As my husband, Vegan Man, likes to say, “It’s a Lifestyle–not a diet.” The same is true of the Mediterranean Diet. And while this way of eating developed in a certain part of the world, far from our home in California, its increasing popularity is a result of its remarkable health benefits and delicious flavors.
A study conducted in Spain, with results published by the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that a Mediterranean Diet is responsible for a 30% risk reduction for heart attacks and strokes. It proved far more valuable than just eating a low-fat diet. They even had to stop the study early because the health benefits were so ridiculously clear that to continue would have been unethical.
Here’s the lowdown, eight simple ways to bring the flavors of the Mediterranean to your own family’s table without having to cross an ocean:
1. Eat lots of vegetables. With every meal. Fresh salads with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese, garlicky greens, roasted cauliflower, healthy veg topped pizzas. Vegetables are an important part of going Mediterranean.
2. Change your relationship with meat. Become acquaintances instead of best friends. Think of meat as a side as opposed to an entrée. Reduce red meat to no more than a few times a month.
3. Eat breakfast. Start your day with fiber rich foods including oatmeal and other whole grains, fruits/vegetables and a protein source.
4. Enjoy seafood once or twice a week. Fresh or water packed tuna, trout, salmon or mackerel are all good choices. Just nix the deep-fried variety.
5. Eat vegetarian one or more nights a week. Build your meals around beans, grains and vegetables. Experiment with herbs and spices to enliven your evening meal.
6. Use good fats. Olive oil is a good replacement for margarine and butter. Try olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar as a delicious dip for crusty french bread. Mashed avocado spread on toast is quite nice as well.
7. Enjoy dairy products in moderation. Eat plain yogurt with fruit and nuts. Use Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream. Try small amounts of a variety of cheeses.
8. Choose fresh fruit for dessert. Look for what’s in season. Limit sugary treats for special occasions.
And since it’s a lifestyle, not a diet, don’t forget to include other healthy practices like daily exercise and enjoying meals with family and friends. If you’re a wine drinker, you have the green light to enjoy a glass with dinner on occasion for its heart protective properties.