The Mediterranean style of eating is thought to be one of the healthiest diets in the world. It is the diet mainly followed by countries along the Mediterranean Sea, and it consists of nutritious foods with robust and vibrant flavors.
Did you know that an entire month is dedicated to celebrating this style of eating? May is International Mediterranean Diet Month, and is the perfect time to experiment with this way of eating!
The Mediterranean Diet involves foods that are lighter, yet full of flavor. It does not rely on heavy sauces or creams, but rather makes use of herbs and spices to provide dishes with a hearty feel. It limits processed foods, and instead recommends incorporating whole, fresh ingredients to prepare meals. Physical activity is also an integral part of this diet, which makes May the perfect month to celebrate! Between seasonal hikes or calming beach walks, May is the perfect time to be active and engage in joyful body movements.
The Mediterranean diet differs from the typical western diet because it does not incorporate processed foods, and limits red meat as a main protein choice. By limiting red meat and choosing other types of protein, saturated fat is kept low. This is why the Mediterranean diet is also known as the heart healthy diet, as it uses wholesome ingredients in order to make meals that provide various nutrients and health benefits.
The Mediterranean diet is anything but limiting. This style of eating does not recommend restricting but rather encourages choosing wholesome foods. This style of eating also includes sitting down for meals with family and/or friends and taking the time to enjoy and savor your food. It encourages a change in the way you eat, not just in the foods you choose.
Here are the types of foods encouraged on the Mediterranean diet:
- Healthy fats– there is a focus on the use of olive oil as it is high in monounsaturated fat. This should be used in cooking in place of heavier options such as butter. Mindful servings of nuts and seeds, and avocado are also recommended.
- Varied protein– legumes are recommended as an excellent vegetarian protein source. Other recommendations include fish, such as salmon, mackerel, trout and tuna, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is the most frequently consumed protein source with this lifestyle. Poultry is also a good protein source and is recommended several times a month. Red meat, on the other hand, is suggested to be limited to no more than a few times per month.
- Fruits and veggies– these are the main part of each meal, which ensures that you will meet your vitamin and mineral requirements daily.
- Whole grains– an emphasis is placed on choosing whole grains over refined ones, as this boosts the fiber content of your meals. Opt for whole grain pastas and breads and brown rice to increase your consumption of whole grains.
- Low-fat dairy– instead of higher fat dairy products, reach for lower fat options such as skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.
- Herbs and spices– in place of salt, creams, or heavy dressings, herbs and spices should be used to add flavor to dishes. This ensures a dish will be satiating, as well as nutritious!
As you can see, many of the foods encouraged with the Mediterranean style of eating may already be a part of your typical meals. The important things to focus on are similar to the USDA MyPlate recommendations, which also states the importance of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and physical activity. Because this diet is typically followed across various countries, there is no one way to follow it. Don’t be afraid to get creative when making meals for yourself and your family.
Here is one of my favorite recipes – Mediterranean Chicken and Rice. Enjoy!
1 large onion, diced
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
½ tablespoon oregano
½ tablespoon sage
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 teaspoon paprika
1 (6-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup uncooked quick cooking brown rice
2 teaspoons lemon juice
6 boneless chicken breasts, cut into thirds (approximately 1 ½ pounds)
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Sauté onion, mushrooms and garlic in a non-stick skillet and olive oil until tender.
- Add spinach, oregano, sage, rosemary and paprika and cook 5 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, brown rice and lemon juice. Cook 5 minutes.
- Spread mixture in the bottom of a baking dish. Place chicken pieces on top.
- Cook covered 30 minutes in preheated oven until rice and chicken are cooked thoroughly. Remove cover and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes.
Your turn to take action: How will you celebrate International Mediterranean Diet Month? Let me know in the comments below!