Tips on following the Mediterranean Diet

Published 4:43 pm Saturday, May 18, 2013

It’s time to celebrate — May is Mediterranean Diet Month.

The Med Diet, as it’s known, is a way of eating that is traditional in the countries that surround the Mediterranean. But you don’t have to live there to bring the remarkable health benefits to your table.  In fact, did you know the Med Diet can help you:

• Achieve weight loss and weight management goals

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• Lower your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure

• Fight certain cancers and chronic diseases

• Reduce asthma

• Avoid diabetes

• Resist depression

• Nurture healthier babies

• Ward off Parkinson’s disease

 Tips to get you started

Keep fruit in sight: Keeping a bowl of fruit on the counter, in sight, makes it easier to choose fruit as a snack instead of less healthy alternatives.

Make a batch of soup each week: Make one big pot of soup and divide it into single portions. Store the individual containers in the fridge and freezer so that you have healthy grab-and-go food ready when you need it during the week.

Eat vegetables at breakfast: Breakfast plates in Mediterranean countries often include chopped fresh vegetables. Add some sliced cucumbers and tomatoes to the side of your breakfast plate, or try whatever is in season in your area.

Add beans to your plate: Beans are a great lean alternative to meat, and thanks to their high-protein and -fiber content, they help you feel full long after your meal ends. The USDA’s MyPlate program counts beans in both the vegetable and protein food groups. In fact, beans are the only food that can do double duty. Try adding beans to salads, using creamy hummus as a sandwich spread and vegetable dip, and including beans in soups and stews.

Season with herbs and spices: Each country in the Mediterranean has its own distinctive flavors. Italian dishes are rich in basil and oregano. In France herbes de Provence (a blend of herbs including thyme, rosemary, savory, fennel and lavender) is widely used. If you travel to Turkey, you’ll find a generous use of cumin, paprika, mint and allspice. Herbs and spices lend lots of flavor without added salt or fat.

Swap your fats: Make olive oil your No. 1 fat. Not only can you cook with it, olive oil is great in salad dressings and drizzled over veggies. Dip bread in olive oil or finish your pasta dish with it.

Green up your grains: It is difficult to identify the sparse amount of vegetables mixed into many American pasta salads, but Mediterranean salads are different. Consider the bold green color of tabbouleh, a traditional Med salad that has 4 cups of parsley to 1 cup of bulgur wheat. Add the bold colors to your grain dishes to stretch your portions and add nutrition to your plate.

Slow down and eat together as a family at any time of the day.

Pasta and walnut fruit salad

All you need

•8 ounces medium shells or rotini, uncooked

•1 cup non-fat plain yogurt

•1 tablespoon honey

•¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

•1 (11 ounce) can (juice-packed) mandarin oranges, drained

•1 cup seedless red grapes, cut into halves

•1 cup seedless green grapes, cut into halves

•1 apple, cored and chopped

•½ cup sliced celery

•½ cup walnut halves

All you do

1. Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain.

2. In a small bowl, blend yogurt, honey and orange juice concentrate.

3. In a large bowl, combine pasta and remaining ingredients.  Add yogurt mixture; toss to coat.  Cover and chill thoroughly.

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