Category Archives: Recipes

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

Since grade school we have known about the food pyramid, but the food pyramid I want to discuss today is quite different: The Mediterranean Food Pyramid.

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

The pyramid is used by countless health organizations, clinics, doctors and many others to guide people to eat in a healthy manner. It is the standard to live by and health professionals unanimously agree that by following this diet pyramid, your health will benefit tremendously.

The pyramid is a wonderful synopsis of what the Mediterranean Diet entails. It shows four different food groups and the optimal number of servings of each group that should be consumed.

The pyramid was created based on research of the diet that the people in the Mediterranean countries consume. The area was selected as the model because of the low incidence of heart disease and high life expectancy found in the region.

One of the primary reasons for the healthy results of the diet is that the people not only use fresh, unadulterated ingredients, they also cook their meals in very healthy ways.

They are among the minority of the world’s population that have not embraced the fast food culture that dominates the US and Australia. It should be noted that both countries are battling an obesity epidemic.

You Will Eat Fresh, Healthy Foods

There are no processed foods, colas, white flour products, pizzas or any unhealthy food in the food pyramid. There are only categories of fresh, healthy foods: fruits and vegetables, nuts and grains, beans, fish and seafood, and healthy oils (primarily olive oil) – plus a little red wine.

Your fat consumption should be moderate along with consumption of dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. Eggs can be consumed daily.

Fish (seafood) is preferred over meat and should be consumed twice a week. Poultry is also preferred over red meat and should be consumed once a week. Red meat should only be consumed 3 to 4 times a month. The rest of the time, vegetables, legumes, and/or pasta should be the focal point of your meals.

Fruit and vegetables (7 servings) should be consumed daily.

Get rid of your salt shaker and start seasoning with fresh herbs and spices. Don’t forget the garlic and onions.

Cook primarily with olive oil. Butter should be used minimally, if at all.  NEVER use margarine or hydrogenated oil products.

The use of unhealthy hydrogenated oils is very rare in Mediterranean cooking – and they rarely eat red meat or sweets (other than fresh fruit)

Avoid all foods that contain processed sugar. That means chocolate, candies, and most rich desserts are to be consumed minimally.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the Mediterranean diet is red wine. This is not an open invitation to include all alcoholic beverages such as beer, vodka or bourbon in your diet. The Mediterranean diet advocates ONLY wine. About 1 glass for women and no more than 2 glasses a day for men and usually, consumption is after dinner.

The food pyramid is just a guideline to help you eat in a healthy way. You do not need to be overly strict and get upset if you do not follow it exactly. As long as you eat the foods on the pyramid and stop eating the healthy damaging junk/processed foods that are typical on the American diet, you will be doing well. If you make those changes, you will be giving yourself one of the greatest gifts possible: Good Health!

Photo from: https://www.unitypoint.org/madison/filesimages/News%20Article%20Images/mediterranean-diet-pyramid.jpg

From the same site, check out the 7-day Mediterranean Menu (Autumn/Winter).  Not only does it suggest full menus for all meals, it includes recipes and calorie count for the day.  ENJOY!

Mediterranean Diet Shopping List

Hopefully you are convinced (as I am) that the Mediterranean diet is fantastic. It has proven to be a healthy way of life for many people – why not you? Unlike other diets such as the Atkins diet or Paleo diet there is little debate over whether or not it is good for you.

Of course, we have established that it is also quite different from other diets because it is more about food choices and cooking methods – a way of eating – rather than focusing on restrictions. In fact, it doesn’t really even talk about portion control. Although, I do recommend that you use good sense and eat moderately.

Other than that, this is one of the best diets on the planet. It’s tasty, easy to follow, and has multiple health benefits, such as:  reducing your risk of getting nasty diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Also – if you need to lower your blood pressure and bad cholesterol . . . the Mediterranean diet is for you. If you want to live a long and healthy life . . . you got it! The Mediterranean diet is for you.

It you are focusing on clean eating, this is a diet that allows you to follow that philosophy, eat well, and enjoy the food.

The diet itself is quite simple and very flexible. You should be able to find most of the food at your local supermarket.

Mediterranean Diet Shopping List

The diet can be broken down into a few groups, which makes it easy to shop:

  • Whole grains
  • Healthy oils & fats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Yogurt and cheese
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Herbs and spices

That’s pretty much it. There may be a few other items, but for the most part, if you stick to these eight categories, you will be eating healthy.

