Thursday, March 21, 2013

23 Mediterranean Diet Tips from a Blue Zone

30 Day Mediterranean Lifestyle Challenge
I just came across 22 Ways to Eat Like Greek Islander in Health Magazine. The tips are based on the eating habits of people from Ikaria, Greece. The island of Ikaria is known as a Blue Zone -- a region where people are known for leading long and healthy lives. There are more healthy people over the age of 90 there than any other place on earth. 
Image from Health Magazine.

The article is presented in one of those slide show formats that I have a love/hate relationship with -- I like the pictures, but hate taking the time to click through each slide. So, here's a summary with links to the relevant slides to make it quicker for you to jump to what interests you.
  1. Eat unprocessed produce -- A recent study showed that processed foods make up 70% of the US diet. It's a frightening statistic. Even scarier, "there's an estimated 5,000 different additives that are allowed to go into our food." Kellie's recent post Unprocessed Shunprocessed will help you differentiate the choices. 
  2. Say yes to yogurt -- I thought it was odd that plain greek yogurt isn't included in the Sonoma diet. When I contacted them, this was their response "The Sonoma Diet has doesn't place a lot of emphasis on dairy. Those dairy choices suggested in Wave 1 are lower in natural sugars. Since Greek yogurt is quite a bit lower in carbohydrates than traditional yogurt, it would be an excellent choice in all Waves."
  3. Get creative with toppings
  4. Try new grains
  5. Love legumes
  6. Pack a healthier picnic
  7. Choose whole-wheat pasta -- I've always thought whole-wheat pasta was seriously second rate, but now that I can find Delallo brand pasta (what I grew up with in the Pittsburgh area) right in my neighborhood Giant, I've converted. 
  8. Flavor your dishes with feta
  9. Try a salmon burger -- One of my challenges is to eat more fish at home. I absolutely love seafood, but my family doesn't, so I don't often cook it myself. Maybe salmon burgers would appeal to everyone. They include a link to this simple recipe, but it reminded me that I have a good one that I should make more often. I'll paste it below. 
  10. Make your own salad dressing -- It's quick and easy to whisk some vinegar or lemon juice with olive oil to make your own dressing. The usual ratio is 3:1 -- three parts oil to one part vinegar. When you're in the mood for something more complex, try some of these dressing recipes from Bon Appetit. 
  11. Sneak in spinach -- Cindy Mann provided a good example of this when she demonstrated her Breakfast Veggie Burgers
  12. Serve a side of potatoes
  13. Eat red meat sparingly -- Did you know that you can have a more positive impact on the environment by eliminating meat from your diet just one day per week than you can by sourcing everything you eat locally? Learn more about Meatless Mondays
  14. Swap in shellfish
  15. Snack on real food
  16. Have fun with phyllo
  17. Eat more olives
  18. Dip into homemade hummus
  19. Eat food on a stick
  20. Season with spices  -- Pam Leppin is working on a post on herbs and spices, so stay tuned. 
  21. Make a big batch -- Not only is this conducive to inviting friends and family to dine with you, you can set aside leftovers for easy lunches and quick dinners throughout a busy week.
  22. Drink more coffee
  23. Enjoy a glass of wine -- Wine is a common factor in most of the Blue Zones and certainly consistent with a Mediterranean diet. Wine is mentioned in the article, but it doesn't have a slide dedicated to it. Surely that's an oversight, so I've taken the liberty of adding it here. 

Learn more about the Ikaria:

Salmon Burgers with Mint-Yogurt Dressing

1/3 cup low-fat plain  yogurt
1/8 cup mint leaves, chopped
1 t lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt pepper to taste

2, 6 oz cans wild salmon, drained and flaked
1 egg
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
2 T lemon juice
½ t sumac
¼ t red pepper flakes

  1. Make the dressing by stirring together yogurt, mint, lime, and garlic.  Season with slat and pepper. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the salmon, egg, parsley, onion, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, sumac, and red pepper flakes.  Form into four firmly packed parties.  Add more breadcrumbs if necessary to maintain structure.
  3. Using a skillet or a grill, cook patties over medium heat for about 4 minutes per side or until nicely browned.
  4. Serve burgers topped with yogurt dressing.

Nutrition information per serving:  calories; 186, protein 21g; carbohydrates 9 g; total fat 7 g; saturated fat 2 g; cholesterol 101 mg; sodium 146 mg; fiber 1g.

I wish I could site a source for this recipe, but I don't remember where I got it from and I can't find it online. 

They go well with this salad recipe (pictured) from my neighbor, Tanya. She said she was introduced to it in a cooking class she recently took in Israel. 
Cut up ~ 1/2 an onion (any color you want.) Put it in a bowl with a large pinch of coarse salt and ~1 t of sumac and rub it all together between your fingers. Add the juice of a lemon. While that's marinating, cut up 1/2-1 cucumber and 1-2 tomatoes. Toss them with the onion. Add 1-2 t pomegranate molasses, olive oil, pepper, and more salt to taste. It's traditional to also add fresh herbs (parsley or mint), but it still tastes good if you leave them out.

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