A Mediterranean Eating Style – A Few Guiding Principles

January 27, 2010 in Blog Recipes, Diabetic Menu Item, Health Claims, Mediterranean, Nutrition, Weight Management, Whole Grains by Joyce Bunderson

If you’re starting a Mediterranean-style of eating, you may want to become more familiar with a few guiding principles. The following are some thoughts that may give you some parameters for your personal goals.

  • Look for fresh, seasonal, unprocessed foods (foods that you recognize as food) whenever possible.
  • Stay away from deep fat fried foods; chips, French fries, fried chicken and so on.

Because people have different caloric needs, the following list does not specify exactly how much of any food, but I’m trying to give you an idea which foods to have in the diet and which foods to invite out. The following are my ideas for how to improve your eating – with Mediterranean-style goals. I’m trying to ‘spell it out’ with a little more detail because people are asking for more specific guidelines for the Mediterranean diet; therefore, the following are some rough guidelines of where you may want to head.

Meat/Poultry (4 ounce/day maximum) Note: This list does not mean that you have to have at least 4 ounces a day.  It means, if you have any that day, limit it to 4 ounces.

  • Red Meat (like pork and beef) less than 4 ounces per day. Not every day, skipping days, weeks, and even months with no red meat is perfectly healthy. When you do choose red meat, if you can choose grass-fed red meat, you will improve the quality of healthy nutrients in the meat. Move toward thinking of red meat as an occasional food.
  • Poultry – (like turkey, chicken) less than 4 ounces per day. When you choose poultry, don’t choose frying as a frequent preparation method; remove the skin most of the time.
  • If you choose meat or poultry, only choose less than a 4 ounces total per day. Or for example, consider an ounce or two of poultry or red meat on a lunch salad, and an ounce or two in your dinner stir-fry, soup or casserole.

Note: Remember this is a process. It is better to choose a goal that does not lead you to feeling deprived – a goal, which you will be successful at attaining; it’s helpful to start where you can comfortably begin. If it’s too big a jump, then don’t take it. If you’ve been having 8 or 12 ounces of meat twice a day, decide what you can do today to begin moving in a healthy direction.

Legumes – eat daily or frequently

  • See recent blog entries for recipes for Roasted Red Pepper Humus; Gringo Confetti; wheat berry chili. Sprinkle legumes (high in protein and complex carbohydrates) on salads, instead of chicken or beef.

Fish – two or more times per week. Don’t forget tuna salad or sandwich, an easy inexpensive way to have fish. Mix a little tuna with Greek yogurt, and put a scoop on Spring Greens. Fast lunch.

Fruit – Strive to have two cups per day.

Vegetables – Strive to have two or three cups per day.

Nuts – A tablespoon or two per day.

Grains – Breads, cereals, crackers, pancakes, muffins, and pasta for example. Choose 100% whole grains as frequently as possible. On the flip side, avoid all processed flour products, as much as possible.

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Dairy products (like yogurt, low or non-fat milk) 2 cups per day

Hard cheese – Use sparingly as a flavoring. Choose varieties with stronger flavors, so you can use less. Try to avoid foods that are filled with or smothered with hard cheese.  When you choose cheese, try feta, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan or Asiago for sprinkling.

Eggs – 4 per week

Fats – Extra Virgin Olive Oil or for higher heat cooking Canola oil – be careful with fats, even though these varieties are good for you they still have 120 calories per tablespoon. Strive to stay away from shortening, margarine and more than a teaspoon of butter per day. Reducing total fat is one of the easiest ways to trim calories, because fat has more than twice the calories compared to carbohydrates or protein. It also carries flavor, so most diets that eliminate fat, decrease the taste of the food. So the take home lesson is to include fat in your menus, but use it moderately.

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Wine – 6 ounces per day for women, 12 ounces per day for men – maximum. If you don’t already drink wine; don’t think you have to do so. Grapes and other fruits also contain reservatol, the phytonutrients that are touted as the healthy ingredient in wine.

Protein note: Some people worry about protein when they decrease the amount of red meat and poultry. Remember that vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, low-fat dairy, and eggs are all good sources of protein.

Fat note: Monounsaturated fats provided by olive oil, fish, avocados and nuts don’t raise cholesterol levels like saturated fat does. Another reminder: only use it moderately – it is high in calories – it’s not a freebie.

Please feel free to write questions or comments about the guiding principles. Also, it would be nice if you’d like to share your recipes, techniques or ideas of how you’re moving toward a Mediterranean-style of eating.

See A New Twist on Stuffed Peppers a Mediterranean-Style meal; note the whole grain wheat berries, extra virgin olive oil, tangy cheeses, lack of meat, and a variety of vegetables and herbs. Best of all it tastes really, really good.