Whole Grains

Please notice it says “whole grains.” In fact, look for the word “whole” or 100% whole wheat or whole grain on the label. Examples would be whole grain bread or whole grain pasta. Good whole grain items would be: pasta, tortillas, bread, oatmeal, cereals, polenta, brown rice, quinoa, barley and pita.

Whole wheat bread dipped in olive oil is a tasty treat.

Healthy Oils

Mediterranean DietHealthy oils are a key ingredient In the Mediterranean diet. Replace butter with healthy fats – especially extra-virgin olive oil, which is excellent for cooking and on salads.

Other suggested oils are: canola, grape seed, sesame, and avocado oil. In the Mediterranean diet, the staple oil used is olive oil. Oils have lots of calories, so try to limit yourself to no more than three tablespoons per day.

Keep the oils in a cool, dark place so that they last longer.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are another group of healthy fats. You must be a little cautious with this group, they are calorie dense. Don’t go nuts with the nuts. Consume them in moderation or you will end up adding pounds you do not want.

A handful a day will provide our body with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Buy them in bulk and pack them in small snack bags – limiting yourself to one bag per day.

Almonds, cashews, flax, sunflower seeds, walnuts and pine nuts are all good choices.

Vegetables and Fruits

Fruits and Vegetables
Image by by Erdosain

These are nutrition-packed foods filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Always buy fresh, organic produce when it is available. Seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables should be eaten daily.

Frozen fruits and veggies are also fine as long as they are quick frozen with nothing added. Avoid canned vegetables, if possible. If you must use canned, be they are low sodium.

Vegetables – you have many choices:  All the green leafy vegetables, plus broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, celery, onions, radishes, tomatoes, squash, beets, mustard greens, avocados, green peppers, etc. Obviously, it is a long list!

Fruits are eaten in place of sweets on this diet. Recommended are: apples, cherries, dates, peaches, kiwi, mango, papaya, grapefruit, oranges, melons, and strawberries.  Again . . . buy organic if at all possible; or, you may be ingesting pesticides that are harmful to your body. If not organic, wash extremely well and peel if possible.

Yogurt and Cheese

Dairy is not a major focus on the diet. It is usually eaten in the form of yogurt and cheese.  Both are good options as a calcium source. Stay with whole natural cheeses and plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt (need sweet, add a little honey).

Seafood

Baked SalmonSeafood is heavily consumed in the Mediterranean region. Shrimp, salmon, cod, clams, tilapia, tuna, sardines, scallops and crab are excellent seafood choices and are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs are also eaten as a source of protein and a regular part of the diet. Chicken is also served on occasion.  Red meat is eaten rarely – so go very easy on this one.

Lentils and Beans

These are high in protein but low in fats and calories. You have many choices: lentils, chickpeas, clack beans, pinto beans and white beans.

Herbs and Spices

Use fresh or dried herbs and spices to season your food and enhance the flavors. You will not need to use salt or unhealthy fats to make your food tasty. Garlic, mint, cumin, coriander, parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro and pepper are good choices.

Don’t forget the garlic – a favorite in the Mediterranean Region.

Red Wine

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

I know this isn’t one of the categories – and is optional on the diet. But if you enjoy good red wine, a glass each evening is encouraged (one for women and no more than two for men).

That pretty much sums it up. The diet is primarily focused on fresh fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and seafood with limited poultry and practically no red meat plus minimal sweets – all good reasons why it is so healthy.

Shop wisely and ENJOY!

25 Common Mediterranean Foods

Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea

There may be unfamiliar words in the recipes included in the Mediterranean Diet that you do not understand. Uncommon words and ingredients do not have to be the reason that you skip some of the wonderful recipes from that area.

I have compiled a list of 25 common Mediterranean foods so you won’t miss out on some exceptional dishes. The list is in alphabetical order and also includes the pronunciation.

If you come across an ingredient that you do not recognize and it’s not listed here, you can always Google it.

Let’s get started:

  • Arborio Rice: [ar-BOR-ee-o]

An Italian short-grain rice, named after the town of Arborio, in the Po Valley, where it is grown.

  • Arugula: [ah-ROO-gah-lah]

An edible plant, commonly known as salad rocket, rucola, rucoli, rugula, colewort, roquette. Great addition to salads.

