The news of Paula Deen’s diabetes diagnosis is unfortunate, but what is more unfortunate is her decision to work with a pharmaceutical company to promote a diabetes medication that she uses.
As The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) announced: “The first line of defense for the prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes is a healthy diet and regular exercise.”
And it is. But what I want to focus on is the relationship of the Mediterranean diet and diabetes. A number of studies have shown that it can prevent type 2 diabetes, but one important study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that the Mediterranean diet was able to prevent the need for drugs in newly diagnosed individuals. In other words if you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and follow a Mediterranean diet you might not need to take medications.
The study compared the Mediterranean diet with a typical low fat diet and found that it was much more effective in controlling diabetes but also for weight loss. What many people don’t know is that the Mediterranean diet is actually a moderate to low carb diet and all the rich in antioxidant foods can play an important role in the prevention but also the management of the disease.
This is not the time to blame a certain lifestyle for the appearance of chronic disease, we don’t know all the details of Deen’s diagnosis, but to show that there are healthy alternatives out there, other than the bland, boring, low fat diet we’ve all been taught to think is the only solution, it’s not.
The idea of having dessert after a meal is a fairly new concept in Greece. Thirty years ago people used to eat a dessert, a gliko as they called it, during the holidays, when they went out, or if they were offered a sweet as a guest at somebody’s house. If you were lucky enough, you would have some small sweet like a cookie with your afternoon coffee, but you never had a dessert after a meal.
The dessert was a special treat consumed on its own and never taken for granted.
In Greece people would typically eat fruit after a meal. In the summer visiting my grandparents at the horio (village), I remember after every meal my grandma would bring out one or two fruits to the table, a knife and a plate. She would than sit with us, cut the fruit at the table placing them on the platter for all of us to eat.
When you go to a taverna here in Greece, the waiter will automatically bring a complimentary big platter of seasonal fruit at the end of the meal. Fruit is considered an important part of the meal like bread or wine, which may be another reason why Greeks have such a high intake of fruits and vegetables. I’ve started doing this with my older son; once we are done with lunch, I get up and grab a fruit and start cutting it and sharing it with him, and guess what? He eats it all!
I like the idea of not having to eat a dessert after a meal. Read more »
This week we started participating in Food Network’s Healthy Eats, January Healthy Every Week Challenge. The goal for this week is to cook more at home. Cooking at home is one of the best steps you can take to get yourself to eat healthier “real” food.
The Mediterranean diet conjures images of long, time consuming, home cooked meals… and who has time for that? I don’t, but did you know that there are plenty of Greek-Mediterranean recipes that are not only quick and easy to make, but they taste even better the next day?
As a dietitian, a busy mom of two little boys, and a avid supporter of the Greek diet, cooking healthy Mediterranean style dishes is a priority for me, but my time is limited. How do I do it? Here are my survival tips for quick Mediterranean cooking.
1. I always keep frozen vegetables, frozen herbs and canned tomatoes in my kitchen. With these 3 ingredients you can make the super healthy Greek vegetable one-pot dishes known as lathera which means “made with olive oil”. These dishes are made with a combination of vegetables, herbs, tomatoes and olive oil. They are delicious, healthy, full of antioxidants, low calorie and one serving which is a medium plate can provide you with 3 servings of vegetables. And the best part: active preparation time is only 10 minutes and they cook for 30-40 minutes. Click here for 3 easy and healthy lathera recipes. These dishes last 2-3 days and we eat them with a piece of feta cheese and a slice of whole wheat bread. Perfect for Meatless Mondays.
2. I make at least 2 no-cook meals a week with beans. Beans are a staple in The Greek-Mediterranean diet. Traditionally Greeks consume them at least twice a week cooked with some olive oil, lemon and sometimes tomato. Not only are they a great source of protein, fiber and antioxidants, they are cheap. I make Mediterranean inspired bean salads, and one of my favorite one is black eyed pea Mediterranean style salad. Read more »
Sure you’ve heard the rule many times: Drink more water. Apart from the fact that our body needs water to function, it has other benefits: It keeps you from drinking other “things”. It is undeniable that water is the best choice of beverage over soft drinks (diet or not), juice and other pseudo-water beverages. A few studies have shown that drinking a couple glasses of water before a meal will reduce your caloric intake during that meal. Drinking water with a meal, which also includes wine, helps you control how much wine you are drinking. Ancient Greeks used to water down the wine to control its consumption.
