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Health benefits of a Mediterranean lifestyle

Do you have a bucket list? Is there something fun or outrageous you would like to do someday during your life? Well, I don’t have a real list but, yes, a future aspiration of mine – travel to Italy and live with the locals and learn how to garden and cook and live the Italian way.  My manager, Rachel Riddiford, recently did travel to Italy with her family for two weeks – how lucky!

Why Italy? I am attracted to their way of life, shopping from open air markets, preparing and eating fresh/whole foods.  Did I mention red wine?

Have you heard of the Mediterranean Diet? The Italian people intrigue me – besides walking and working in their gardens, they have a healthy diet.  This Mediterranean region is known for eating more: fish and poultry, nuts, low fat dairy, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fresh herbs and red wine (5 ounces a day for women and 10 ounces for younger men) while eating less: red meat and high fat processed meats, high fat dairy, processed food and refined grains.  There is much research supporting the Mediterranean diet decreasing one’s risk for cardiovascular disease and some cancers.  Other supportive research includes more of the Mediterranean region’s culture, such as lifestyle, adequate rest and non-smoking, as contributing to positive healthy outcomes.  I agree – there are several components to healthy living.

Of course, I had to chat with my manager and learn about her trip.  What intrigued me:

How much time did you spend in Italy?  And, where?

2 weeks total.  9 days in Rome and 4 in Florence.

Why did you choose this region of the world to visit?

Multiple reasons!  It is beautiful and who can refuse fresh produce and daily gelato?!  Also, my husband and I enjoy European trips and we wanted to share at least one with our family before our two new graduates move away to college, plus help the kids understand their strong European heritage.  Our children now know how to navigate a metro and communicate without knowing the language, realize how similar humans are across the globe, and that driving in Rome takes a great deal of skill!  We also love the benefits of returning home after a traveling adventure.  We missed our ethnically varied diet, our wide roads (and that drivers follow the lines!), and even our flat cornfields!  Rome and Florence provided us with a great venue to bring their classroom work and personal interests in history and renaissance art to life.

Were you able to shop at the open air markets and cook some Italian fare?

Yes!  Pantomime and writing down numbers are both great ways to communicate without the benefit of a shared language.  Sometimes you’re not quite sure what you just bought, but the right attitude makes that part of the adventure!  We chose only produce grown in Italy and we ate a wonderful and fresh variety of both fruits and vegetables every day.

What attracts you to this region’s culture?

In addition to all of the reasons we wanted to go, we also enjoyed living in apartments that were part of active neighborhoods.  In Rome, our apartment looked over a very well loved and used local park.  Children, the elderly, and everyone in between used the park virtually 24 hours a day.  Physical activity isn’t what you plan into your day, it simply is part of your day.  We loved experiencing the connectedness of the community and generations and how everyone managed to maintain a stylish appearance while walking miles a day.

Would you go again?

I think any one of us would go again.  In fact, our oldest daughter already plans to try to study abroad in Italy or France.  I also know there are so many more places I want to visit that it’s hard to decide where to go next!  So many tastes to experience and so little time.

There is no trip planned at this time for the Gonter-Dray family.  But, we plan on continuing to: support the local farmers, shop and eat fresh fare, ensure adequate rest for our family, dabble with fresh herbs, incorporate daily physical activity with drinking a little red wine (for me!).  Oh, yes, and simplify.  Please keep me in mind if you travel abroad and need a travel mate!

Thank you to Rachel Riddiford, Organizational Nutrition and Healthy Way Officer, for taking the time in sharing your trip with us all!

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