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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