Spaghetti, tomatoes, basil, garlic and olives.

Meal Plan Created By: Amada Kostro Miller

Trying out different cuisines is a great way to expand your palate, simplify your meal planning, and travel the world through food. To help you add variety and adventure into your diet, we’re featuring a different country or region’s cuisine each month of the year. Not only will you learn more about each cuisine’s nutritional benefits, but you’ll also find a free, weeklong meal plan created by a Registered Dietitian.

This month, we’re celebrating a cuisine you already know and love: Italian. You may be surprised to discover that the typical Italian diet is quite different from the pizzas and pastas found at an American Italian restaurant. Italian cuisine is packed with fresh vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats, which work together to provide multiple health benefits. Download our free, one-week Italian meal plan menu and then read on to discover the health benefits of this popular cuisine.

Download The Printable Meal Plan 

Health Benefits Of Italian Food

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the cornerstones of the typical Italian diet, and you’ll find tomatoes, garlic, or olives (or all three!) in many traditional meals. In addition to their antioxidant properties, each food offers its own wealth of health properties:1 2 3 4

  • Tomatoes may promote heart health, bone health, and healthy blood pressure. Processed tomatoes are known to contain more lycopene, a key antioxidant compound.5
  • Olives are a good source of Vitamin E, copper, calcium.6 But, keep in mind that fresh olives may be packed in brine, making them high in sodium.
  • Garlic may improve cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure.7 8

Lean Meats & Proteins

Italian dishes rely on lean meats and proteins. Lean proteins, like chicken, fish, and vegetable proteins, are typically lower in saturated fat. By eating a balanced diet with foods low in saturated fat, you may lower your risk of heart disease.9

Leisurely Meals

In addition to the healthy foods on their plates, Italian eating habits also contribute to a healthier relationship with food. Mealtime is a social ritual, and Italians tend to take their time talking over dinners, lunches, or cups of coffee. In addition to helping you fully enjoy your meal, eating slowly can help you understand when you’re full and ultimately, eat less. It takes about 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to trigger signals of fullness. 10 By eating slowly, you give your brain a chance to register your feelings of fullness, which helps you eat appropriate amounts.

Heart Healthy Italian Recipes

Image of Italian meal plan

Follow our Italian meal plan for a practical, Italian-inspired week of meals. You’ll use each ingredient in several meals, making it even easier to plan your grocery trip. From hearty pasta e fagioli to mushroom & artichoke fritatas and herb-roasted salmon fillets, you’ll love the fresh flavors and variety of the Italian diet!

Risa Schulman

Ph.D

Risa Schulman, Ph.D. took her lifelong love of science, people and the fulfillment of potential to create a multifaceted career in R&D, business, health and wellness, and empowering individuals. 

This article is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be used as or substituted for medical advice.  Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health care provider with any questions about your health or a medical condition.  Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have read on the internet.