldly, but my body needs more than that to grow and be healthy. Reflecting on our eating patterns after being in Italy for two months is helping us make adjustments and making the possibility of the Mediterranean diet become a reality for us.
Watch for my book coming around the 1st of the year: "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy."
More next time.