4 Lessons Learned While Away in Tuscany

It’s so hard to believe that’s its been a month since I returned home from Tuscany for my 24th anniversary trip with my husband. Although I have been to Italy twice before, this was a trip that explored the real culture and cuisine of their country.

I was constantly looking around at other families and their children. They focus and take great pride on eating whole foods andwhich may explain some of the health gap between North America and some part of Europe.

When I participated in our Italian cooking class and chatted with our talented chef he could not believe the North American way of eating meals in the car, at our desk or the drive-thru. The Italians are passionate about eating with family and friends and bringing food and community from the farm to table.

Tuscany, Eating Habits, Whole Foods

Mangiare per vivere e non vivere per mangiare
(eat to live, don’t live to eat)

Here are 4 valuable takeaways I learned in Tuscany to help gain new healthy eating habits:


I. Dine leisurely

It quickly became clear that the Italians, like other Mediterranean cultures, know how to really enjoy the experience of eating. They relax and socialize while dining for hours, over lunch and/or dinner and coffee. Yet sitting at the table for long periods of time does not appear to lead to excessive eating or drinking.

2: Stop When You’re Full

Italians are not concerned with calories because they stop eating when they are full, says one Rome physician.

“We eat by our stomachs, not by our heads, and since we dine leisurely, we get the signal that we are full and can just enjoy a coffee and the company,” says Stephano Gumina, MD, PhD.

Gumina also describes a very active lifestyle, with lots of walking or bike riding, especially in urban areas of the country. Then there’s the Mediterranean-style diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish a few times a week, lean meats or chicken, whole grains, olive oil, and red wine. All of this helps Italians enjoy long lives, he says.

“Where we differ from Americans:  We eat small portions, do not eat after dinner, never in front of the television, computer, or while sitting sedentary reading a book, and no junk food,” he says.


Tuscany, Eating Habits, Whole Foods

Marsha in Tuscany


3. Balance quality with quantity

“We balance the quality and quantity of ingredients – healthy fat and olive oils, just enough carbs, lots of vegetables and fish, chicken, turkey, and just a little red meat.”

4. Enjoy Simple, Fresh Food

The Tuscan diet is loaded with beans, which are high in protein and soluble fiber that satiate you for a long period. Riboletta soup and pasta e fagioli are two popular hearty dishes that feature beans.

“Our cooking is simple and genuine. We start with fresh ingredients, often from our own gardens. We don’t buy precooked foods. We eat lots of vegetables, keep it simple, and try to eat like our grandparents.”

To make sure the kitchen secrets are passed along from one generation to the next, small children can always be found in the kitchen with their parents — learning from the masters.


Tuscany, Eating Habits, Whole Foods