3 Easy Ways To Embrace The Mediterranean Lifestyle This Holiday Season
The wide world of diet trends is full of limitations and restrictions, and that's likely why the Mediterranean diet, with its mindset of moderation and simplicity, has become so popular. Consistently ranked as a top diet for health and beyond, the adaptable eating style prioritizes whole foods, healthy fats, and lots of colorful produce.
That said, if you only focus on eating Mediterranean diet macros, you'll miss out on many of the health-supporting habits of people who live in this region.
The immense popularity of this eating style originated with a study that became known as the Seven Countries Study1. Beginning in the 1950s, this study observed how diet affects heart disease risk in—you guessed it—seven countries: the United States, the Netherlands, Finland, Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece, and Japan. While they found the risk was lowest in Italy and Greece—the Mediterranean countries—the researchers could only partially attribute the health benefits to diet: After all, while nutrition is crucial, health is more than just what we eat.
The work of Dan Buettner, establishing what he's termed "Blue Zones"—those areas of the world where people live the longest and the healthiest—is further evidence that it's important to take a holistic view of the lifestyles in these regions. Of the five areas Buettner noted as hot spots of longevity, two rest among the Mediterranean. His work has also highlighted common longevity-promoting habits of people across the Blue Zones—ones that aren't restricted to dietary choices but expand into lifestyle.
So whether you're already an avid follower of a Mediterranean diet or you're simply looking for a few ways to support your health this holiday season, consider some key components of the Mediterranean diet—or Mediterranean lifestyle, if you will—that extend outside the kitchen:
1. Get yourself moving.
You don't need to do a rigorous home workout or an intense long run: Simply add walking to your day. In many of the cultures surrounding the Mediterranean, walking everywhere is the norm. While social distancing means we have to be mindful of where we take our walks right now, and the weather may not encourage a stroll, it's still a worthwhile endeavor during the colder months.
Consider simple options, like walking to get groceries or using a walk as an opportunity to see some of the festive decorations in your neighborhood.
2. Find ways to connect with others.
Another key component of the lifestyle in Mediterranean regions is eating together—meal times are a social event and a lingering experience. Again, the 2020 holiday season won't be characterized by large gatherings, but thankfully, this year has also seen almost every generation get on board with video conferencing.
While you may be tiring of video calls, finding ways to make joyful, seasonal events happen is worth a try—after all, virtual chats with family and friends will certainly feel different from your morning meetings. Take these calls to an even more festive level by including a culinary component: Pick a recipe and spending a video call cooking along with your friends or family (bonus points if it's a Mediterranean diet update on a family favorite).
3. Practice mindful eating.
Consider two mindful eating practices: Limit snacking between meals, and eat slowly, without distractions (other than your in-person or virtual dining companions, of course). Besides your video chat, consider this an invitation to turn off all your screens and focus on your delicious food.
Mindfulness can also apply to the prep part of your meal—cooking for yourself is the name of the game in the Mediterranean kitchen, including as much as possible from scratch (like making your own pasta and bread).
While we mostly talk about the Mediterranean diet as just that, a diet, it's important to consider the influence that lifestyle has on overall health. Let those regions be an inspiration for your behavior in and out of the kitchen. After all, approaching health from a holistic point of view can have a ripple effect of benefits.
Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.