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Five Tips From An Italian On A Mediterranean Diet

By Constance Weygandt

Growing up Italian, I marveled at the women and men, in my family, who cooked. Not only were they wonderful chefs but had a natural talent for balancing food groups. There was an emphasis on fresh produce and meat, that I am partial to today. One of my grandmothers used to take me to the chicken store to pick out a chicken. Yes, the chicken was still clucking and running around. Today, although I no longer visit the chicken store to get the freshest poultry available, there are still some valuable lessons I like to follow.

Think of Pasta as a side dish, not a main course. The first time I was served pasta, outside of my family, I was astonished. The pasta on my plate would have been four servings, in my family. One pound of pasta serves eight people. Two ounces of pasta with a vegetable and a protein is a meal. Serve more vegetable dishes, if needed. Only serve bread with your pasta on occasion. Pasta is your grain.

Have a hearty soup, as a meal, at least once a week. There are so many nutritious and wonderful soups. A soup with leafy greens and beans, served with a good Italian bread, was often served at my house. A soup, with pasta in the soup, such as chicken noodle would not be served with bread.

Make a salad the first course. Having more courses for dinner helps to regulate the portions eaten in each course. I remember having a salad, with an olive oil and red wine vinegar salad dressing, at every dinner.

Use olive oil as your main fat. We very rarely ate anything deep fried. Instead, if there was oil involved, we saut"ed our vegetables, chicken or fish, and pasta in olive oil.

Have fruit or nuts as a dessert. During the holidays, my grandmother always had a huge fruit bowl and another bowl with a variety of fresh nuts on her dining room table. After dinner, we were allowed to choose a fruit from the bowl and a handful of nuts. Sweet breads, cakes and cookies were an occasional treat, eaten two to three times a month.

I don't follow all of my grandmother's cooking traditions as much as I probably should. However, when I start to gain a few pounds, I typically fall back on the old ways. My sisters and I lead busy lives. Many still have children to raise as well as jobs. It is not always easy to cook the way my mother, father and grandparents did. I was surprised, therefore, when talking to my sister not too long ago. Even though we live thousands of miles apart, in both of our houses, there was a pot of soup and a pot of sauce simmering on the stove as well as a chicken simmering in the crock pot. I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, or is it the olive?

About The Author
Constance Weygandt is an author, speaker and balance mentor.

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