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Mediterranean Diet Celebrates 20th Anniversary in the U.S.

2013 marks the 20th Anniversary of the introduction of the Mediterranean Diet and the Mediterranean Pyramid here in the U.S.  Since then, this celebrated way of eating and living has gone mainstream.

The traditional Mediterranean Diet was introduced here in the U.S. in January, 1993 by the food and nutrition educational nonprofit Oldways and the Harvard School of Public Health at the International Conference on the Diets of the Mediterranean in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Working with scientists, historians, public health experts, and chefs, Oldways developed the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid to represent visually the traditional foodways of the Mediterranean region.

“Back then, olive oil was mainly an ethnic product.  Not long after the introduction of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, a leading health organization wrote ‘Americans will never embrace olive oil; they’ll just think they need to pour it on French fries!’  How wrong they were,” said Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Oldways. “Since its introduction in 1993, consumers, educators, and health professionals have used the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid to understand and implement healthier eating habits.”

The beauty of the traditional Mediterranean Diet is that, unlike restrictive fad diets, it celebrates cooking and eating simple, wholesome, minimally processed foods as well as being active, enjoying delicious meals with friends and family, and drinking wine in moderation with those meals, according to Baer-Sinnott.

The Mediterranean Diet consistently draws praise.  Recently, US News & World Report named the Mediterranean Diet the “Best Plant Based Diet” as part of its 2013 Best Diets Report. The benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and lifestyle have been validated by The New Dietary Guidelines for Americans as one of the most thoroughly researched models for healthy living. And it doesn’t hurt that celebrities like Jennifer Garner, Penelope Cruz, Elizabeth Hurley, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Isla Fisher and Heidi Klum have all been linked to the Mediterranean way of eating.

Hundreds of scientific studies report that the healthy Mediterranean Diet and its lifestyle practices reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. And, while the Mediterranean Diet isn’t a “go on a diet” type diet, it can lead to weight loss and overall wellbeing.

Eating the Mediterranean Way
There are some basic tenets of the Mediterranean Diet, which show it is convenient and affordable and promotes vibrant, fresh flavors, not deprivation.  For instance:

  1. Eat lots of vegetables.  From a simple plate of sliced fresh tomatoes topped with crumbled feta cheese to healthy pizzas, vegetables are vitally important to the fresh tastes of the Mediterranean Diet.  The recommendation is to fill half your plate with them.

  2. Change the way you think about meat. If you eat meat, add small strips of sirloin to a vegetable sauté, or garnish a dish of pasta with diced prosciutto. As a main course, eat 3 ounces or less of chicken or lean meat.

  3. Always eat breakfast.  Start your day with fiber-rich foods such as fruit and whole grains that can keep you feeling pleasantly full for hours. Layer granola, yogurt, and fruit, or mash half an avocado with a fork and spread it on a slice of whole grain toast.

  4. Eat seafood twice a week.  Fish such as tuna, herring, salmon, and sardines are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and shellfish including mussels, oysters, and clams have similar benefits for brain and heart health.

  5. Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week. Build these meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables, and heighten the flavor with fragrant herbs and spices. Now, try two nights per week.

  6. Use good fats. Include sources of healthy fats in daily meals, especially extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocados.

  7. Enjoy some dairy products. Eat Greek or plain yogurt, and try small amounts of a variety of cheeses.

  8. For dessert, eat fresh fruit. Choose from a wide range of delicious fresh fruits — from fresh figs and oranges to pomegranates, grapes and apples. Save sweets like cookie and ice cream for a special treat.
To help consumers put these tenets into daily practice and embrace the Mediterranean way of eating, Oldways has just published a new book, The Oldways 4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan.   The 80-page book is available through Oldways’ website store (www.oldwayspt.org/store).

This year, celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Mediterranean Diet and Med Pyramid in the U.S. by savoring the healthy, vibrant flavors and pleasing lifestyle of the Mediterranean region.  Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to find Mediterranean Diet foods such as sun-dried tomatoes, pita bread, and Greek yogurt, which were virtually unknown back in 1993. And  Mediterranean inspired chain restaurants such as Garbanzo Mediterranean, Little Greek, Roti Mediterranean Grill and Zoës Kitchen are popping up throughout the country. Don’t forget to do something extra special in May — National Mediterranean Diet Month!

Oldways is a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization, with a mission to guide people to good health through heritage. For Oldways resources, recipes, and more information, visit www.oldwayspt.org.


As seen in Camden County Woman and Burlington County Woman

 

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