Italians eat and stay fit. How come!

“how do Italians manage to stay fit with all this great food?!”. This is definitely one of the 10 most popular questions we get from travelers on our food tours in Italy. Is it because we rarely eat fast food? mmm…on our food tours of Florence you will find a tasty selection of local foods that are not less fat nor less caloric than big chain fast foods. The explanation to this eat-and-stay-fit Italian phenomenon requires many more lines to be clarify.

First of all, it is not about sport. Actually we don’t do much sport…unless people watching is considered one. Obesity is not a major social issue in Italy because Italians care about food quality more than anything else. Italian meals don’t happen by chance. Italian meals are carefully planned. There is no lunch in Italy that hasn’t been previously planned according to a precise scheme.

So let’s dive into this topic.

How do Italians plan their meals?

Italians eat well, eat a lot but stay fit because they generally follow a well-balanced nutrition that includes a wide variety of foods.
If I had pizza yesterday night, today I will try to avoid carbs for lunch, so I am going to make a salad! If I had a margherita pizza yesterday night and I had a salad for lunch…what am I going to cook today for dinner? Let’s say…steak and peas! And what happens tomorrow? Tomorrow for lunch I will cook spaghetti with fresh basil pesto. And for dinner? Well…In my former meals I had pizza, salad, steak, pasta…then my dinner is gonna be fish! And so on…

Italian breakfast: as easy as sugar

The Italian breakfast is sweet. According to contemporary i-wanna-be-a-nutritionist-but-i-don-want-to-study bloggers, the sweet breakfast is a disastrous way to start a day, whereas according to Italians this is the only way to sprint up your morning attention.
So what do we really eat for breakfast to stay so fit? If you have joined our Palermo Virtual tour, you do remember what was on the table of our avatar guide..yes! exactly! Croissant and coffee.

The standard Italian breakfast is a croissant and a coffee or a cappuccino.

You will never see an Italian having egg and sausages for breakfast. You may see Florentines devouring veal stomach sandwiches at 10 am right, but those gentlemen are probably coming from a very early wake up call! Our breakfast is sweet because we need sugar to get the right energies to start moving our hands…how would we talk otherwise?

Italian lunch: pasta all day everyday?

While breakfast might be considered by Italians as a quick pit-stop between bed and work, lunch and dinner are considered much more important eating moments (Lunch and dinner involves sociality!).
So once again, how do Italians manage to stay fit? I began this article underlining that Italians plan their meals. This is what happens for real!
I know what you’re wondering now…so what about pasta…don’t you have it everyday!? Indeed we do, almost everyday yes. However, we don’t consider spaghetti with tomato sauce the same dish of tortellini in broth. Still pasta, correct, but different dish! 
In conclusion: Italians generally eat pasta for lunch BUT…with fresh products and homemade sauces!

What’s an Italian dinner like?

Italian dinner is generally fish or meat with a veggy side dish.
Dinner is the main family moment, the moment to share with the rest of  your family the gossips collected during the day at work or at school. This moment requires a bottle of red wine on the table which will help everybody loosen their tongue and get into the details of their gossip report.
Find below a list of classical Italian dinner dishes:
– Cotoletta alla Milanese and fries 
– Boiled veal in broth also renowned as bollito.
– Sicilians hardly resist to have a swordfish or tuna steak served with some pan-cooked vegs.
As you can read, I haven’t mentioned pizza yet! Coz pizza comes in the dinner section. The pizza moment for Italians is Saturday night. That’s the time to reserve your favorite pizzeria in time!

Italians do not eat pizza for lunch. Read the Italian Food Bible.


Cooking. As you could read along this article I did use the verb cook many times, because this is what we do on a daily basis. This is one of the reasons why we eat well, we eat a lot and we stay fit. We cook ourselves.

Fresh. We use fresh products. Even we do it sometimes, we do consider a bad choice to top pasta with a jarred tomato sauce bought at the groucery store…even if we are talking about the top quality sauce available in the market. Quality stays in real tomatoes, not in jars. Fresh basil, fresh olive oil bought directly from the producer, fresh bread coming from the baker, meat butchered by your friend’s uncle. Know what I mean!? 

Human quantities. Normally the questions is…How come Italians eat so much and don’t get fat? Simple! At home we do not fill our plate with the same amount of pasta you get served at restaurants. We tend to cook much smaller portions at home…when I say we…I mean for ourselves.

When we cook for the family it’s another story. Read the Italian christmas meal Survival guide!


Blog Author
“Marco is a Sicilian tour guide and founder of Streaty Tours company. He is graduted in foreing languages. He lived in many places around Europe and Arab countries. His tapping on the keyboard is guided by an innate passion for food, especially street food.”

About Streaty_Staff

We are a group of Italian tour guides passionate about our culinary traditions. We happily share our knowledge and our tips with travelers in order to promote the authentic Italian cuisine.