Sunday, April 7, 2013

Great Grains -- Guest Post by Aryeh Hirsch

30 Day Mediterranean Lifestyle Challenge

Aryeh Hirsch is a senior Community Health major at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is interning at LifeWork Strategies this semester as one of the wellness interns. He is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and working towards a second certification with the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers. He works part time as a trainer at Golds Gym in Rockville, MD. He has a passion for nutrition and fitness and applies his knowledge towards his clients at the gym as well as serves as a Wellness Coach for LifeWork Strategies. He is very excited to have opportunity to share his knowledge of nutrition during ASHA's 30 day Mediterranean Lifestyle Challenge.

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Carbohydrates have been given a bad rap in the past couple of decades. A lot of the 90’s fad-diets emphasized low or no carbs diets to help shed those extra pounds. New research has shown that carbohydrates are our friends, not our enemy. This is the primary macronutrient used for energy in the human body. Our bodies need carbs to function properly. Studies show that eating whole grains and food that are high in fiber play a beneficial role is preventing cardiovascular disease as well as diabetes according to the Mayo Clinic. Fiber also plays a major role maintaining optimal digestive health.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the use of a lot of quality carbohydrate sources such as whole wheat breads and pastas, oatmeal, wild or brown rice, quinoa and fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber. These are carbohydrate sources are also low on the Glycemic index which help control blood sugar levels, keeps us feeling full longer and provides a slow release of energy.

Most of you are in Wave 2 of the diet which allows 3-4 servings of grains a day. I recommend using those extra servings of grains a day because of the numerous health benefits that carbohydrates provide. You should notice an increase in energy throughout the day, feeling more satisfied after meals as well improved digestive function compared to Wave 1.

Here are some great recipes that contain quality carbohydrates:

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pearl Couscous

  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup pearl (isreali) couscous
  • ½ cup packed fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • ½ cup pitted green olives
  • 4 heirloom tomatoes, quartered
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 English cucumber, cubed
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced


1. Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the couscous and cook and stir until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir the toasted couscous into the hot vegetable stock and return to a simmer. Cover and cook until the stock has been absorbed into the couscous, about 15 minutes. Scrape into a mixing bowl, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Place the basil, parsley, garlic, oregano, thyme, and olives into a food processor; pulse until the herbs are coarsely chopped. Stir the herb mixture into the couscous along with the heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and feta cheese. Drizzle with the vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, and lemon juice. Stir until evenly combined.

Greek Penne and Chicken

  • 1 (16 ounce) package whole wheat penne pasta
  • ½ cup of canola oil
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts in water
  • 1 tomato, chopped 
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste


1. In a large pot with boiling salted water cook penne pasta until al dente. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the canola oil, add onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add chopped chicken and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium- low. Drain and chop artichoke hearts and add them, chopped tomato, feta cheese, fresh parsley, lemon juice, dried oregano, and drained penne pasta to the large skillet. Cook until heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Serve warm.

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