Enjoying summer’s fresh, colorful bounty of delicious foods with amazing health benefits is what living the Mediterranean lifestyle means. And this is the perfect time of year to experiment with Mediterranean foods and flavors with your own local foods.
Key components of the Mediterranean diet include:
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts – plant foods should cover 3/4ths of your plate
- Use herbs and spices, fresh lemon juice, garlic and onion instead of salt to flavor foods
- Choosing lean protein-rich foods (fish, poultry, lean red meat cuts) and limiting to 3 oz portions and choosing non-fat and low-fat dairy foods
- Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as liquid oils (olive, canola, sunflower, etc) and nuts, seeds, olives, avocado
Whether you are cooking up fresh summer squash, corn or asparagus or lightening up your next barbecue with olive oil, fresh herbs and lemon juice, the Mediterranean diet principles can be applied to any recipe or cuisine and the benefits go a long way. In fact, research has shown the Mediterranean diet drastically decreases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, obesity and cognition loss. Studies show deaths from these diseases can be reduced by 30 percent by following a healthy Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.1
The health and longevity benefits of the Mediterranean diet, however, are not just a result of food choices but also from overall lifestyle. The Mediterranean lifestyle encourages you to eat socially in relaxed settings and seek out fresh and locally-grown foods. There is also a big focus on adding fresh herbs, fresh vegetables, and leafy greens to your cooking to intensify flavors and provide satiety. And where sun and sea come together, quality is key – rather than quantity – with an emphasis on exercise and social connections.
This summer, make an effort to not only eat a Mediterranean diet but try to complement your eating plan and live the Mediterranean way! Start with these tips below.
- Vow to put a focus on physical activity, enjoying relaxed meals and taking a less hurried approach to your day. Turn off the TV, phones and tablets and enjoy a meal with loved ones – engaging, laughing and talking.
- Get up and out the door. Take a walk in the sunshine, even for 25 minutes.
- Socialize and eat with your friends. Add a big salad with tomatoes at lunch or dinner. Add vinaigrette or oil and vinegar to your salad and eat cooked vegetables. Enjoy a 3-ounce portion of fish, poultry or lean lamb or beef at mealtime or beans as a protein entree. Try adding more whole grains to your day like whole wheat bread or brown rice or oatmeal. Top salads with nuts and/or beans.
- Snack smart and reach for an apple or nuts. And don’t forget a little cheese and nonfat Greek yogurt, topped with fresh berries and/or nuts, make a delicious snack option, too. On of my favorites is fresh veggies dipped in hummus/Greek yogurt blended as a dip.
This is how you protect your health, your life and your zest for living.
Source: 1 New England Journal of Medicine
For more ideas on healthy eating and successful solutions, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips and eating plans makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/GeorgiaKostasNutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com
This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.