December 5, 2013

Italy the Healthy Way.

Whether they are looking to stave off the pounds or they have special dietary needs, travelers can still indulge and enjoy all the deliciousness that Italy has to offer.

In the birthplace of pizza, where pasta flows as freely as the wine, Italy may seem like a tough place to keep an eye on your waistline. However, it’s not as difficult as you may think! From gluten free pastas to naturally vegan pizzas and soy gelatos, get your taste buds ready for the healthy side of Italy.

First and foremost, European cities are made for walking.

The amount of foot action that travelers engage in daily, trekking from site to site, is enough to burn off calories for an entire week. This alone will assist vacationers against the battle of the bulge. Needless to say, one of the most important things you can pack is a comfortable pair of walking shoes.

Ladies, leave your heels at home!  Join me, won’t you?

Always opt for a walking tour, not only for the health benefits but also because, on foot, you are able to notice things and stop to check them out much more freely than if you were speeding by on a crowded bus. Exploring is part of the fun of visiting Italy, what with its windy, narrow streets, cute cafés and fun loving people, you may just find a hidden gem off the beaten touristy path by letting your feet lead the way!

Alright, brass tacks time: cuisine.

Italian food is known the world over for its rich and heavy, carb and cheese filled dishes. So it would be safe to assume that perhaps it’s not the best place to watch your figure, and special diet diners would be noshing solely on espresso and tomatoes.

However, with the explosion of healthy living and the popularity of special diets such as gluten free, vegan and paleo around the world, Italy is no exception.

While it’s important to not say “No” to everything while on vacation, moderation and incorporating some substitutes is key. You definitely want to enjoy that full fat cappuccino, bottle of wine, pizza margherita and tiramisu, but if done at every meal, it’s a recipe for dietary disaster.

So here are some ways you can healthily indulge, guilt free!

Gluten Free, Si!

With the explosion of Celiac disease across the globe, Italians have become acutely aware of the wheat induced illness that not only affects their visitors but also their countrymen (and women). Because of this, gluten free pastas are increasingly easier to find and a perfect alternative to give you reprieve from all the bready goodness.

So Soy.

Lactose intolerant? Vegan? Whatever the case, if you avoid dairy, it’s not a problem. A growing number of gelato bars and coffee shops offer soy (or soia) options. In fact, many gelato shops have sugar free options as well. So don’t fret, grab that latte to go and enjoy that gelato.

Veg Out.

For those who choose greens over meat, going vegetarian is not an issue.

There is a plethora of naturally vegetarian dishes in Italy and for vegans, there are plenty vegan dishes as well. Ovo Lacto vegetarians can order up any number of pastas and salads “senza carne” or “senza pollo” (without meat or chicken).

Pescetarians rejoice in seaside towns such as Naples, as seafood is fresh and in abundance in all local eateries.

While it may seem impossible for vegans, bruschetta a la pomodoro and pizza marinara is always “senza formaggio” (without cheese) throughout Italy, without even having to ask. Additionally, Italians love vegetables in their pastas, pizzas and as appetizers so it’s very easy to add and substitute them in to your meal. Can you say grilled artichoke or pan seared zucchini? Yum!

Don’t say “no” to Vino.

You don’t have to turn your cheek and wag your finger when the drink menu comes around just because you’re afraid of the caloric intake.

One of the best parts of the dining experiences in Italy is the wine. Of course, as mentioned, moderation is important but wine has a number of healthy attributes as well. From lowering blood pressure and reducing stress to being filled with the magic antioxidant, resveratrol, wine can be a healthy part of your meal.

However, if you are looking to cut back on calories while still looking to enjoy a drink, pinot noir and pinot grigio are on the lower end of the caloric scale.

Getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated are also essential tips when traveling, especially when it comes to combating jet lag and the exhaustion your body will feel from the amount of walking.

Ultimately, enjoy your vacation as Italy is beautiful and the food is as incredible as the sights and the boot nation’s rich history. Although, finding balance and vacationing as healthy as you can will help your re-entry into your life back home much easier.


(For more information, visit Healthy Voyager.)


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photos: Provided by Author, elephant journal media.}

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