Viva l’Italia!

graph-1Since the Italian cuisine is not only our favourite, we should consider the nutritional value of its meals. According to a poll on ‘The Monitor’, most students prefer Italian food over Chinese food. Of course, we can’t assume that this pie graph represents the whole world. We decided to investigate how our friends and families would answer that question and construct the pie graph of our own region (in Tervuren and Overijse).   We came to the conclusion that also in our area, people love the Italian cuisine most. When we compared the two graphs, we determined that they look-alike.



Al dente or stracotto

The most popular dish in Italy must be pasta. If you are a food lover you will probably be familiar with the term ‘al dente’, which means ‘cooked so as to be still firm when bitten’. Northwards, we seem to overcook our pasta, according to the Italians. When that happens, they will scream at you and yell ‘Stracotto! You messed up buddy!’. And you don’t want to make an Italian cook angry…

Did you know that there exist over 450 different types of pasta shapes, but most of them contain the same ingredients? From ‘the healthy eating plate’ made by Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, we know that eating a variety of whole grains (bread, pasta, rice) is better for your metabolism (and body) because it contains more fibres. Besides, the number of calories is 21% higher if you would consume the refined grains. Looking at those calories coming from fat, we conclude that eating the whole-grain variant of the spaghetti is a healthy option. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s forbidden to eat white spaghetti if you are on a diet. Who doesn’t like a treat occasionally?

Italy is known for its good quality of olive oil, which can be very expensive. Using healthy vegetable oils instead of saturated fat (often coming from animals) is important for our health.


Italian delicacy

Pizza and ice cream (or ‘gelato’) are very famous dishes, that find their origin in Naples, Italy. Both pizza and ice cream contain a lot of fat, of which 40%-50% is saturated fat. The amount of sodium in pizza is also a remarkable fact.

Italian ice cream is called gelato, which means literally ‘frozen’ in Italian. Gelato is made out of fruit, milk and sugar and originates from Northern Italy. If you remove the milk and use water instead, you’ll get ‘sorbetto’ which is a product of Southern Italy.  Although ice cream isn’t very healthy in general, gelato is actually healthier than regular ice cream. The reason for that is that gelato only contains 3% to 8% milk fat while normal ice cream holds 10% to 17% fat in it. As you can see in the nutrition table above, fat is the biggest component of ice cream. That’s why it’s definitely worth it to switch from regular ice cream to Italian gelato!

Another not-so-healthy-though-delicious Italian dish is the famous pizza! It’s known over the whole world, especially Americans can really appreciate this dish, they even have an officially designated National Pizza month, which is October. Another fun fact is that 36% of pizza costumers order the pizza pepperoni, read more about this special pizza here. Now back to business; how bad is pizza actually for your body? Before we conclude anything, please keep in mind that it’s OK to eat pizza now and then. Of course, this applies to all kinds of food.

The end of greasy pizzas

Calories, coming from pizza, can vary substantially based on the toppings, the cooking method, the crust and the size of the pizza slice. For that reason it’s very difficult to say how bad your pizza is exactly for you. Here are some tips on how to lower the amount of calories of your pizza.

Try to ask for example  for half the cheese of the normal amount. This will save you arround 50 calories per slice and reduces your saturated fat intake by a third. And I think you’ll be surprised by how much cheese is still left on your pizza. If you want to keep your cheese, you can request part-skim cheese instead of whole-fat cheese. Some pizzerias are even able to substitute Feta instead of regular cheese. It’s lower in calories, but for the lowest calorie pizza, you should go cheese-free. If your on a diet, it’s better to take a pizza without meat, because it not only adds calories, but also increases your intake of saturated fat. The lowest calorie pizza will almost always be a vegetarian pizza, so try it and perhaps you’ll actually love it!

Our final conclusion is that the three most-eaten Italian meals (pasta, pizza and ice cream) are not very healthy. The nutrition facts that correspond with the dishes, show us that it’s not a good idea to eat these dishes on a daily basis. On the internet, you can find many healthy variations on the traditional recipes. Despite that it is often unhealthy, most people crave Italian food, including us! And never forget: sometimes it is fine to #treatyo’self!


cursus VAN IN, On Track 5


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