Experiencing the Mediterranean diet while studying abroad has transformed my mindset on food.
As I prepared to study abroad in Florence, Italy, one of my first thoughts were how my body would react to a new diet and lifestyle. Six weeks abroad spent eating pizza and gelato may sound like a dream, but this style of eating could not be farther from my diet in the States. I prepared for my digestion system to go into shock, but my time in Florence so far has transformed how I think about food.
Just in my first few weeks, my digestive system has been thriving. Shocking, right?
When you think of Italy, you think of all the indulgent food that is packed full of ‘carbs’ and ‘cheese’, but America’s take on what Italian food is couldn’t be farther from the truth.
While in Florence, I have experienced some of the best food and felt great doing so. From the vibrant pesto on freshly made pasta or baked goods paired with espresso in the mornings, Italian food has been delicious. I have been studying and living the Mediterranean lifestyle, and here are just a few ways I have stayed fit while studying abroad.
Walking (or Hiking) Everywhere
While I am accustomed to being a gym rat and lifting heavy things, I have traded my university’s gym for the streets of Florence. According to my FitBit, I have averaged 30,000 steps per day and more than 100 active minutes per day.
Walking everywhere I go and being active in the Mediterranean Fitness and Health course I am taking has kept me active and been a welcome change to my usual gym routine. My class traded a traditional classroom for biking on the city street and paddling dragon boats on the Arno River, Besides walking on the streets of Florence, hiking at beautiful destinations like Cinque Terre on Italy’s central coast is the best way to get unique views of some of the most scenic locations on Earth while getting a workout in.
Eating Locally – and Seasonally
The Tuscany region is home to tons of fresh produce. I have been loving the abundance of fruits and veggies found in markets along the streets of Florence. The peaches, cherries, cantaloupe, and plums are unreal here. Seriously, I am unsure if I’ll be able to go back to eating produce in the States. Grabbing some fresh fruit between classes has been my favorite way to get a cheap snack full of vitamins and minerals.
Enjoying Foods Made with Simple Ingredients
I have been enjoying all of the food Florence has had to offer from pizza to pasta and everything in between. While back home I often associate Italian food with being indulgent and unhealthy, real Italian food is made simply with wholesome ingredients.
For example, fresh pasta and a simple tomato sauce is not only affordable but it is composed of simple grains and produce. After eating this sort of pasta dish, I feel satisfied but not overwhelmingly full and energized for more walking. Kale and chia seeds are not the only definition of ‘healthy eating’. The Mediterranean diet is often composed of vegetables and fruits, olive oil, and flavorful-but-light additions like capers and olives.
While I may not be able to justify the health benefits of my daily cup of gelato, the wholesome ingredients used in this region have helped my body thrive. Moderation while traveling is always key above all things. Not pressuring myself to get my daily lifting session in or feeling guilty about my second glass of Chianti wine has been key to maintain my healthy mindset while studying abroad.
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The Boston Marathon is six days away.
And everyday this week we’re getting to know 13 students who are running on Marathon Monday.
If you follow anyone who’s been training on Instagram, you’ll likely see their post-run meals, maybe a sappy post or two about pushing through a challenging run, and of course, the infamous snapshot of a watch with distance and timing displays.
But what people aren’t (often) talking about on social media are the tough days and the hardest part about training. Let’s talk about it! We asked, “what is the hardest part about training while in school?”
Balancing schoolwork + training
You barely have time for all your schoolwork plus time for yourself already. Now try add hours of training on top of that. “The hardest part was making time for training.
“Not only did I have to fit in my miles, but I added in lifting, cross training, and stretching and recovery sessions. I learned that getting up and getting my run in in the morning was the best way to fit in my miles without impacting school, work, volunteering and studying. That is until my long runs started getting longer. Not only did these take up time from homework, but I had to be better about balancing running and spending time with friends and other commitments. After throwing my training schedule off on a few occasions, I made a point to not stay out too late before a long run, or not go out at all. But I felt like I was missing out on some of stuff that I had looked forward to about senior year.” – Meghan Jastrzembski (Northeastern ’17)
With different events and activities going on literally every single day, it’s easy to let training fall by the wayside, but those 26.2 miles aren’t going to run themselves.
“Especially as a senior, it’s tempting to write off marathon preparations to go out with friends instead. Marathon training requires both physical and mental dedication. You have to make time to put in the miles, to recover properly and to nourish your body. Training has truly required a lifestyle change for me and staying dedicated to that has been the most difficult.” – Madeline Perlewitz (Boston College ’17)
Staying home on Friday nights
Of the thirteen students we talked to, over half mentioned having to compromise their social lives in some way…particularly, having to go to bed early on Friday to wake up for early Saturday runs.
“The hardest part for me are the sacrifices that need to be made in other areas of my life in order to make the training runs successful. Luckily I have awesome friends that still love me even if I go to bed at 8pm on Friday nights and leave events early.” – Bailey Fritzinger (Northeastern ’18)
Twelve out of the thirteen students we spoke to are raising money for a charity (no biggie that Erin Techinor from BU qualified to run). And while it’s amazing that all of these students are running for incredible causes, it is a lot of pressure to raise A LOT of money.
“The most daunting and difficult part of this training has actually been fundraising for my charity. It’s an added component that a lot of people face when running the Boston Marathon. The theme of this semester: forgot the research papers and philosophy reading, I have $5000 to raise by April 17th! #priorities” – Sarah Woods (Boston College ’17)
Want to cheer these students on on Marathon Monday? Join us at the CLIF Cheer Zone at Heartbreak Hill! And don’t forget to come pre-game with us too! We’ll be at the new Reebok Boston Showroom on Saturday for the Marathon Monday Pre-Game. Expect bagels, coffee, foam rollers, poster board making stations, and more.
Upgrade your breakfast pastry with these banana muffins.
Can muffins be a healthy breakfast? Sometimes. And in this case, yes, because these banana muffins are made with wholesome ingredients. These babies are satisfying enough to eat for breakfast – and they won’t leave you with a sugar crash in an hour. Oh, and did I mention they taste like banana bread? Well, they do.
How many of you have waited in line at a coffee shop and stared at the display case full of bakery goods? Muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, you name it and it’s there, tempting you. Eventually, you give in to that blueberry muffin because it seemed “healthy”… even if you know it has so much sugar it might as well be cake.
Well, these kick out the not-so-nutritious ingredients like refined flour and sugar that are found in most store-bought muffins for a healthy on-the-go breakfast.
Time: 18-23 minutes
When to eat it: breakfast, dessert, snack (whenever you’re craving something sweet)
Perks: Not much sugar, can be gluten-free, can be reheated, healthy and satisfying
Sh*t you need:
- Nonstick cooking spray (optional)
- 2 cups whole wheat flour (can substitute for gluten free flours like brown rice, banana, buckwheat, etc.)
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. fine sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup raw honey
- ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ¼ cup extra-virgin organic coconut oil, melted
- 1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. 2. Line 12 muffin muffin and lightly coat it with cooking spray. 3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well. Set aside. 4. Combine egg, honey, almond milk, oil, and extract in a medium bowl. Mix well. 5. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Mix until just blended. 6. Mix in the mashed bananas. 7. Evenly divide batter among prepared muffin cups. 8. Bake 18 to 23 minutes, or until tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 9. Transfer muffins to rack to cool. Enjoy!
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