While I have never been to Greece or any other part of the mythical Mediterranean, I try to eat like I'm living there every single day. If you haven’t already heard of the Mediterranean Diet, I highly suggest you spend some time researching the benefits of it. Simple, whole-food based and delicious, this way of eating is by no means a “diet,” and is based on the foods and customs of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea – Italy, Greece, France, Portugal and Spain.
The basics of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle are:
1- Olive oil is the main source of fat. Instead of unhealthy fats like butter, they use olive oil in limited quantities in their cooking and for salad dressings, etc.
2- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. This is the “meat” of the Mediterranean way of eating. Fresh, preferably organic produce, beans, and nuts are filled with vitamins, antioxidants and minerals and should make up the majority of your meals.
3- Whole Grains. Pasta, rice and bread made with whole grains are a part of their every day diet. Eliminate processed and bleached flour to get the health benefits of whole grains.
4- Avoid processed food! Foods that are fresh and local are best. Stay away from packaged, canned and artificial foods. “Real” foods offer amazing benefits for our bodies and taste so good!
5- Consume dairy products on a limited basis. Greek Yogurt, etc makes a great snack or occasional breakfast. Try to stick with low-fat dairy.
6- Consume fish abundantly (unless you are a vegetarian, of course.) I’m a huge seafood fan, which is part of why I am so attracted to this way of life. They recommend eating at least two servings of fresh fish per week to reap the benefits of the Omega 3 fats the fish contain.
7- Red meat should be consumed in moderation or not at all. An excessive intake of animal fat is not healthy, and often red meat contains loads of fat and other horrible things like antibiotics, etc. Therefore, while small amounts of meat are ok, stick to lean meat whenever possible and use it as a side dish for veggies and whole grains instead of making it the main event.
8- Limit or eliminate your use of sugar. While it is only natural to indulge in a cookie now and then, fresh fruit should be your every day desert. So much can be done with fruit: salads, baked fruit, or dressed with honey – all of these are a natural and tasty alternative to sugary processed deserts.
9- Wine in moderation. People in the Mediterranean also consume wine, usually with meals as part of a balanced diet – about one or two glasses per day for men and one for women. Wine is of course optional and should not be consumed if it would put you at any risk!
10- Be physical active every day. It goes without saying that a healthy lifestyle must include physical activity. Walk, jog, do some gardening, do yoga, swim – whatever it may be, keep your body moving!
People who stick to this diet have been known to have lower levels of chronic disease and some of the highest life expectancies in the world. They also stress sharing meals with others and fostering a deep appreciation for the pleasures of eating healthy and delicious foods. They balance work with leisure and fully enjoy the goodness of their lives. If that isn’t enough to convince you, conjuring up images of sitting with friends and family by the sparkling blue sea, with white sand, rocky cliffs, and stark white buildings in the background, eating abundant fresh natural food in the glittering sunshine may do the trick. I know it does for me!