Maybe the secret to healthy eating is going “back to the future.” Following a “Mediterranean diet,” or eating more like Greek and Southern Italian villagers of decades ago, incorporates healthy basics with the best parts of eating well. This lifestyle can be good for the whole family, promoting health and preventing disease.
Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. The diet is characterized by a high intake of extra virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables and nuts, along with unrefined whole grains, fish, eggs and lean meats. A moderate alcohol intake (such as red wine with dinner) is also recommended. Very low consumption of red meat and sweets is advised.
A Mediterranean diet is relatively easy to adopt and follow. Start gradually by introducing more and more fruits, vegetables and healthy fats into your everyday meals.
Guidelines of Greek eating
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
The cornerstone of Mediterranean eating is fresh fruits and vegetables—lots of them. Potatoes, greens, olives and other seasonal vegetables are a big part of every meal.
As with every diet, there are good practices and bad. For example, eat lots of your vegetables raw in salads or roasted with olive oil, rather than frying them. Same goes for nuts. Nuts are high in calories and shouldn’t be eaten in excess. It’s also best to avoid candied, honey-roasted, heavily salted or otherwise flavored nuts. And when getting your daily dose of grains, go for whole grains. Bread should be eaten plain or dipped in olive oil—no butter or margarine.
A Mediterranean diet also recognizes the importance of sharing and enjoying meals with family and friends—now that’s something we could get behind!