June 2021



    Eating healthfully in the age of disinformation is tricky business.  You can choose between keto, paleo, Whole 30, intermittent fasting, not to mention diet plans launched by celebrity influencers, who tout them on Instagram and in best-selling books.  Sorting through all the competing claims and conflicting advice (drink skim milk; actually, whole milk; wait: make that almond milk) is so head-spinning that healthy eating DIY becomes healthy eating “Why try?”

    Well, allow us to cut back the weeds and guide you down a widely proven path to health: the Mediterranean diet.  It’s not really a diet per se, but a way of eating that naturally evolved, along with civilization itself.  Envision the Greeks, Romans and Mesopotamians snacking on olives and grapes as they debated the best forms of government and the duties of citizenship. The Mediterranean style of dining is now among the most studied diets in the world, and it’s one of the most effective ways to boost health.  Research suggests it may prevent heart disease, preserve cognition, and increase life span and vitality.  That explains why it’s been the top diet pick of the media-storm-making US News & World Report for four years running.  The Mediterranean diet has stood the test of time, it’s sustainable and it’s delightful in the bargain. The powerful health effects come from two key trade-offs: You eat fewer processed foods and more natural ones, and you eat less animal protein and more plants.   Make the Mediterranean diet a part of your life with these simple strategies.

    Build all your meals around:

    • Vegetables: Leafy greens, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, beets.
    • Fruits: Apples, grapes, berries, oranges, tomatoes, olives, avocados (yes, the last three are fruits!)
    • Whole grains: Oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, farro, whole-grain pasta, whole-grain bread, whole-grain tortillas.
    • Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almond butter, peanut butter, tahini.
    • Beans and legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, white beans, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, lupini beans.
    • Olive oil.
    • Herbs and spices: Garlic, rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon.
    • Water and wine: Drink as much water as you wish. If you’d like, have a small glass of wine (4 ounces or less) per day.

    A few times a week, eat small portions of:

    • Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese (plain, whole milk varieties).
    • Poultry and eggs
    • Seafood: Salmon, shrimp, cod, anchovies, sardines, canned tuna in olive oil.

    A few times a month, have a bit of:

    • Meat: beef, pork, lamb
    • Sweets and processed foods: Baked goods, potato chips, chocolate, candy.

    Stock Your Pantry

    While fresh is best, lots of canned goods are nutritionally sound and convenient.  Try low-sodium canned tomatoes, beans, and corn, plus seafood in tins, like sardines and salmon.

    Stock Your Freezer

    Frozen produce is minimally processed and helps reduce food waste.  Stash frozen cauliflower rice, broccoli, squash and berries.  And keep a loaf of sliced whole-grain bread in the freezer as well; it won’t get moldy or stale, and you can pop a slice right into the toaster.

    Mediterranean Quick Tips

    • Become BFFs with olive oil. Use it to whip up salad dressings and marinades, roast vegetables and sauté meat or fish.   Don’t stop there. Drizzle that liquid gold onto pasta, soup, and even oatmeal.  Top with flaky sea salt for an extra hit of flavor.
    • Keep a couple of easy side salads in your back pocket. Chopped tomatoes or cucumbers dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper goes with everything from grilled meats to omelets.  Thinly shredded cabbage (or bagged cole-slaw mix) tossed with oil, vinegar, and salt adds punch to sandwiches, tacos and burgers. 
    • Serve a simple green salad with every dinner. Toss arugula or other greens with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of flaky sea salt.
    • Go nuts! Sprinkle one or two tablespoons of walnuts, almonds, cashew, pistachios, hazelnuts, or any other nut over oatmeal, yogurt, salads, pastas, or cooked vegetables.  Or just grab a handful for a healthy snack.
    • Add fresh herbs for a pop of color, flavor and antioxidants. Toss dill or cilantro into salads, sprinkle tarragon or parsley into scrambled eggs, or make a savory yogurt dip with plain Greek yogurt, chopped parsley and grated cucumber. 
    • Make hummus a mainstay.  With pita chips or carrot sticks, it’s a great quick snack.  You can also smear it onto your sandwich or wrap instead of mayo.  Or spread a few generous spoonsful on the bottom of a shallow bowl and top with roasted vegetables, and a jammy, soft-cooked egg. 
    • Prep whole-grains ahead. Cook a big batch of brown rice, quinoa, farro, barley, wheat berries or bulgur and freeze three-quarter-cup servings in individual containers.  Defrost them in the fridge over night for salads.  Or add them directly to olive oil in a hot pan for a quick sauté; the grains will become crispy and irresistible. 
    • Enjoy fruit for dessert. A bright orange clementine, a bowl of sweet berries, or a few cubes of juicy pineapple will satisfy your sweet tooth.  You’ll avoid added sugars and get some bonus nutrients. 
    • Remember: the Mediterranean diet is also about how you eat. Whenever possible, sit down with family or friends (even over Zoom!) and savor every bite of your delicious, healthy food.

    Toby Amidor, RD, CDN and Kelly Toups, RD, LDN