The Mediterranean diet; more than mere food

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I’m ahead of the game with this post. I usually write a post in February since it is dubbed Heart Health month in America.  I recently heard on the radio that the Mediterranean diet ranked high and is the best overall diet in 2019 according to the US News and World Report.  So what is this so-called Mediterranean diet and what is its claim to fame? I don’t think we should call it a diet per se, but rather more a lifestyle.  Here’s how we’ve adapted this lifestyle to suit our way of living.

Plant based foods, whole grains, fruits, legumes, loads of fresh herbs and spices, fish and some poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt should be the basis of every meal in the Mediterranean diet.  We try to follow this as best we can.  We’ve increased our vegetable and fish intake and find ourselves eating poultry on occasion.  We try to stay away from red meats, but every so often crave a hearty Guinness stew or a succulent roast lamb with all the trimmings, so needless to say, we do enjoy those dishes in moderation.

This was last week’s fish dinner. Baked halibut, Greek style sweet potato, carrot spirals sauteed in olive oil with a pinch of cumin.

Portion control is very important too.  Jumbo size or all-you-can-eat menus really don’t do much for our waistlines and is a danger to our overall health and well being.  Snacking can be another downfall, (raising my hand here, guilty as charged) however, I try to keep dried fruit and nuts around; apples and almond butter makes a great snack.  Have you ever tried frozen grapes?  If you haven’t you really should, they make an excellent and refreshing snack in all kinds of weather.  Another snack that I often make and is pretty popular here are energy balls made with almond or peanut butter, dates, apricots and other seeds. Or how about home made granola in your oatmeal every morning?  A green salad with olive oil is always on our menu rotation every day at meal times. Yogurt and fresh fruit is what we eat after every meal, I sometimes drizzle maple syrup or honey and walnuts and believe it or not, it actually satisfies that sweet tooth which can be my nemesis.

These white sweet potatoes were baked covered –  in a splash of olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, sweet paprika, broth and plenty of garlic. After 40 minutes, it was uncovered and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, oregano and further baked till a light brown crust appeared. Topped with fresh parsley.

Exercise is so important too.  We take classes at a senior center about a 20 minute walk from home about 3 times a week.  Stretching, balance, weights and other floor exercises on a mat are covered.  We also do yoga at the same center.  Since we’ve downsized and moved to the city, we walk just about everywhere and actually got rid of one of our cars; we find this to be a great way of staying in shape and getting the much needed movement, Vitamin D and other health benefits that one gets from walking.

For the baked halibut, the ingredients were lemon juice, sliced lemon, olive oil, shallots, garlic, capers, cumin, sun dried red peppers, sweet pickled peppers and fresh dill. Baked for 10-15 minutes.

I’m really not trying to advocate what constitutes a good diet, it’s different for every family and what might work for some, might not work for others.  But the more I read about the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, the more I’m convinced it definitely is the way to go.  How about Olive oil and wine?  So popular in Mediterranean countries.  Yes, I’d say definitely swap fats.  A good place is to replace butter with olive oil in your cooking.  I do use butter when baking, after all what’s life without butter 🙂

How about that glass of red wine? That is definitely highly recommended in Mediterranean countries.  In parts of Europe, people drink it like water.  I’m desperately trying to cut out that glass of wine I enjoy every evening when making dinner.  Why you ask?  Just because when the bottle is open, I don’t stop at one, and 2 glasses of vino a night is definitely not something I want to indulge in.  So I’m trying to limit my wine intake – only for social events perhaps?  I have my good and bad days in adhering to these rules I’ve set for myself.  I’m also trying to cut out refined sugars.  Typically though, I do not buy cookies or cakes as I find it way too tempting, but I do bake when we have company.  Still, I’d say overall I’ve been pretty pleased with the changes we’ve made.

This will give you an idea of most of our meals with the Mediterranean diet in mind.

This style of eating has so much flavor that one never gets bored with the food.  I remember eating loads of olives and cheeses on trips to Spain, Italy and France, but keeping everything in moderation is ok for the body and the soul 🙂 A better balance of lifestyle to embrace I’d say.  Keeping this lifestyle and diet in mind is also known to have changed numbers in cholesterol and blood pressure readings and one’s overall health.  Drinking the required amount of water a day has always been tough, but we’re working on that too.

