Get in the Mediterranean Mindset
There are food and exercise celebrations every month of the year. And May is no exception. May is National Asparagus Month, National Barbecue Month, National Chocolate Custard Month, National Egg Month, and National Gazpacho Aficionado Month (Yes. This is a thing).
I like this. In a world so focused on the negative, it’s fun to celebrate flavors and tastes. May also happens to be Mediterranean diet month!
When you think about the Mediterranean, it’s possible you dream about white-washed houses set against a deep-blue sea, sandy beaches, and Mamma Mia. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I think about Kalmata olives, feta cheese, fresh herbs, and olive oil drizzled over think slabs of multi-grain bread.
This month, celebrate your health and go to the Mediterranean … in your grocery store. (And, you don’t have to break the bank to do so!)
- Bring on the olive oil. Drizzle olive oil on toast. Use it to sautee your vegetables. Olive oil is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean Diet. It’s the Mediterranean version of vibranium. Its beneficial properties include reducing the risk of cancer, Type II diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. It’s also got a hand in lowering blood cholesterol and pressure.
- Check origin. The label might say Greek Island olive oil when it’s really from New Jersey. On the bottom of the bottle, look for origin.
- Check harvest date. Olive oil would not survive Spam. It will last, maximum, two years. But only in ideal conditions.
- Check the seal of approval. Knock-offs abound! You want olive oil that has been approved by an association (eg California Olive Oil Council).
- Avoid free fatty acids and look for high polyphenol content. If the fatty acids are not listed on the bottle, don’t buy it.
- The price depends on the use. Purchase extra-virgin for dressings and dipping and cheaper oil for cooking.
- Go nuts and clear out crackers and chips. Almonds, cashews, walnuts and Brazil nuts are chock-full of good fats – great for your brain. Nuts are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (which lower your bad cholesterol). They’re full of fiber, protein, and necessary nutrients.
- Change up your proteins. Cut back on red meat. Replace steak with grilled fish. Shredded beef with fish tacos. Use beans and lentils in your soups and sauces. The Mediterranean diet is surprisingly low in red meat.
- Replace simple carbs (like white rice and pasta) with whole grains. Whole grain breads and crackers, pastas and rice, quinoa, chia, fruits and vegetables are complex carbohydrates that feed our brains, cells, and give us the energy we need. Don’t erase carbs from your diet, no matter what diet craze says you should.
- Pile your plate … with fruits and vegetables. Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption. Make fruit your go-to choice for snacks and dessert. Add vegetables to everything (meatloaf, spaghetti sauces and more). Find ways to sneak fruits and vegetables into every meal, every snack.
- Get in a Mediterranean mindset. Enjoy the flavors, the meal. Be mindful of what you’re eating. Involve family and friends in shopping and preparation. Make meals matter. Find space to sit and eat and share and enjoy and celebrate together, whether it’s a picnic lunch at the park or a full-blown Sunday family meal. And if you dine alone, enjoy the time, the food, and the ritual of sitting down to a lovely meal. How we eat is just as important as what we eat.
In a month of food celebrations, go Mediterranean! Treat yourself, and your health, to a seaside diet that includes incredible flavors and nutrients.