Mediterranean Delight

Greece-Slide1-Santorini

Santorini, the land of legends and beautiful calendar pictures

Hi, everyone! Brooke here. When you think of the Mediterranean, do you think of warm ocean breezes and rocky cliffs overlooking seas of deep azure blue? Or do you imagine scenes of vibrant and joyful living with friends and family, ala Meryl Streep in Mama Mia? When I imagine what Greece must be like, all of these pictures crowd into my head! Once I calm down from the breathtaking vistas like the one above, I of course think of the delicious Greek food. Not only is it tasty, but it’s good for your heart. The traditional Mediterranean diet is renowned the world over for its wholesome simplicity and multitude of health benefits. For the past 50 years, health experts have been correlating the dietary habits of the people in Greece and Crete (specifically) with an increased life span and a virtual lack of chronic disease. That’s amazing! Now think about the current relationship of the average American diet to health and wellness in this country—depressing and frightening! But if we take a closer look at the classic Mediterranean diet, we can understand why it’s now considered a “gold standard” when it comes to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

healthy heart plate

The USDA’s Food Pyramid shares many similar recommendations with the traditional Greek diet—for good reason. A diet rich in plant foods, unsaturated fat, and a moderate amount of animal protein has been shown to reduce the risks of many chronic and lifestyle-related diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s the kicker—nutrition is only part of the solution. The Greek model of healthy living combines regular physical activity with dining leisurely on whole foods. This combination is the key to managing weight and minimizing the risk of disease. Let’s examine why this diet has become synonymous with good health and vitality.

greek salad and EVOO

The foundation of this diet is a virtual cornucopia of whole, plant-based foods such as leafy greens, fruits, beans, nuts, potatoes, seeds, and whole grains. As you know, these foods are abundant in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and healthy carbohydrates. Did you know that the typical Greek diet might include 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day? Wow! Another daily staple are grains—breads made from wheat, barley, cracked grains, and other seeds, as well as polenta (cornmeal), potatoes, couscous, and brown rice. Unsaturated fats such as nuts and olive oil, especially extra-virgin olive oil (instead of butter or margarine), are common. Fish and poultry are the main lean proteins and are eaten only about 2-3 times a week (red meat is occasionally enjoyed a few times a month). Dairy products like eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt are consumed only moderately. For you wine lovers out there, here you go . . . a small amount of red wine is often served with both lunch and dinner. Dates, nuts, and berries are the desserts of choice, while those decadent delights like baklava and revani (a moist, sweet lemon cake) are reserved for special treats.

revani

Revani, a sweet treat

As you can see, Mediterranean cuisine can be wonderful for your heart, waistline, and even your spirit. I love trying new and wonderful foods that I didn’t grow up enjoying. One of my favorite sayings is “Life is a feast,” which means life should be tasted and breathed and savored joyfully. If you can’t fling yourself onto a departing plane anytime soon, you can still have adventures of a culinary kind close to home. Next time you dine out, go Greek! Keep in mind, just like any place in the modern world, Greece has its share of decadent, fatty foods and dishes full of cheese and salt. Just keep in mind the whole, unprocessed foods mentioned above, and you’ll be fine. Here are some healthy and not-so-healthy choices to keep in mind when you go adventuring at your local Greek cafe.

Healthy and tasty . . . perfect anytime!

  • Hummus with whole-wheat pita or veggies
  • Dolmades
  • Horiatiki salata
  • Couscous
  • Souvflaki
  • Stifado stew
  • Tzatziki (sauce)
  • Kakavia
  • Grilled/roasted fish with steamed vegetables

 

Is this your cheat meal? Well, then, ok . . .

  • Falafel
  • Baklava (this makes me sad . . . I LOVE baklava!)
  • Gyro
  • Spanakopita
  • Avegolemono (sauce)
  • Saganaki
  • Mousaka
  • Anything made with phyllo

 

Kali orexi, or “happy eating”!

XO, Brooke

KaliOrexi

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One Comment to “Mediterranean Delight”

  1. I love Greek food and am a huge fan of Crete. The food is simply delicious, although I can quite happily pass on the baklava as I find it way to sweet for my tastebuds. Hmmm….I feel some feta coming on!

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