With more than 20 countries bordering the Mediterranean sea, and about half of them claiming the paternity of Mediterranean diet, it is really difficult to decide what is and what is not part of the diet plan that most nutrition scientist and professionals swear upon.
In territorial terms all twenty countries can call their cuisines Mediterranean. Moroccan cuisine can be called Mediterranean as much as Spanish cuisine or even Turkish cuisine. In order to understand what consists of classic Mediterranean diet we have to look back when the term was first used in the 1960’s when we were first introduced to the Mediterranean diet Pyramid developed by Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health and European Office of the World Health Organization.
The scientists write that it was based on the diets of the Greek island of Crete, Greece and southern Italy in the 1960s. In other words, the diet does have some specific rules and it does not entail a mix and match of the dietary habits of the whole Mediterranean area. But even though researchers pinpointed where this diet was first identified, and documented the eating habits, today our perception of Mediterranean diet is biased by an enormous amount of information coming from unidentified sources such as life style magazines and cooking shows.
In my quest on following a healthier lifestyle in order to fight my increased levels of cholesterol at a young age, I decided to go back to my roots and dig out our family recipes. All these hidden treasures were left aside for years in the name of a busy modern lifestyle. It wasn’t difficult to realize that what we now consider Mediterranean is completely different from what our grandparents ate. Bare in mind that 50 years ago in these areas you couldn’t find any processed food and available fruits and vegetables were only local and seasonal. Various myths were developed and in many cases it was westernized and modernized in a way that people are not really following a Mediterranean diet nor will they be getting all those health benefits they were looking for.
With that in mind I decided to share with you the Mediterranean Diet Manifesto as it was posted in OliveTomato, a site with tips, recipes, articles and stories about the real Mediterranean Diet and Greek cuisine in particular, which surprisingly enough, is in perfect alignment with my grandma’s cookbook.
1. Eat plants.
Fruits, vegetables, greens, all of it as much as you can in every possible way. Did you know that traditional Greek cuisine is extremely rich in vegetarian recipes?
2. Have your largest meal at lunch.
Difficult to follow when in work but as Adelle Davis said:- Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.
3. Say no to processed foods even if they say they are Mediterranean — they are not.
If it’s processed or out of season it’s not Mediterranean.
4. Eat small and cheap fatty fish like sardines.
Wild salmon and trout can work fine as well but sardines are good for both your heart and pocket.
5. Eat vegetables and fruit that are in season.
Do your research, find local producers and follow nature’s circle.
6. Eat vegetables as a main course.
Skip meat at least twice a week and be creative with your vegetables.
7. Eat meat as a side dish.
Smaller red meat portions is what you are aiming for.
8. Eat at the table — not standing up.
Do yourself a favor and take a break to enjoy your meal, it makes all the difference in the world.
9. Share your food.
As you already know Mediterranean diet is not just about the food, it’s a lifestyle…embrace it!
10.Talk during meals.
That will help you eat in a slower pace and therefore digest easier.
11. Eat fruit as a dessert.
Well OK, I know it’s not the same but it’s enough for your body when it’s craving for some sugar. Of-course you can eat proper desserts, there is a great variety of Mediterranean pastry recipes, but you should avoid them on daily basis.
12. Always accompany alcohol with food.
Not all your meals of-course. Choose between lunch or dinner and accompany it with a couple of glasses of good wine.
13. Learn to cook.
Since you cannot use processed food you’ll have to learn to cook. Cooking is very rewarding from all aspects. It boosts your creativity and you have complete control over what you eat.
14. Do not be afraid of olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is your best friend, no need to be afraid of using it at any chance. Of-course you will need to control the quantity you use when you are trying to control your weight.
15. Do not be afraid of bread.
Truth is Greeks eat bread with every meal but Mediterranean bread is wholegrain with no additives and preservatives which makes all the difference in the world.
16. Avoid yogurt that tastes like cheesecake or blueberry pie.
No processed food, that means yogurt too. Always go for natural yogurt like original Greek style.
17. Eat beans at least twice a week.
Beans, chickpeas, lentils and yellow split peas are your greatest sources of protein and you can’t imagine the variety of dishes you can create with them.
18. Know that canola oil is not Mediterranean.
Never heard of it until 2 years ago, my grandparents never heard of it in their lifetime…it’s not Mediterranean.
19.There is no such thing as a low-fat Mediterranean Diet.
Mediterranean diet is all about eating fresh unprocessed food so low fat products are not part of it. Of-course you can customize it according to your needs and your doctors’ advice, but a balanced Mediterranean diet is in no need of reducing the fat out of dairy products.
20. Olive oil is your main source of fat.
Yes it is, and don’t be afraid to used it as often as you can!
21. Drink herbal beverages.
Want to drink something during the day? Switch soda and juice to herbal tea. Hot or iced with a little bit of honey as a sweetener and a few drops of lemon … you are going to love it!
22. Enjoy food.
If you are not enjoying it, it’s not Mediterranean.
I put my name under every word of this Manifesto, not as a nutrition specialist or any kind of scientist (which I am not), but as a Greek trying to dig in our food heritage, bring back to life and recreate all those forgotten recipes and meal plans our grandparents grew up with. It’s not always easy sticking to the real thing, especially while living 2,500km away from Greece, so adapting it to the busy north European lifestyle will be a great challenge.
For further nutrition and diet information please consult with your doctor as this is not a scientific blog and in no way can provide diet guidance.
Till next time,
Images via Pixabay