A very successful Instagram page, a cookbook with an original approach to food (I cook healthy with sgarro, Mondadori, € 22). Hero Rossana Dian, a former model who left the Milanese catwalks to devote herself to her passion: cooking. By promoting one healthy and delicious eating style at the same time. We asked her about the secret of this unusual mix.
First of all, how do you manage to be so fit by being in the kitchen all the time?
Because I believe in a playful and balanced relationship with the table. But that wasn’t always the case. At 19 I was 1.78 tall and weighed 42 kilos: food was my enemy no. 1, my only meal in one day involved some salad and water. At one point I said enough: I left Milan and went home to Modena, where, thanks to my family and the help of qualified specialists, I fought for 4 years with the ghost of anorexia. And I won. I still remember with great emotion the evening when, in a pizzeria in front of my mother, I managed to eat a margherita pizza and a portion of profiterole. I was finally on the road to recovery. My grandmothers did the rest: they were always in the kitchen kneading tagliatelle and tortellini and I helped them. Thus, day after day, my passion was born.
Was it precisely food that cured her of anorexia?
Exactly. We don’t eat just to nourish ourselves: what we bring to the table is a source of well-being, balance and harmony. But it is also a powerful socialization tool: it teaches you to love yourself more and be comfortable with others. I treated my eating disorder in the kitchen, but one event was decisive: the opening of my account on Instagram. At that moment something magical happened: this community of thousands of women was spontaneously created who shared their and my pain with me and offered me solidarity and support. This gave me the strength and motivation to restart.
And what a restart! What is her secret?
Avoid diets! I’m not kidding. Together with my nutritionist, Monica Artoni, we have developed a simple and effective method to find a good relationship with food. The first step is prefer quality raw materials, a privilege that we Italians have and that we often underestimate. Secondly, it is important to compose a dish in a balanced way (as explained below), so as to never miss precious nutrients for the body. Finally, it is essential to find a method to dose the ingredients without having to weigh them, so that you can make the correct portions by eye, even if you are out for dinner or a business lunch. Monica and I use that of the hand, created by Sian Porter, a dietician of the British Dietetic Association.
What’s it about?
In practice, it teaches you to calculate the correct portion of food based on the size of your hand by completely eliminating the weights, the scales, the measuring spoons and all the tedious complications related to the diet. Let’s take concrete examples: as for meat, a portion must be as large as the palm of your hand, fingers excluded. For white fish, such as cod and hake, include fingers as well, palm only for fatty fish such as salmon. For the raw vegetables, the two open hands are ok, including fingers. For that crush, for berries, like raspberries and blackberries, he calculates two punches, for dried fruit the palm of a hand. A punch is ideal for pasta and rice, a tight punch for potatoes. For cheese, measure two inches joined by both the thickness and the length of the slice. As for desserts, a slice of cake must be between the open index and middle fingers of the hand. Finally the seasonings: oil, butter and other fats must not exceed half an inch.
And if it goes wrong, what happens?
Nothing, on the contrary. Indulging in a whim is a break of joy and pleasure necessary to then return to normal. And it is important to do so without guilt: they are the ones that make you fat, because they increase cortisol, the stress hormone. My favorite sgarro is the fried dumpling: when I go to visit my family, I don’t know how to give it up. It is a real cuddle because it takes me back to traditions, to my childhood, to my deepest affections.
How to weigh food without scales
“Generally, people do not know how to dose portions correctly and often underestimate the calories present in the meal,” says Monica Artoni, dietician and nutritionist in Milan and Montecatini Terme (PT).
“How do we figure out the right amount of food we need without making complicated calculations?” In the table below you will find “practical” units of measurement such as jars, glasses, plates to learn how to adjust yourself by eye. Together with the hand method, they are an excellent ally for not wasting time with the scales ».
Here’s how to compose the ideal dish
To eat properly it is necessary to choose foods according to their nutrient content and their caloric intake. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the percentage ratio to keep in mind is 50/25/25.
Vegetables and fruit. Choose seasonal fruit and vegetables and keep the colors in mind when choosing them. Try to do a mix of colors (green, red, orange, purple). Remember that potatoes are carbohydrates and legumes are proteins.
Whole grains. You are spoiled for choice: pasta and brown rice, barley, quinoa and oats are preferable to more refined products, which quickly raise blood sugar and insulin levels causing classic hunger pangs.
Proteins. 25% protein can be made up of fish, white meat, legumes, cheeses and low-fat dairy products such as ricotta or Greek yogurt or vegetable proteins derived from soy, tofu or tempeh. Limit red meat to 500g per week and avoid cured meats, sausages and bacon.
(Credits photo Rossana Dian: Marco Fumagalli for @ CucinoSano)