Make this your Mediterranean Diet summer

the Oldways Preservation Trust Mediterranean Pyramid

the Oldways Preservation Trust Mediterranean Pyramid

Summer is best time to start Mediterranean diet

The health benefits of a Mediterranean style diet are well documented.  And good news: you don’t have to live in the Mediterranean region to follow a similar plant-based eating style.  You don’t even have to choose foods from that region.  You can eat familiar foods found in your own location.  The main point is to make your food choices look a lot like the food choices in the Mediterranean pyramid:

  • mostly plant foods
  • emphasis on vegetables and legumes, with olive oil, whole grains and fruit
  • little meat, more fish, limited dairy
  • very few sweets or junk foods

If you’d like to follow the Mediterranean diet, summer is a great time to start.  There are plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits available.  You can simplify cooking by grilling vegetables, fish and meats.  You can make really interesting main dish salads with whole grains, legumes and vegetables, the perfect solution for summer meals.

If the idea of limiting meat to once or twice a week is too intimidating, have meat more often, but in small portions, more like a condiment to other dishes than as the main course:

  • Make kebabs, with small chunks of meat and lots of vegetables.
  • Add bite sized pieces of meat to grain or pasta salads.
  • Make a stir-fry with vegetables and small pieces of meat, such as chicken or beef.
  • Add small pieces of meat to a large burrito, filled with vegetables and refried beans.

But if you prefer eating meat in large portions, such as a burger, stick to the twice/week rule.  You can easily make the other meals meatless, boosting protein with fish, dairy foods, legumes, nuts and tofu.

A day’s worth of Mediterranean style meals, using commonplace foods:

Breakfast: bowl of Greek style yogurt with fresh fruit and honey.  Need more food?  Add whole grain toast with peanut butter.

Lunch: veggie cheese wrap, with chopped tomatoes, scallions, lettuce, green peppers and cucumbers; chopped avocado (or guacamole); grated Jack cheese; refried beans and salsa.  Need more food?  Add a small cup of mixed nuts and a wedge of melon.

Dinner: pasta salad with plenty of vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, zucchini, etc), dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and chopped fresh basil and mint.  Add crumbled feta or goat cheese.  Add a modest amount of cooked shrimp, flaked cooked salmon or canned tuna.  Need more food?  Serve a crusty artisanal bread or fresh corn on the cob.  Dessert: fresh berries

Snacks: fresh melon, peaches, plums or berries; hummus with celery or carrot sticks or pita triangles; peanuts or almonds

Beverages: water, plain iced teas (black or herbal), coffee (without the sugary creamers and whipped cream), carbonated water.  And of course, the Mediterranean Diet also includes wine, in moderation.

There you have it.  Easy, right?  Nothing exotic or difficult to prepare.  No junky sweets or snack foods.  No artificial sweeteners.  No meat on this particular day.  In fact, you might already be eating Mediterranean some days without even thinking about it.

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