If you’re into health and fitness, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Mediterranean diet. I’ve long been really interested in studying longevity and one of the things that keeps popping up over and over again in my readings is the Mediterranean diet. I wanted to talk about longevity, the Mediterranean diet, and a few tips we can all incorporate into our daily lives in order to make our lives healthier, happier, and of course…delicious.
Let’s talk about longevity for a moment…
One thing you should know about me is that I’m a bit obsessed with reading about longevity. There are some areas of the world called “Blue Zones” which are areas with a high concentration of centenarians (that is, people who have made it to age 100). Those areas are Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Icaria, Greece. Each of these areas has it’s own diet and habits, but a few things were common amongst all of them: healthy, vegetable-heavy, fresh foods. Whole grains. Daily exercise, time with friends and family, not a lot of processed foods. These things are pretty common sense, but I did find it fascinating to learn about the habits of centenarians and of course, how these habits can be incorporated into daily life no matter who you are or where you live.
We all want to live to be 100, right? I know I do! That’s why I’m making a concerted effort to incorporate the lifestyles of these healthy centenarians into my own life.
If you’re as interested in the topic as I am, I have a few recommendations for some truly fascinating further reading:
The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People. This book was fascinating to me. The first section of the book talks about the various blue zones around the world and how these centenarians are living. The second section talks about the “blue zones experiment’, which was an experiment done to incorporate blue zones habits in non-blue zone areas and the health benefits the people involved saw. The third section goes into how to incorporate these habits into your own life. I loved this book and highly recommend it to anybody interested in the topic. Click the link above to get it from Amazon if you feel so inclined.
Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to be 100. This is another book I loved (and continue to love). This book is organized into chapters on diet, healing, environment, exercise, and relationships so you can easily dip into the areas you’d like to address and everything is pretty bite sized, so it’s an easy book to pick up, read a few tips, and put down. The link above also goes to the book on Amazon in case you’re interested.
Ok, so why the Mediterranean diet specifically?
Sure, you could follow another healthy diet, like the Okinawan diet, etc. But there’s something about the Mediterranean diet. Who doesn’t love fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, feta cheese, red wine, olive oil….?
This diet has long been touted as an extremely healthy diet, and it really doesn’t hurt that it’s delicious in addition to being healthy. That’s why I’m interested in incorporating it into my life.
The basics of it are simple, really…
- Eat primarily plant-based foods like fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. This doesn’t mean you need to be a vegetarian, but your meals should be more veggie and plant focused than meat focused. Think of meat as a side dish to the delicious vegetables rather than the other way around.
- Use herbs and spices to spice up your foods. Go easy on the salt.
- Use olive oil or canola oil instead of butter. Much healthier! Also, if we’re talking healthy fats…avocados are IN…rejoice!
- Go easy on the red meat. I know, I know…you love steaks and burgers. Think of red meat as a treat though, and try to keep it only to a few meals per month.
- Fish and poultry should be consumed 2-3 times per week.
- Eggs are a good source of protein.
- Cheese and yogurt are IN- but eat in moderation and go for high quality.
- Be social at mealtimes! Invite your coworkers out to lunch or for a picnic, eat with family and friends…enjoy yourself!
- If you feel so inclined, a couple glasses of red wine per week are perfectly acceptable.
- Get some exercise. I know, I know…it’s hard, but it’s part of it. That doesn’t mean you need to kill yourself at the gym. Go on a walk in the morning, on your lunch break, and after work with your family in order to see benefits. Do active activities like cycling, swimming, dancing, hiking, or whatever it is that you enjoy instead of sitting on the couch at night.
Seems easy enough, but I need some meal ideas…
I’ve got you covered! I looooove this diet because it’s pretty versatile and tasty, but here are some of my favorites…
Ok, so I’ve been drinking a lot of Shakeology for breakfast lately (usually blended with fresh fruit and greens) which has been working well for me, but if you’re not doing that, here are a couple other suggestions that fit into the Mediterranean diet…
- Greek yogurt (I like plain, 0% Fage yogurt best), mixed with some fresh fruit of your choice (berries! peaches!) with a small drizzle of honey and a few almonds on the side.
