I’m always amazed when a patient begrudgingly tells me they’ve been put on a Mediterranean diet. Are you kidding me? How could you not find something good to eat from the Mediterranean?!
Since Americans are known for their lack of geographical savvy, let’s begin with a geography lesson. The Mediterranean Sea is almost entirely surrounded by land. The countries that surround it include France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Monaco, Morocco, Montenegro, Albania, Israel, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Malta and Cyprus are island countries within the sea itself. What a variety of cuisines and cooking techniques!
Unfortunately, many Americans are not familiar with these cuisines, and assume that a Mediterranean diet must be bland. While it’s true that your health care providers want you to assume a Mediterranean diet because of its health benefits, this way of eating is far from bland. The main premises include the following:
- Daily consumption of vegetables
- Daily consumption of fruits
- Daily consumption of unprocessed, whole grains
- Use of healthy fats such as olive oil
- Fish, poultry, beans and eggs as the primary sources of protein
- Moderate consumption of dairy products
- Limited consumption of red meat
That allows for a lot of wiggle room!
Once again, The Great Courses can assist you on your culinary journey. In the video lecture series The Everyday Gourmet: The Joy of Mediterranean Cooking, Chef Bill Briwa introduces us to:
Tastes of the Mediterranean
Butter and cheese: Northern Italy
Classical Italian cuisine: Central Italy
Bounty from the sea: Southern Italy
The everyday joys of olive oil
Paella: The landscape of Spain in a pan
A Spanish tradition: Tapas and sherry
Tunisia: The home of harissa
Technique and polish: Mastering Moroccan food
Health and wellness: A Mediterranean diet
Sharing abundance: The cuisine of Greece
Tastes from the palace kitchens of Istanbul
A favorite street food from the East
Foundations from the South of France
Fresh catch: Seafood of the French Riviera
Bringing the Mediterranean home
The series consists of sixteen, thirty minute videos and can be purchased through Amazon or the Great Courses, or rented from various libraries. Now that you’ve learned about the various regions, cuisines and cooking techniques of the Mediterranean, are you ready to at least consider a Mediterranean diet? The Mayo Clinic offers these tips to help you get started:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Aim for 7 to 10 servings a day of fruit and vegetables.
- Opt for whole grains. Switch to whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta. Experiment with other whole grains, such as bulgur and farro.
- Use healthy fats. Try olive oil as a replacement for butter when cooking. Instead of putting butter or margarine on bread, try dipping it in flavored olive oil.
- Eat more seafood. Eat fish twice a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are healthy choices. Grilled fish tastes good and requires little cleanup. Avoid deep-fried fish.
- Reduce red meat. Substitute fish, poultry or beans for meat. If you eat meat, make sure it’s lean and keep portions small.
- Enjoy some dairy. Eat low-fat Greek or plain yogurt and small amounts of a variety of cheeses.
- Spice it up. Herbs and spices boost flavor and lessen the need for salt.
Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.