When people ask me what my favorite type of food is, I am very quick to answer ITALIAN! Which is usually followed by a “..but you don’t look like you eat Italian food often”. A big misconception is that Italians (and other Europeans) eat a lot of pasta, cream sauce, sausage, and bread–so how can that be healthy? Believe it or not, eating a lot of these foods is more of an American behavior than anything else. So how do Italians eat?
- Antipasto (Appetizer) This can be anything from vegetables to fish to cheese or simply crostini (toast with toppings)
- Primo Piatto (First Course) This is where the pasta typically comes into play. A one-cup serving is more than enough here! You might also have rice, polenta, or soup here.
- Secondo Piatto (Second Course) Meat, fish, or poultry. Again, the portions are smaller than you may think. A three to four ounce portion of meat is appropriate (which is nutritionally recommended as well!)
- Contorno (Vegetables) Vegetables are a big part of the meal, and rightfully so! They would most likely be eaten along side the second course. Many Italian restaurants have a separate section on the menu for vegetables–don’t miss it! (Try to make half of your plate vegetables)
- Insalata (Salad) When eating at home, a meal is almost always finished with a lettuce salad. The salad is thought to jump-start the digestive process. The only problem here, is people tend to be too full by this time to eat–so pace yourself!
- Dolce (Dessert) Fruit, nuts, cake, cookies, you name it! Don’t forget the espresso(s) and aperitifs 😉
With a meal like this, eating too much pasta or starches in the beginning of the meal will surely knock you into a food coma by the second course. Even though this meal may last up to eight hours (seriously), it is important to shrink the portion sizes. And believe it or not, Italians do not have loaves of bread on the table either. Instead, you will likely find grissini (thin bread sticks) at the beginning of the meal, but nothing too serious!
My mother’s parents were both from Italy. My grandfather was born in Trieste (northern Italy) and my grandmother’s family was from Sicily (southern Italy). I have a special place in my heart for the culture, lifestyle, music, and of course food of Italy. I could travel there every year and never tire of it!
Book an appointment here! Marina Bedrossian, RDN, CDN, CLT is a family holistic dietitian who specializes in nutrition for digestive issues, nutrition for Autism, ADHD, and nutrition for food sensitivities.