Wining & Dining
The Mediterranean Diet Offers Healthy Eating Alternatives
6/1/2020 1:00:00 PM
Mediterranean Diet

In the regions that surround the Mediterranean Sea, food is life! It’s not about the speed or convenience of fast food like we’re accustomed to here. They take time to prepare food from scratch, toast the ones they love and enjoy their life through the art of their cuisine. Healthy eating becomes easier when it tastes this good!

Mediterranean Cuisine vs the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean cuisine at typical Greek restaurants is not exactly the same as the Mediterranean Diet. Like at most restaurants, there will be healthy options and plenty of splurges on the menu.  Knowing the predominant foods to choose can make a great difference in your health and can empower you to modify your meals, no matter where you’re dining. The Mediterranean Diet refers to the specific dietary patterns found in the olive-tree growing areas. Researchers have demonstrated that adding a few of these healthy eating patterns into your daily meals can result in better mental and physical health. Specifically, it promotes lowered rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer with better cognitive function. 

Main Characteristics of the Mediterranean Diet

The primary focus of this healthy way of eating involves a high consumption of plant-based foods. Choose an abundance and wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, legumes and heart-healthy whole grains/cereals. In moderation, use healthy fats such as olive oil and omega-3-rich fish. In limited quantities, enjoy fermented or low-fat dairy options, meats and red wine.  

Ways to Incorporate these Nutritious Food Groups into Daily Life

Vegetables: Dark leafy greens, eggplant, carrots, squash, peppers and zucchini are often used; make veggies the superstars of your meals.

Legumes and nuts: Look for lentil or bean dishes, chickpeas (main ingredient in hummus or falafel), beans and okra; sprinkle almonds, walnuts, cashews or pistachios on top for some added crunch to hot dishes or salads.

Fruits: Apples, berries, grapes, peaches, citrus fruits, cucumbers and tomatoes are in high demand for these dishes. 

Whole grains & cereals: Brown rice, bulgur (used in tabbouleh salad), wheat berries, spelt, oats and quinoa can be made in large batches and used throughout the week. Choose whole wheat breads for sandwiches and wraps.

Fish/Seafood: Fish is king along the Mediterranean coast, but other seafood choices such as shrimp, scallops and oysters may be substituted for protein. Limit to two small servings per week.

Oils/Fats: Choose plant-based fats over animal fats. Olive oil is most widely drizzled, but other oils such as sesame, canola, sunflower and cottonseed are available.

Low fat and fermented dairy: Yogurt, cottage cheese, feta or ricotta cheese used in small amounts are best (they don’t typically drink their dairy products). Limit to less than one cup per day (if any).

Meats: Limit to one small serving per day (if any); pork tenderloin, chicken, lean ground beef and veal are popular (chicken shawarma and gyros are popular menu items).

Alcohol: Red wine should only be consumed with the meal and in small amounts (women = one drink per day and men = two drinks per day maximum).

Fresh, whole foods are truly best to fuel our bodies. When we prepare them and use the food groups in the way they do in the Mediterranean, we gain both a healthy and delicious thriving way of life. 

Stephanie is a local Speech-Language Pathologist/Feeding Specialist and wellness advocate. She enjoys helping families become happy and healthy adventurous eaters.



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