Eat like an Italian

Pasta and wine are not the enemy. Here's how Italians stay skinny without giving up anything good.

When Ondine Cohane moved to Tuscany to help her husband John Voigtmann open a hotel, La Bandita, in 2006, she wondered whether carb-crazy Italy would mar the lithe physique she had honed in NYC. But she has actually become healthier despite plates of pasta and glasses of red wine. As Ondine and John celebrate the opening of their second hotel, La Bandita Townhouse, in the Tuscan town of Pienza, she shares the eating secrets that keep Italians looking trim and youthful until 80 or older.

Think more, worry less: “When I lived in New York, I might have scarfed a sandwich on the subway. But Italians are more mindful. My average day of eating might sound decadent—creamy yogurt from a nearby sheep farm for breakfast, a salad of buffalo mozzarella, seasonal tomatoes and olive oil in the afternoon, and pasta with local ricotta and zucchini for dinner—but I think I consume less than I did in the city because I sit down at a table three times a day, and I really chew and enjoy every bite.”

Go raw until evening:
“Italians don’t eat as much pasta as Americans think they do. A lot of women I know eat raw food during the day, and then pasta or protein for dinner. Some people say you shouldn’t eat after 7 pm, but I think it makes sense to have pasta at night since it makes you sleepy.”

Trace your roots: “Most people here only eat food from Tuscany. I speak to the local butcher about what’s good and local; I go to the market in town for produce. If I really want an avocado from Mexico, I’ll get one, but it’s usually tastier to eat seasonally: asparagus, peas and green beans in spring; kale and truffles in fall. When I’m in an airport, I never eat meat because you can’t know where it comes from. Eating according to good principles happens more naturally when you’re not rushing around.”

Make superfoods sexier: “Anchovy pesto with fresh pasta is a typical (and delicious) dish here. And when you think about what’s in pesto—we make it with olive oil, almonds, pistachios or pine nuts, and arugula—it’s like you’re checking off a superfood list. Eating more olive oil and drinking a few glasses of red wine a week has definitely improved my skin. I recently met an Italian woman who has really good skin and very-glossy hair who told me to eat two tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste a day, so I have started doing that too.”

Snack less: “No one here snacks. I might have a juice or a handful of nuts between meals, but most people just eat three unprocessed meals a day. I see these retirees who have pastas, cheese and beef at meal times, but they’re still thin and young-looking—and beating me on walks in the hills!”