Eating Well

I really believe in a balanced approach when it comes to nutrition. I’m not a stickler when it comes to avoiding sugars. I think the time we spent in Italy really influenced me in this way. Other than maybe processed foods, I don’t think there’s anything the Italians really avoid eating. They eat everything in moderation, however. Pasta has really gotten a bad rap in the US. It’s pretty much become a generally accepted notion that we should avoid carbs. HOGWASH! I think the real problems lie with portion size and variety. In Italy, a portion of pasta is 80-100 grams (uncooked). So you know that for five people you should cook anywhere between 400-500 grams of pasta, or roughly 1 lb. (I assure you I have been served an entire pound of pasta in the North End of Boston! And it was hideously over-cooked. And my kids wouldn’t eat it.) For the large meal of the day, which tends to be lunch, or pranzo, Italians will have, along with their pasta, a protein and a veggie or salad. Dinner tends to be a smaller meal. This system doesn’t necessarily work well in our society where we usually have quicker lunches and longer dinners. Still, the good habits to be taken from the Italians are smaller portion size, and eating a balance of proteins, starches and fruits and veggies. Italians almost always end a meal with a piece of fruit and they don’t snack much between meals. That’s a toughy! 🙂

One of the greatest culinary gifts I learned from Italians is how to cook vegetables in a way that brings out their most wonderful flavor. You don’t need to mix 4-8 veggies together to make a tasty meal. A typical pasta dish will have one vegetable that is the star, sometimes accompanied by a little pancetta. But often the veggie is the only thing that is used to make the pasta super delicious and nutritious. My recipe for broccoli pasta is a great example of this. Another is ‘pasta alla norma’ which is pasta with tomatoes and eggplant. So delicious! If you mix too many ingredients, you aren’t able to appreciate their distinct flavors. If you highlight one ingredient, you really come to appreciate vegetables for how wonderfully tasty they are. This, in and of itself is a great culinary education for us all!

One last thought: A little fat never hurt anyone….as long as we make sure to get a healthy amount of regular exercise. Even just walking regularly goes a long way toward burning calories and keeping us healthy!

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