What are some of your own secrets of staying in shape and maintaining a healthy balance?  Do share?

 

35 Replies to “The Mediterranean diet; more than mere food”

  1. I loved reading this post! and am incorporating most of these changes into my life as well. A tip on water consumption ~~for me it is easier to fill a quart jar (with a lid and straw) each morning and sit it by my location, and just drink every hour or so, filling it twice in a day. It may speak more of my laziness than anything else 🙂 but works!

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    1. Fantastic! I work and study from home. Have three glasses of room temperature tap water in my bedroom, study and kitchen . . . every time I walk past or look up from my computer I take an enjoyable sip and renew the water quite automatically, two or three times a day . . . surely works for me . . .

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    2. Great Sue, so happy to hear that. I’m now trying a gluten-free and sugar-free diet, but boy am I losing! LOL! I like your suggestion on consuming the required amount of water each day. It’s tough at times. I have good intentions, but always fall by the wayside. At one time, I mixed apples, pears and oranges in a jug full of water, and that gave me some incentive 🙂

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  2. I love Mediterranean dishes and these dishes look gourmet! Even though I would call this comfort food it looks light with tons of flavor. I need to make more dishes like this and of course can leave out that glass of red wine. Just for the antioxidants right? I can’t say I’m always on track but I sure feel better when I am. Starting my day with a little oatmeal helps a ton.

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    1. Thanks Julie, love that you called it gourmet 🙂 Yes, light and extremely flavorful. I too start out every morning with a bowl of oatmeal and throw all types of fresh fruit in it and flaxseed. It keeps me full for a while. It helps a lot when one is on track I’ll have to say, but quite often I get derailed, but my intentions are always good 🙂

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    1. Ha ha, thanks Ronit – believe it or not I did think of it. I know my mum in England keeps a small bottle and makes about 3 drinks of it. But my problem is I’m afraid, I’ll drink the entire “small” bottle. I’m trying to cut back on wine during the week. It lasted for about 2 weeks 🙂

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  3. As a doctor, and a still learning nutritionist since 1994 . . . and still at three universities now, I applaud your post for more reasons than food. I hate the word ‘diet’ but eating as people do in the Mediterranean countries is naturally eminently sensible. In Australia the ‘Nordic diet’ is getting more-and-more ‘famous’ – coming from there I initially laughed but for its probiotic foods like sauerkraut and drinks like yoghurt and kefir with all the multitude of berries also available,. I was wrong in a way. Personally I can get the same result with many of the Asian cuisines. What I DO love is your stress on the varieties of exercise: to me your para re the exercise you do is the most important of your post! Even chair and breathing exercises are of great import. Add some meditation a few times a week: wonderful tapes available, and you may make the wonderful 100 🙂 ! Oh: *smile*, am one of those who has drunk wine like water since practically childhood . . . .

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    1. Thanks for your vote of confidence as a nutritionist. I must say exercise is on our top to-do lists every other day. Now that hubby is retired, we go to the exercise classes together. We do chair, floor exercises, weights, balance and yoga. As one ages, these are all important. It also helps that we walk everywhere and don’t use the car as often. I don’r know why I keep beating myself over the head re the red wine each night, guess I tried to stop it, but it hasn’t been working too well. As for 100, NO THANK YOU! Once I stop dancing, which I absolutely love, then I might as well say goodbye 🙂 Don’t think I’ll be dancing if I live to be 100 🙂

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  4. Loretta what a great and informative post. We try to live by the 80/20 Mediterranean eating plan. Meaning 80% of the time we eat per the plan and 20% a bit less disciplined. We have only one car that is used to get Eva to and from work and the occasional road trip. The rest of the time it’s walking and public transportation. For me, weather permitting, I walk to the market each day of what fresh produce and protein we need for that day.

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    1. Thanks Ron, and may I ask you a personal question? Is that why you moved? ha ha, just joking! It’s funny though, that’s what Bert and I were just talking about today. Ever since we moved to the city, we walk just about everywhere and got rid of one of the cars, so we share the car if and when we need it. I love the idea of public transportation – wonderful too to walk to the market everyday for your fresh produce. I feel our lifestyles in this country is just not good enough. As an aside, now that I’ve studied the map of Sweden closely, whereabouts are you and Eva?

