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If you only heard of the Mediterranean diet and know little about it, I bet you are only a ‘click’ away from logging out thinking ‘on, no! I can’t stand reading about another diet’. But I can assure you that it has nothing to do with starving diets, which promise a lot and deliver nothing. The Mediterranean diet actually helps people adopt the right eating habits for a healthier life.
Why is it important to shape our eating habits?
Nowadays, nine out of ten people are busy, busy, busy!!! No wonder why microwaves thrive! Ready to heat up dinners are the easy way to go. With daily obligations and a mountain of responsibilities, moms & dads have their hands full. The lives of single parents are even harder. And since nobody enjoys the luxury of time, the eating habits of modern families get poorer and poorer. Susceptibility to sickness and obesity catch up with them since the human body doesn’t have the nutrition needed to build-up strength. Our daily lives become a chain of reactions which eventually lead to the consumption of enormous quantities of junk food that make us fat lowering our strengths along with our self-esteem and forcing us to eventually depriving ourselves of food. Not a good scenario! The secret of having a good health and never find yourself in extreme situations is to adopt the right eating habits. And that’s where the Mediterranean diet jumps in.
What is the Mediterranean diet!
It’s not a diet! It’s a way of living! The Mediterranean eating habits and the well-known pyramid of nutritious foods made the news thanks to the studies of the scientist, Ancel Keys in the 1960s. He actually examined the effects of different cuisines in the world on people’s health and came up with the conclusion that the eating habits of peoples in the Mediterranean did wonders. The truth is that people in Greece and South Italy who were poor due to war deprivations were much healthier. People in Crete, Greece, who did physical work and followed the food pyramid, had an excellent health and out-lived all other peoples.
Mediterranean food includes vegetables, fish, meat, nuts, grains and fruit, but the difference is made by the way food is cooked and how frequently each food group is consumed. The well-known food pyramid shows the portions to be consumed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis from each food group. What will make your life much easier is that you can pick a combination of these food groups in order to cook meals, which can remain in your fridge for a couple of days.
Green beans are tasteless when you just boil them in water and serve them next to a steak, but they taste yummy when you sauté onion in olive oil and once you put the beans, you add some red sauce (or grated tomatoes), oregano, pepper and salt.
The Mediterranean food advantage
Say hello to a new way of living and good-bye to junk food! Just because you won’t eat caramelized onions, hamburgers and donuts every day it doesn’t mean that you will be deprived from enjoying food. Quite the contrary! There are hundreds of choices to make veggies tasty or enjoy pasta without worrying about your weight. Macaroni and cheese tastes good because it is full of preservatives. With Mediterranean food choices, you can use your imagination to cook easily and fast.
Zucchini with pasta: sauté chopped onion in a pan with some olive oil and then add the zucchini cut in small pieces. Add some salt and pepper and mix them with your al-dente spaghetti.
Chicken with potatoes in the oven: cut the potatoes in any shape you like (not too small though). Place the potatoes in a baking tray and add olive oil, oregano, lemon, salt, pepper and some mustard. Use your hand to stir them. Place the chicken and pour some water. Bake for about an hour and don’t forget to stir in between and turn the chicken on the other side, too.
Lentils: boil them in water for an hour and then throw away the water. Boil them again in water and this time add chopped onion, grated tomato, garlic, pepper and salt and cook for about half an hour or until they are ready.
Fresh bread: you will need 6 cups of all-purpose white flour. If you find bread flour, use 3 cups of bread flour and 3 cups of all-purpose flour. Mix the flour with 1 package dry yeast and 3 spoons of salt and then add 3 cups of water. Use your hands to stir the dough and let it rest for a few hours. Then, sprinkle some flour on your counter and work on the dough with your hands. The dough shouldn’t be tacky. Cut the dough in three or four pieces and give them the form that you want. Then place them in the baking tray. It’s best to cover the tray with grease proof bake paper. Leave the tray covered with aluminum foil in the oven for 15′ in low temperatures. Then raise the temperatures, place the tray in the lower part of the oven and bake for 13′. Then, remove the aluminum foil, place the tray in the middle of the oven and bake 13 more minutes. Leave the bread in the oven for an hour.
The benefits of adopting the Mediterranean eating habits
The advantages of the Mediterranean way of eating are not limited to the large range of food-groups. Here are some extra benefits from adopting the new Mediterranean style:
It’s inexpensive. Canned food is more expensive because it is processed. Fresh meat, fish and vegetables won’t only be fresh, but will also allow you to combine them in order to cook dishes that can last for a few days.
No more everyday cooking. Some meals can last for days. Cooked meat, vegetable/meat soups, beans or lentils can be refrigerated and reheated the following day. So, time to say good-bye to cooking every single day and the nightmare of having to come up with new ideas.
Eat real bread. Forget about bread slices, which are meant for toasts. Even if you can’t find fresh bread, you can make it yourself fast and easy. There is nothing compared to fresh bread and although excessive portions are fattening, it’s not as fattening as the packaged bread which contains lots of preservatives.
Easy snacks. If you get hungry in between meals or kids get home before you and want to grab a snack, there is a lot you can all eat: bread with honey, a fruit, some cheese with bread – not the sliced (plastic) cheese which is for toasts or rusks sprinkled with olive oil and grated tomatoes.
Have you ever heard of the Greek dakos salad? It’s one of the most traditional snacks in Crete and it’s easy to make:
Dakos salad: put crumbled rusks in a bowl and add crumbled feta cheese, grated tomato, salt, pepper, oregano and olive oil. It’s fantastic! Traditionally, it is made by rusks soaked with water, but if you cut rusk in smaller pieces it will be easier. You can also add olives and your favorite herbs.
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
The secret is to adopt the Mediterranean diet as a way of living. This is not a diet per se; in other words, you shouldn’t think of it as an alternative solution to lose a couple of pounds in a healthy way. You can lose weight if you stick to these eating habits and don’t eat a couple of donuts in between meals. It is a way of staying healthy, strong and thin for a lifetime.
Since the Mediterranean diet includes fresh fruit, nuts, vegetables, olive oil and fresh fish, it reduces health problems as long as it is combined with daily exercise.
You will digest food easier and will solve constipation problems
Strokes and heart diseases are prevented
Cholesterol and blood sugar levels are improved
Life is prolonged
You won’t have to go on a diet again
You will receive the required vitamins your body needs
How to get started
Everything is in your mind. So, think positively. Think of the long-term benefits to you and your children. You won’t have to spend hours in the kitchen just to prepare ready-to-microwave meals, but will enhance your creativity. You won’t have to cook every night or spend a fortune just to fill the kitchen cabinets with canned food. You will feel better and be surprised by the results of the next medical check-up.
Take one step at a time. Fix a Greek salad for a change. Cut some fresh tomatoes, cucumber, onion and peppers and add olives, cheese, olive oil, salt and oregano. You will love it! This could be your lunch!
Take another step by surprising your youngsters by cooking mussels. Heat olive oil in a pan and add some garlic, a spoon of mustard, oregano and pepper. Stir and add the mussels. Finish with wine and cook for a few minutes. At the end, you can also add crumbled feta cheese.
With the Mediterranean diet, you simply gain time, receive vitamins, feel strong, are healthy and start enjoying cooking. Oh, you can also enjoy a glass of wine when the kids have finally gone to bed without feeling guilty. Your new Mediterranean eating habits don’t only include lots of water, but also a couple of glasses of wine. Enjoy!!!