A Levantine dish of cooked eggplant (aubergine) mixed with onions, tomatoes, various seasonings. May also be called baba ghanoush, baba ghannouj or baba ghannoug).

A traditional Provençal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille.

  • Bruschetta: [broo-shet-uh]

An Italian dish consisting of toasted Italian bread drenched in olive oil and served with garlic or tomatoes.

  • Couscous: [COOS-coos]

A traditional Berber dish of small steamed balls of semolina, usually served with a meat or vegetable stew spooned on top. (Semolina are granules of durum wheat.)

  • Dukkah: [DUE-kuh]

Ground roast nuts and spiced sprinkled on meat or used as a dip.

  • Falafel: [fuh-LAH-fel]

Middle Eastern dish of spiced mashed chickpeas croquettes made with ground chick peas, seasoned with toasted sesame seeds and salt, usually served with pita bread.

Middle Eastern salad dish consisting of tomatoes, cucumber, and other vegetables mixed with toasted pita bread croutons.

  • Feta Cheese: [FEH-ta]

White salty Greek cheese made from goat’s milk.

  • Foul Mudammes: [MOO dah mess]

Egyptian dish made from fava beans.

Cold Spanish pureed soup made from tomatoes, cucumbers, long green peppers (not bell peppers), onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar (preferably Spanish sherry or red wine vinegar) and salt. Bread, if you insist. That’s it – served cold.

  • Hummus/Hommos: [HUM-us]

Thick paste or spread made from ground chickpeas and sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon, and garlic (used as a dip with vegetables and bread).

  • Meze / Mezze: [MEZ-ay]

Variety of hot and cold dishes, served as an hors d’oeuvres

  • Moujaddara: [moo-JUD-a-rah]

A tasty dish made from pureed lentils and spices.

Moussaka is an eggplant or potato-based casserole, often including ground meat, originated in the Middle East and Greece.

A classic and very popular dish made with seafood, sausage, and rice, originating in Valencia, Spain.

A traditional Italian soup made with “pasta and beans” plus other veggies.

  • Pesto: [PESS-toe]

A sauce traditionally made with crushed garlic, European pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, Parmesan cheese, and pecorino sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk), blended with olive oil typically served with pasta.

  • Pita: [PEA-tah]

Arabic, Lebanese or Syrian slightly leavened flatbread made from wheat flour. They can be split open to hold a filling.

A vegetable dish consisting of onions, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, fried and stewed in oil and sometimes served cold.

A North African stew of spiced meat and vegetables prepared by slow cooking in a shallow earthenware cooking dish with a tall, conical lid. Can be made with lamb, chicken, other meats, or vegan style.

  • Tahini/Tahina: [tah-HEE-nee]

A Middle Eastern paste or spread made from ground sesame seeds.

A Provençal savoury paste or dip, made from black olives, capers, and anchovies. You can make your own, or buy one of the delicious varieties available at the market.

A Greek side dish of yogurt with cucumber, garlic, and often mint.

That pretty much wraps it up! Most of the descriptions above were obtained just by searching for the term on Google. Wikipedia has pretty accurate descriptions, as well.

Now it’s time to create those amazing Mediterranean dishes.

Healthy Weight Loss the Mediterranean Way

My last post was an overview of the Mediterranean-way of eating. Today, I would like to add another dimension – healthy weight loss the Mediterranean way.

Halthy weight loss - Mediterranean Food
Image by lunamarina

I mentioned the studies that have supported the diet’s ability to reduce heart disease and cancer and improve longevity – important points, for sure, and hopefully enough to encourage people to change their eating habits.

However, the American public in general seems to be more inclined to change their diet if they think it will help them lose weight. In fact, losing weight is one of the strongest motivating factors for adopting a new diet. This is not always the case, but often, it is.

In that light, I thought it wise to let you know how the Mediterranean Diet fares in the weight loss category. Let’s take a closer look…

Fats and Weight Loss

The Mediterranean Diet is quite different than many popular diets. It does not involve counting calories, cutting carbs, or cutting fats. In fact, the diet includes fats – with lots of olive oil.

Since fat contains 9 calories per gram, I understand why it may be a concern. For those reasons many people think that it is not a good choice for weight loss. In fact, the question must be asked: How can a diet that includes fats possibly contribute to weight loss?

