The Mediterranean diet has already been proven to be one of the healthiest diets in the world as it includes vegetables and fruit at the centre of every meal, plus fresh fish rich in Omega 3, and extra virgin olive oil.
If you go to any restaurant in Southern Italy, you can enjoy a delicious fresh pasta or risotto with fish and vegetables and you will be sure that the only dressing on the plate is extra virgin olive oil and salt.
When you follow a Mediterranean diet, you satisfy your appetite not only because of the rich content of minerals, vitamins, and healthy fats, but also on a deeper level: in your heart.
When you see your plate is full of beautiful colourful vegetables and tasty fish, rice, or pasta, your attitude towards eating and enjoying your meal changes completely.
Think about it, when you say to your friend: “Today, I will only have a salad because yesterday I ate a lot”, you are already thinking about a salad being a sort of punishment or restriction because the day before you indulged in something not so healthy.
I would like to help you shift your mindset and understand why Italians look like they eat a lot without being overweight, why in Italy you eat proper food and don’t fancy snacking, and why their lifestyle can be a true elixir for a healthy and long life.
When you have a simple salad with seasonal vegetables and a good extra virgin olive oil and salt, you can make this simple plate so tasty (like Italians do!), instead of feeling like you are restricting yourself from having something better.
This summer I was on one of my favourite islands, Ischia, and enjoyed a simple green salad on the beach. The taste was incredible, fresh lettuce leaves, with lemon, salt, and local extra virgin olive oil as a dressing. I almost wanted to order a second portion it was so delicious – I couldn’t believe it, only 3 ingredients!
The Mediterranean lifestyle goes beyond food, you can eat exactly the right things but if your lifestyle is poor, you will never reap the benefits.
One of the most important rules is to respect meal timings and respect the table. By this, I mean, find your time for lunch and dinner. In Italy, in particular in Southern Italy, lunches and dinners are not just a moment of pure “eating”, but we set the table as a moment of reconciliation and reunion.
Here, we can talk, we can laugh, we can ask each other questions and it becomes more like a ritual than just eating because we are hungry. It is a moment of appreciation for the food we have, because the food is delicious and we are grateful for this.
Most of the time, you will hear during a meal: “Have you tried these tomatoes, they are so tasty, you can find these ones only this month! or “The fish is so fresh, delicious”, or of course: “Can I have more pasta, please?” But even here, when it comes to pasta, we cook fresh pasta with fresh ingredients without creams or strange sugary sauces; basically you know what you eat, you can count the ingredients; you can have pasta as a complete meal with grains, protein and vegetables. For example, Risotto alla pescatora, which is rice with fish and tomatoes, Spaghetti with courgette and prawns, pasta and fagioli (with a vegetable dish to accompany).
Also, Italians don’t drink much, they like drinking good quality wine with meals; it is rare to see Italians drinking at 6pm unless it is an aperitif with nice food/tapas. Coffee is more central to the 5pm, 6pm, 7pm appointment; we like sitting at nice bars to talk and socialise but not getting drunk and ruining dinners out or with family.
Another important thing regarding Mediterranean lifestyle is rest and spirituality.
Sundays are spent with family no matter what, and are full of restful relaxation.
When you have a treat, it is a good treat not some fake healthy gluten free snack that is packed with addictive sugar. When you follow a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle your taste will adjust in a greater and deeper way such that you will crowd out everything that is not fresh, so even when you decide to have something naughty, you will get the best fresh homemade biscuits, cake, or ice cream available.
I enjoyed my ice cream and homemade cakes on the island with healthy lunch and dinner made mainly with grilled vegetables, salad, fish, legumes, and some spaghetti too. I walked, I slept, I relaxed, I wrote, I enjoyed the sun, I socialised with some people on the island and I didn’t put on weight.
Living abroad in London it is tougher to find fresh ingredients when you are not in the right place for that kind of food, but we can do our best to take the things that are right for us from this Mediterranean lifestyle.
In my case, something I will always do and will teach my clients is to respect the table, the ritual of sitting and enjoying food, taking the time to socialise with our family. This is exactly what we call “mindful eating”: not eating standing up, but being grateful for your food, appreciating the plate, taking the time to chew, not rushing, and not engaging in any other activity whilst eating. The only thing Italians eat while standing is ice cream!
I work with many clients teaching them how to adjust their lifestyle and eating habits in order to lose weight and be healthier, and I got amazing results only by teaching them a simple rule of respecting meal timings.
I would be very happy to talk about your goals if you would like to start to transform your lifestyle and diet in a sustainable way, stopping all trend diets you have done so far and the guilty feeling you have when you have a treat.
Get in touch to book a free health consultation with me if you believe in long term sustainable results and not in quick fixes.