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      1. We’re in Eslöv, it’s a sleepy small city about 25 minutes by train or car from Lund (Southern Sweden) and 25 minutes from Malmö, thus an hour and 5 minutes from Copenhagen. Why Eslöv you might ask, Eva’s work. But, we’re hoping to move to Lund soon, but it’s a long queue to get an apartment.

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  5. What an informative post Loretta. I loved reading how you both walk everywhere and about your exercise routine. I admire your resolve about avoiding those calorie laden desserts and sticking to yogurt and fruit instead.
    Your meal looks so warm, cozy and inviting.

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    1. Thanks Sandhya…..unfortunately my resolve is not always in the right place after a while. I flip flop and fall off the wagon easily 🙂 Yes, we do stick with fruit and yogurt each night after dinner, and for something sweeter, I eat a couple of dates before bed. But unfortunately when I’m out and about, I cannot say NO to the temptations 🙂

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  6. I could easily enjoy The Mediterranean diet as I love fresh veggies, fish and spices. Your dishes look amazing, colorful and delicious! It sounds like you’ve created a successful lifestyle! I find now that I eat healthier and limit my glasses of wine to about 3 or 4 a week, I feel better. Now I’m exercising with my Denise Austin dvd( aerobic, floor exercises and with weights) about 4 or 5 times a week for 50 minutes each. Loretta, as far as baking for company and resisting temptation I am right there with you. I make my husband hide the goodies I make but then he forgets where he hides them! Haha😄💜

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    1. So funny about the hubby hiding the goodies. I have my husband do it too, especially if we get a nice bar of chocolate every so often. He’s quite good about remembering though 🙂 It sounds like you’ve got a nice thing going there too. I love walking, and these past couple of days have not been good for walking, snowy and icy and I refuse to go out. But I too do some exercises at home. I don’t do aerobic anymore, as I suffer from hip and back pain. Glad you’re following a good routine each day. Keep it up!

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      1. Good morning Loretta, that’s great you can exercise at home! Sorry about the hip and back pain…there must be special exercises for that. I learned back exercises in physical therapy for a herniated disc. I hope you can walk soon!😊❤️

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      2. Yes, the temps are more favorable now, so walking has resumed. I too have a herniated disc. However, 2 sets of PT, a chiropractor and some shots have still not got it right, but I continue to do all the exercises.

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    1. Mimi, being in the suburbs was punishment for Bert. I have never seen him as happy since we moved to the city and downsized (about 6 years now). I say city, but we’re surrounded by trees, parks and a river. Additionally, we have a ton of restaurants, a library that we walk to, I walk to church, an Art Gallery etc.etc. I feel like we have the best of both worlds as we are surrounded by places we can walk to and ditched the second car in favor of walking. Oh and we have a couple of great liquor stores close by too…. all important things you know 🙂 It’s nice to be able to walk about 10-15 minutes to grab a drink, then walk home for supper.

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      1. Ha ha, I know what you mean, we gave that up too….but you’re right, it’s a sacrifice. But we do love the social life now. Deciding where we could walk for a drink is high on the agenda these days. 🙂

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  7. What a fabulous post Loretta! I love the combination of spices you used in both the baked halibut and the sweet potatoes. I have this Spanish paprika I got from a spice market in Spain that I am addicted to now and recently found Meyer lemons in Trader joes that I used on baked Cod like you did.But I have not used sun dried red peppers and they look amazing- what a great combination! Loved how you tied the dishes with cumin too.
    Also liked your focus on healthy habits and exercise!

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    1. Sandhya, thanks, you must have liked this post so much, you commented on it twice LOL! I had never used sun dried tomatoes either, so grabbed it when I found it. It has a lovely tart/sweet taste. I too LOVE Spanish paprika, great that you were able to bring it all the way from Spain. I enjoy picking up a spice or two from different places we visit. I found some great New Orleans no-salt Creole seasoning when we visited. You’ll definitely find a lot of great spices there.

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      1. That diet and exercise etc.. thing is my thing these days too….in between the feasting and partying so I am glad I re read that post 🙂
        I did get some spices from NOLA!

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