Simple! The fats on the Mediterranean Diet are primarily olive oil and canola oil (healthy fats) that contain lots of nutrients and keep you feeling fuller – longer. And, there are other factors.

Nutrient Rich

The diet as a whole gives your body real food (close to nature) that provides the necessary nutrients. As a result, you actually get to feel full and the cravings will diminish – both of which help with weight loss.

Another fact you may not know is that many nutrients actually enhance weight loss. For example, Vitamin B Complex from veggies, cheese, legumes, CoQ10 from the meats and fish, plus the generous use of garlic – all improve metabolism.

Weight Loss – YES

This is a diet that helps you to eat healthier. When that is your focus, you are keeping your body well-fed and energized and weight loss comes naturally.

The meals that can be prepared with the foods on this diet are delicious and the lifestyle is practical. It is a diet you will enjoy so that staying with it is not such a challenge. However, diet (any diet) alone is never the formula for weight loss.  It is a critical component, but should be accompanied by adequate rest and regular exercise.

If you take care of your health through diet, exercise and rest – weight loss can be a natural benefit.  Give it a try.

Healthy Eating the Mediterranean Way

Healthy Eating - Greek Salad
Image by robynmac

Healthy Eating

The Mediterranean Diet has been popular for some time and the reason is simple – It is easy and delicious. Healthy eating the Mediterranean Way may be an easier switch than you think. In fact, when I took a very close look, I realized that I have been eating this way for many years.

The name is accurate because it emulates the way people eat who live on or near the Mediterranean Sea. When studies were done, it was found that people who live on the Mediterranean Diet, experienced a lower incidence of heart disease, reduced incidence of cancer (including breast cancer), Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s – plus they live longer in general.

The findings were surprising at first because the diet includes fats and wine – two things that are usually “no-no’s” on a “healthy diet.” However, further research found that when the types of fats they use (olive oil and real cheese) coupled with good wine, when used in moderation and combined with a nutrient rich diet, can actually be beneficial.

A nutrient-rich diet should be self-explanatory, but in case it is not, let’s take a look at some of the foods that are included in the Mediterranean Diet.

Fish

If you do not like fish – this is not a good style of eating for you.  BUT . . . if you are like me and LOVE fish, a Mediterranean-type diet is a great choice.

Fish is a natural food for people who live near the sea and being near the warm Mediterranean means being near tons of fish – lucky them! For the rest of us, it is not quite so easy, but good fish is available in most metropolitan areas. And . . . fish is incredibly good for the human body.

Fish is lean and low in calories especially when compared to red met and provides lots of essential fatty acids and amino acids – a wonderful “brain” food and, it keeps you full.

Its easy year-round accessibility (fresh or frozen) makes it an excellent main-dish option.

Fresh  Salads

Salads are a mainstay in all Mediterranean homes – and they are a good way to bulk up a meal without adding a lot of calories.  Plus, they are filled with nutrients, providing the body with iron, calcium, and other minerals.

A favorite for people of the area is simple Greek salad. It is a combination of:  chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumber, peppers, olives, and feta cheese – lightly drizzled with olive oil.

Healthy Fats

Going hand-in-hand with fish and veggie salads are all of the healthy fats – meaning saturated fats (not trans fats!) which aid in testosterone production while also enhancing nutrient absorption and improving cholesterol

Seeds and Nuts

Many dishes for this diet include seeds and nuts for flavoring (with lots of herbs). Another excellent choice because they keep you feeling full, which also makes them a brilliant, nutritious snack (including zinc, potassium, magnesium) that will not pack on calories. Add a few nuts or seeds to any salad for crunch and extra flavour.

Fruits and Vegetables

Once again the sunny region in which the diet originated provided lots of berries, grapes, tomatoes, and root vegetables ripe for picking, cooking and eating. This is another big component of the Mediterranean Diet and is one of the biggest ‘secrets’ when it comes to making sure that you enjoy a long, healthy lifespan without getting ill!

In summary, the Mayo Clinic explains:

Key components of the Mediterranean diet

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola 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
  • Enjoying meals with family and friends
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Getting plenty of exercise

If you have not already tried this diet, I encourage you to do so. If you don’t want to go full force, at least try adding some of the elements, such as more salads, fruits and veggies, plus nuts and seeds.

Simply adding wine to your diet will not do the trick. (LOL)