Monday, March 12, 2018

How Italy Changed The Way I Eat

As part of my intentions for this year, I wanted to work on healthy eating habits. I have a ton of them but I would say other than reading French Women Don't Get Fat, my time in Italy did a really good job of getting me to eat better and recognize some more mindful eating habits. Here are the 5 main things that I have noticed that have changed in me from a year ago to now.

1.  Drinking a coffee or a tea after lunch is a part of my daily routine. The daily crash that we all experience in the afternoon after a good lunch is part of life. What I did not know is that ingesting caffeine after a large meal slows that absorption of the caffeine so that you will not crash later in the evening. In the US, I do not have the perks of an in office espresso machine but a cup of tea or a run to Starbucks on a stressful day makes the afternoon a whole lot better. I do stop ingesting caffeine after 3 or 4 pm so that I can sleep better at night.

2. Cooking and grocery shopping with the season's produce has become a norm to me. First, it is cheaper and tastes way better than anything grown in a hotbox or shipped 1000s of miles. Right now it is winter, so most of the veggies that I would use to make salads are expensive or taste way less flavorful. I've been cooking a lot of stews that incorporate beans and heartier veggies like onions, sweet potatoes and squashes. Above is the start of a veggie based "meat" sauce that had lentils, onions, tomato sauce, and squash - all things that you would have in the kitchen in the winter :)

3. Adding meat to a dish as an accessory and not the main meal. I was fully vegetarian for 5 years and starting eating meat  again about a year ago. I am very used to eating food without meat so reincorporating meat back into my diet has been a challenge. A lot of dishes have meat as the main focus and while they are good, plants still make me feel better. While in Italy, a lot of things I ate had a hint of meat like bacon or beef but still used a lot of plants to make them filling and delicious. Above, I cooked up some veggies, black beans and turkey to stuffed into a bell pepper. The turkey was a nice addition to the veggies but did not overpower the dish.

4.  Good quality carbs are not the enemy! I used to think that eating bread or pasta was really bad for you and that using my daily calorie allowance on simple carbs was a waste. In Italy, you can eat a lot of really delicious pasta and bread or desserts, but I find that eating them regularly helped me remember that while delicious, they are not terrible for you. Dessert has always been a weakness of mine but by incorporating it regularly into my diet, I find that I can eat it in moderation and not crave them all the time.

5. The simplest things are the best - 4 or less ingredient meals are my favorites. One of the easiest ways for me to eat a healthy dinner is to keep a couple of things around that I know I love together and throw them into a quick meal. Above, I tossed the bok choy in cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper and then roasted it in the oven for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees along with the sausage on a sheet pan. For a quick dinner, it was filling and nutritious while fast and easy to clean up!

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