The Healthy Italian

Combining the words “healthy” and “Italian” in the same phrase may seem like an oxymoron, but I am going to attempt to change that misconception. I am a prime example of a healthy Italian, better yet, a healthy older Italian. Yes, it is possible to be an Italian and be healthy!

As a full-blooded Italian, I grew up with a mother who only knew the Italian lifestyle. We grew up as though we lived in Italy with a Mediterranean diet that was very healthy and mostly organic and fresh, thanks to my dad’s large vegetable garden and fruit trees. 

This month’s topic: La Bella Vita!

Many trips to Italy have afforded me the ability to observe the Italian approach to living a healthy day-to-day lifestyle. Try incorporating any of these into your own life! 

MANGIA, MANGIA. Many Italians eat “farm to table,” buying fresh produce from their local farmer’s markets almost every day, often organic. Many have their own vegetable gardens, even if all it entails is a patio or balcony with room for a pot or two. 

LENTAMENTE. Italians cook more often from scratch, preparing meals fresh. From nonna to mamma to giovane, recipes with simple ingredients are handed down from generation to generation. Each region in Italy has its own versions of traditional dishes influenced by what is available in that region. Italians eat seasonal, organic and local cuisine regularly.

CIBO. How the average Italian eats. Breakfast is typically an espresso and a cornetto. Later, a relaxed lunch, the biggest meal of the day that is usually eaten with family, is topped off with un piccolo pisolino (a short nap). Finally, a small, leisurely dinner is eaten later in the evening.

VINO. Italians drink less alcohol and when they drink it is usually with friends, family and food. The legal drinking age in Italy is 16, but the laws are not usually enforced because the drinking is secondary to being with friends and having fun. That’s strictly Italian!

LA PASSEGGIATA. In the evening, most Italians walk to digest dinner and get some exercise, but really the passeggiata is a reason to socialize. This is time to be with family and friends and to shut down technology; slowing down to prepare for a restful sleep.

ABBRACCIO. Italians are more tactile, from eating (and talking!) with their hands to greeting family, friends and even acquaintances with hugs and kisses – one on each cheek – and, of course, walking arm in arm. 

MENO E´ MEGLIO. Less is more. Many Italians learn to live with less, whether in small village houses or city-shared apartments. Small closets mean fewer clothes and excess material goods. Cars like the Cinquecento (Fiat 500) make it easy to park in tight city spaces or on hills. 

COMMUNITÀ. Italians take pride in what they have, love where they live and feel a sense of community in part because they know their neighbors, storeowners and their priest. And happiness contributes to healthiness.

Tip of the month: Pick up a few Italian habits, make them your own and start to live La Bella Vita!

Downsize, starting with your wardrobe. Donate items that you haven’t worn in a year or two. You will feel lighter and freer! 

Seasonal fruits and veggies retain more nutrients, so head to your local farmer’s market to purchase fresh produce while supporting your community. Try to buy and eat organic whenever possible, the Earth and your body will appreciate it. 

Take a walk in your neighborhood after dinner. Burn a few calories while getting to know some of your neighbors.

Going out to eat when I was growing up was a rare occasion since we had il miglior cuoca nel mondo in our own house. There was fresh Italian bread from our nonna and fresh veggies from my dad’s garden. I continue to live that lifestyle! I have my own vegetable garden and fruit trees and use my mom’s recipes when I cook or bake. Yes, I consider myself to be one lucky Italian girl to be living La Bella Vita Italiana!

Please send your questions about nutrition, exercise or mindfulness to Diana at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. “If I don’t know the answer, I will find it.”

Diana Lucarino-Diekmann, has been working in the field of Health and Fitness since 1980, helping others achieve optimal health and happiness. She has a BA in Exercise Physiology, as well as Pilates and Yoga certifications and an extensive knowledge of nutrition and disease. Having taught almost every type of exercise class, she now specializes in Yoga, Pilates, meditation, and mindfulness, not only in exercise but also in life.

The contents of “The Healthy Italian” are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medial condition or your personal health.