- A chopped up fruit salad of your favorite fruits with 1oz of your favorite cheese (go for quality, rich flavored cheeses such as feta, goat cheese, or a very small slice of camembert).
- A breakfast of grilled vegetables with a fried egg (fried in olive oil), topped with herbs and spices.
- A slice of homemade frittata (egg pie…super easy. I mix eggs, a small amount of milk…pour in a greased pie pan over vegetables of choice- broccoli and onions is a good one-and bake in the oven until set).
- The Greek salad is one of my favorites, and you can customize it according to your own tastes. I make mine with chopped up cucumbers, tomatoes, some crumpled feta cheese, parsley, chopped green olives, and a few capers. I toss it in a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Feel free to add or remove ingredients as you see fit. If you like lettuce, it’s good on romaine, spring mix, arugula, or spinach.
- Sometimes I’ve been known to mix it up by making a dressing consisting of 1 tbsp of hummus, some olive oil, and some lemon juice.
- It’s also good tossed in a dressing of tzatziki, olive oil, and lemon juice.
- Seriously, the variations on this one are pretty endless. Enjoy!
- Fattoush. If you’ve never tried this salad, you’re in for a treat! This Lebanese dish has quickly become one of my favorites. Check out this page for a recipe.
- Lox rolls. Smoked salmon is so healthy and versatile. I like to take it and roll it up with some thinly sliced lemon (VERY thinly sliced) around grilled asparagus. Serve with a small side of brown rice or quinoa for a complete meal.
- Lox salad. Ok, I like lox… For this one, chop up some smoked salmon and toss with spring mix, chopped green onions, a bit of crumpled goat cheese, a few capers (if you like capers), and some dill weed. Toss in a dressing of olive oil with lemon juice, season with salt and pepper.
- Rotisserie chicken...I should mention this has been my best friend when I’m busy. I like to buy those hot chickens they sell at grocery stores everywhere (organic is best if available). Usually I’ll have a chicken breast with a side of vegetables when I first bring the chicken home. Then after it cools, I take some time to take all the meat off the chicken, shred it up, and use it in later meals for a couple days. A bit of chicken is a great addition to a salad or many other dishes, and it’s a great thing for busy people that fits into the Mediterranean diet plan pretty easily.
- A slice of homemade frittata (see above in ‘breakfasts’) with some greens or vegetables on the side.
- Yes, you can eat PASTA! But….and here’s the caveat…keep the portion size in check. Try to keep the pasta at no more than 1 cup, and skip heavy, creamy sauces in favor of tomato sauces or olive oil or pesto.
- Load up on vegetables, which is aaaaaamazing with pasta. I like to mix in the following veggies, cooked up in olive oil: mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes (or sun dried tomatoes), crushed garlic, onions, and even chopped asparagus. Go with the veggies that you like best and fill out your meal as much as you like with them!
- Salmon with lemon dill and a steamed artichoke or asparagus. This is one of my favorites. Here’s what I do: Grill or bake some salmon with a marinade of lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle dill weed on the salmon before baking. Serve with a side of either a steamed artichoke or grilled asparagus.
- Add a small side of quinoa if you’re still hungry.
- A great dip for the artichoke (or asparagus) is: Mix plain Greek yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add a little garlic salt too (to taste) if you like. Mix it up really well and use it as a dip for the vegetables. Alternatively for the asparagus, it’s really good with a little Parmesan (the quality stuff, not the green can) sprinkled on top before grilling.
Try not to snack too much. The point of the plan is to stop yourself from eating all day, but if you get hungry between meals feel free to have a piece of fruit or some veggies with hummus.
It’s pretty easy to incorporate healthy, whole foods and a little more movement into our day with just a little bit of prep work (and I do mean just a little). Have you tried out the Mediterranean diet? I would love to hear about some of your favorite recipes, go-to meals, or favorite snacks.