A Healthy Lifestyle: The Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a way of life. Unlike many other diets that come and go, this one has proven over the centuries that it is a winner.

When I say Mediterranean, I am referring to the countries that are situated on the coast of this gorgeous sea – countries such as Southern Italy, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, France and Monaco – just to name a few.

These amazing countries, which I have had the pleasure of visiting some of them, ooze of freshness and health. They are filled with fresh food markets, organic butchers and warm-scented bakeries that have the best bread you’ll ever eat!

What I love about this leading diet is that you discover the foundation of it is, living a physically active life and always eating with others. Yep, it’s true…sitting down with others, sharing bread and sharing your lives is a way of life.

Belonging is a core value that is built in each of us. We were never meant to do it alone, or be independent of one another. The plan was always that we partnered with each other and did life together. And, in my opinion, there are many cultures out there that do this very well.

I love sitting around the dinner table, filled with family and friends and hearing their stories - how they overcame a challenge, what they did when they found themselves in a ‘jam’ and the joy they discovered when their children or grandchildren achieved a milestone.

The Mediterranean diet or should I say, lifestyle is a lifestyle that chose me. Being born into a Greek family, having parents that grew up in Greece and tended to the farm animals, gathered the herbs from the sides of the hills and helped gather olives each season, was a way of life to do things together and be there for one another. This generation understood organic and team work.

When raising my own daughters, one of my constant sayings to them was, ‘family is like a netball team – we all have a purpose, we all need to do our part and we are all aiming for the same outcome – to get that ball through the ring!

If you could just imagine a triangle with a rectangle bottom, that is our Mediterranean food pyramid. The rectangle shape is the foundation – living a physically active life and eating our meals with family and friends.

The next section is filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, legumes, nuts, herbs and spices. This is our largest food group.

Then the one above that is filled with fish and seafood – half the depth of the previous one.

Above that is poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt - slightly smaller that the fish and seafood group.

And lastly we have the meats and sweets group and that is half the size of the one below it and eaten occasionally.

When it comes to drinking, a glass of red wine with your meal is very acceptable and drinking lots of water is encouraged.

I love how the foundation is built on being active and connecting with others.

Have you ever noticed when your feeling a bit blah and don’t really feel like doing anything and then you bump into a friend, chat for a while and walk away feeling refreshed? Not only do our bodies need to be nourished on good food, but so do our souls.

What I love about this diet is that it welcomes everyone around the table and there is something for everyone. You may be a vegetarian – great there’s lots of salads and vegetable dishes to choose from. You are gluten free – cool..the legume dishes are so tasty you won’t even notice you are not consuming any red meat! What about the vegan? Yep, got you covered too with beetroot dips, bean stew, falafel to just name a few.

Each morning, and I have been doing this for at least 20 years, I pour myself a hot cup of water, place a wedge of lemon in it and drink it before I eat anything in the morning. Your liver will love you and it prepares your digestive system for brekky! In fact, it’s the only thing I drink – hot water, cold water and the occasional half a glass of red wine.

Do what you can to get yourself on track and living a lifestyle of eating, moving and being connected – a lifestyle that is sustainable.

And to help you out, here is a recipe you can add to your new or existing lifestyle that is tasty and good for you!

Pumpkin & Rocket Salad topped with Halloumi

Ingredients

2 cups pumpkin, diced

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon raw honey

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon dried herbs

1 (400g) can chickpeas

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

100g rocket

1 tablespoon olive oil, extra

250g halloumi, sliced

pinch of paprika

salt & pepper, to taste

Method

1. Combine pumpkin with oil, honey, garlic and herbs. Place on a lined baking tray and roast in moderate oven for 30 minutes. Remove and cool.

2. Once cool, place in bowl and add chickpeas, sesame seeds and rocket. Season.

3. Lightly fry halloumi in extra olive oil, a couple of minutes on each side and add slices on top of salad. Sprinkle with paprika and serve immediately.