The Mediterranean Diet
We may not be able to travel to the Mediterranean this summer, but we can bring the Mediterranean home in our cooking. There is an abundance of scientific evidence linking the Mediterranean diet to a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. If you are looking to make some healthy changes to your diet this summer, the Mediterranean way of eating is a great place to start. It is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oil, fish and flavour from spices and herbs. Best of all, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating together, sitting down, taking our time and enjoying food.
There are a few simple ways to incorporate the Mediterranean diet at home.
1. Focus on Good Fats: Include fatty fish high in omega 3’s such as Salmon, Arctic Char, Halibut, Trout and sardines. Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are high in mono-unsaturated fats and make a fabulous snack. Use olive oil in salad dressings, marinades and for sautéing vegetables.
2. Add beans to your plate. Beans are an excellent source of fibre and plant protein. Try reducing meat in your diet and replacing it with legumes. Use hummus as a spread in a sandwich with alfalfa sprouts, feta and cucumber, add lentils to your vegetable soup or salad and beans to your stew. Roasted chickpeas seasoned with cumin and paprika make for a high protein snack and black beans mashed with lime juice and cilantro is a delicious spread on whole grain crackers.
3. Add vegetables to breakfast. Add sliced tomatoes and spinach to a breakfast sandwich, spread avocado on toast or add arugula to an omelet. Kale, chard and spinach are great additions to a breakfast smoothie.
4. Keep fruit in sight for simple snacking: Having a fruit bowl with bananas, apples, pears and oranges on the counter in full view will encourage healthy snacking on the fly. Keep a container of cut melon and a bowl of cherries or grapes for easy picking in the fridge.
5. Make a batch of vegetable soup: Soup can make a quick and nutritious dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day. Start with a base of onions, carrots, celery or leeks. Add thinly sliced cabbage and a tin of diced tomatoes, toss in some herbs of Provence or bouquet garni and low sodium vegetable stock. For protein add a tin of white beans drained and rinsed.
6. Add flavour with fresh herbs and spices. Herbs of Provence include thyme, rosemary, lavender, savory and fennel. In Italy basil and oregano are popular herbs. Spices common in Turkey include cumin, paprika, mint and allspice.
7. Add greens to your grains. Tabbouleh is a Mediterranean bulgur salad with 4 cups of fresh herbs to 1 cup of grain. Substitute bulgur for quinoa for a higher protein grain. Adding a legume to this salad makes a perfect meal-in-one and stores well in the fridge.
8. Slow down and eat together. Eating more slowly allows our brain to recognize when our stomach is full. Reduce stress, laugh and tell stories at meal time to improve immune system and lower blood pressure. Families who eat together tend to have higher quality diets.
We are in this Together. Let’s make the most of our time.