ANGELO ACQUISTA WITH LAURIE ANNE VANDERMOLEN
THE HOOK: More and better years by eating like a Sicilian.
THE DIET: Fresh produce, legumes, nuts, whole grains, fish, olive oil, and red wine.
NO. 1 LESSON LEARNED: Healthy eating means moderation of everything more than elimination of anything.
This one will be a fallback for the rest of my life. The soul of the plan is the fish-and-produce-rich diet of Sicily and neighboring Mediterranean cultureswordfish with capers, pasta fagioli, poached pears in Chianti. Even as a lazy and inexperienced cook, I found the recipes easy. As an endurance athlete, well, pasta's been the staple fuel source for runners and cyclists for decades; I felt good and crushed it on the bike.
This all makes sense. A recent study by Australian researchers comparing the moods of low-carb dieters to low-fat dieters found that the latter reported much better emotional states after a year of dieting than their low-carb counterparts. The Mediterranean Prescription was a pleasant and forceful reminder that the evils refined carbs have done to Americans' health are no reason to jettison carbs altogether. By all means, get white bread out of your life, but don't feel bad about reaching for a piece of whole-grain goodness. And dip it in some olive oil. That's become a regular weapon in my afternoon-snack arsenal.
I also love the fact that, in a book that's ostensibly about weight loss, Acquista's only real discussion about calories is to say that counting them will ultimately derail attempts to lead a healthier lifestyle. The core message: Eat as many vegetables as you can, plus healthier versions of most of the foods you already like, and find activities you enjoy. But don't forget that sometimes health and happiness depend on big, festive meals and afternoon naps. If your pants get tight, eat less and exercise more. I can get behind that.