Jane on the Mediterranean Diet

HealthDiets and DietingWinesDiseases and IllnessesChicago RestaurantsFitnessDining and Drinking

Mediterranean Eating with Jane Monzures

Being of Greek decent, the daughter of a one-time diner owner, and from a family that revolves around meal time, it’s no wonder I love to eat and I am a terrific cook.  When the crew at LHC takes it into the kitchen to shoot the Healthy Bites segments I am in perfect harmony with slicing, dicing, boiling and broiling.  My favorite part is going behind the scenes of top the restaurants in Chicago to challenge Chefs to cook healthy and nutritious meals…The last Chef we dared was David Schneider from Taxim who showed us how to cook up Lahnodolamdes and find out why the Mediterranean diet works. First of all, Lahno means cabbage and dolmades means “stuffed things,” so we rolled up our sleeves and rolled up some pork filled cabbage leaves.  In our cabbage rolls we added healthy ingredients like cracked wheat which is lower in fat and calories and has twice the fiber as brown rice, and ended up with a bright colored, low fat, delicious tasting meal.

The Mediterranean diet is know for its heart-healthy eating plan that combines fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meat, whole grains, and even a glass of red wine plus a splash of flavorful olive oil.  Research shows the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease.  Also, in people who followed the Mediterranean diet, there was less frequency of cancer and a reduced incidence ofParkinson's andAlzheimer's diseases.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • 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
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)

The diet also recognizes the importance of enjoying meals with family and friends.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Eat your veggies and fruits — and switch to whole grains. An abundance and variety of plant foods should make up the majority of your meals. They should be minimally processed, and try to purchase them when they're in season. Strive for seven to 10 servings a day of veggies and fruits. Switch to whole-grain bread and cereal, and begin to eat more whole-gain rice and pasta products. Keep baby carrots, apples and bananas on hand for quick, satisfying snacks. Fruit salads are a wonderful way to eat a variety of healthy fruit.
  • Go nuts. Keep almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts on hand for a quick snack. Choose natural peanut butter, rather than the kind with hydrogenated fat added. Try tahini (blended sesame seeds) as a dip or spread for bread.
  • Pass on the butter. Try olive or canola oil as a healthy replacement for butter or margarine. Use it in cooking. After cooking pasta, add a touch of olive oil, some garlic and green onions for flavoring. Dip bread in flavored olive oil or lightly spread it on whole-grain bread for a tasty alternative to butter. Try tahini (blended sesame seeds) as a dip or spread for bread too.
  • Spice it up. Herbs and spices make food tasty and are also rich in health-promoting substances. Season your meals with herbs and spices rather than salt.
  • Go fish. Eat fish once or 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 fried fish, unless it's sauteed in a small amount of canola oil.
  • Rein in the red meat. Substitute fish and poultry for red meat. When eaten, make sure it's lean and keep portions small (about the size of a deck of cards). Also avoid sausage, bacon and other high-fat meats.
  • Choose low-fat dairy. Limit higher fat dairy products such as whole or 2 percent milk, cheese and ice cream. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.
  • Raise a glass to healthy eating. If it's OK with your doctor, have a glass of wine at dinner. If you don't drink alcohol, you don't need to start. Drinking purple grape juice may be an alternative to wine.

Most scientific organizations and, Yia Yia’s all around the globe, encourage fit adults to adapt a style of healthy eating like the Mediterranean diet.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times