A pattern of eating present in Greece and southern Italy back in the 50’s and 60’s has proven to have numerous health benefits from heart protection to psychological health.
This diet is based on simple ingredients such as olive oil, vegetables, fruit, beans, yogurt, cheese, some fish, a bit of meat and plenty of herbs. And while these ingredients may sound simple, they are nutritionally complex, full of antioxidants, substances that protect the body from various chronic diseases.
Anyone can make their diet more Mediterranean by using mostly olive oil for their cooking needs, eating plenty of seasonal fruit and vegetables and eating less meat. Here are simple steps to get you started:
Make Greek Style Open Sandwiches
In Greece partucularly in Crete a popular dish is the Dakos, a whole grain barley rusk (paximadi) topped with soft white cheese, tomatoes, olives and drizzled with olive oil. You can make your own by substituting a thick piece of toasted whole wheat bread. Top first with tomatoes, than crumbled feta cheese, a few olives, add some olive oil and a sprinkle of dry oregano.
Add some Feta and Yogurt to your Ingredient List
Cheese and yogurt are the main sources of dairy in the Mediterranean diet, rather than milk. In fact Greeks have one the highest consumption of cheese in the world, thanks to feta, which they eat in almost every meal. But yogurt and cheese can be used in a variety of recipes such as dips, replace cream with yogurt, in pies. Try this recipe which uses both to produce a lighter version of a pizza. You can also add seasonal summer vegetables such as tomato and peppers. In a bowl mash some feta and Greek yogurt until smooth. Add some fresh mint and/or oregano and a few drops olive oil and mix well. Spread this mixture on pita bread and bake for 10 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees F (200 C). Cut and serve.
Eat Vegetables as a Main CourseGreeks have the highest consumption vegetables in the world according to a latest study from the Tufts University. How do they do this? The answer is vegetable casseroles. Greeks consume many vegetables because they serve them as a main course. This is done by simple cooking them in tomato and olive oil which results in a delicious and hearty dish. For this recipe you can use fresh or frozen vegetables such as green beans, peas, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower. Sauté an onion in about 4 tablespoons olive oil. When soft add about a half kilogram of vegetables continue sautéing. Add a about 250 grams of chopped tomatoes, some parsley, a bit of salt and pepper and some water, enough so that it halfway covers the vegetables and let it simmer for about one hour. Serve with a fresh slice of bread and feta cheese.
Elena Paravantes RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
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