Greeks and Water
Henry Miller best described this relationship when arriving in Greece. “The glass of water…everywhere I saw the glass of water. It became obsessional. I began to think of water as the new thing, a new vital element of life”, he wrote.
Yes a glass of water is vital for the Greek.
In Greece, water is as necessary as olive oil is for food. The moment you sit down at a restaurant, the first thing to come is a bottle of cold water. Go to a Greek house and you will be offered a glass of cold water. Their refrigerators are full of bottles of cold water. Read more »
I make these 3 dishes all the time. When these vegetables are in season and I have time, I use fresh, otherwise I always keep frozen green beans and peas in my freezer and make them that way. Studies have shown that frozen vegetables maintain their nutritional value, however fresh, in season vegetables that haven’t been sitting in a grocery store for days, preferably from the farmers market is the best choice.
As you will see all three dishes have the same basic sauce and instructions, you just change the herbs you use. For example green beans go well with parsley, while peas go well with dill. I also have frozen herbs always in my kitchen; they work well in cooked dishes.
We eat this with feta and some bread. And remember these recipes are ideal for kids; my 3 ½ year old son has been eating these dishes since he was one. Before that, I would make him a modified Greek baby vegetarian meal, by steaming all the ingredients (for example green beans, parsley, onion etc.) and then adding a bit of olive oil.
The calorie count is about 300-350 calories for 1 serving. All 3 recipes make about 3 servings.
These dishes are even better the next day and they are usually consumed at room temperature. Read more »
Eat more vegetables, its something that’s almost on everybody’s list with the start of the New Year. We don’t eat enough, according to CDC only 26% of adults eat vegetables 3 times a day and a recent report from the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) showed that most Europeans don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables either, although we do have to mention that there were no statistics from Greece and Spain, countries that have high intakes of fruits and vegetables. According to another report, Greeks consumed 500 grams (17 oz.) of fruits and vegetables a day, surpassing the W.H.O. requirement of 400 grams (14 oz.).
How do Greeks manage to eat a pound of fruits and vegetables every day?
Well they cook their vegetables. Sure they eat salads and have plenty of vegetarian appetizers, but the vegetarian main course is what really sets them apart from other cultures. Most Greeks consume vegetables as a main dish 2-3 times a week. When I say cook, I don’t mean a plate of boring steamed vegetables with a lump of butter or melted cheese. These dishes are a combination of vegetables, herbs, tomatoes and olive oil, delicious and healthy. Common vegetables used are green beans, peas, eggplant, leek, artichoke, cauliflower and okra. Or they may eat beans (legumes) cooked with oil, onions and tomato. One serving is a large plate, which is about 3 servings of vegetables. Not only do you eat plenty of vegetables, but you also eat “difficult” vegetables such as artichokes and okra that you would otherwise not eat. One of my favorite dishes as a child was -believe it or not- a big plate of okra cooked in tomato sauce with a chunk of feta. Read more »
Obviously the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest if not the healthiest diet in the world. Besides the fact that numerous studies support the benefits, this diet is real, meaning it uses real food and at the same time it is palatable. You won’t hear anything about limiting your fat to 20% or eating tiny portions. The secret is the actual food. Yes, mostly plant foods with olive oil make a healthy diet plan. Let’s see how to do it in 5 steps.
Step 1. Don’t be afraid of olive oil.
Yes olive oil has antioxidants and is one of the best sources of the good monounsaturated fat. Most recommendations advise using olive oil as your main source of fat, but you need quite a bit, not just 1 teaspoon to make all those vegetables tasty. That may sound scary especially as we’ve been taught to be afraid of fat and use small amounts, but the reality is that combining olive oil with vegetables will give a medium caloric dish. Dr. Antonia Trichopoulou, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Preventative Medicine and Nutrition at the University of Athens Medical School and Director of WHO Collaborating Center for Nutrition in Greece, and one of the developers of the Mediterranean Pyramid, had told me that “Certainly olive oil has many calories, but a diet can be followed that can include oil while staying within normal limits calorie wise”.
The Mediterranean diet is not a low fat diet, 40 percent of the calories come from fat, much higher compared to the 30 percent recommended in a conventional diet. Isn’t that too much? No, according to Trichopoulou as long as the fat comes from olive oil. Read more »
As I’ve mentioned, one of the reasons I started this blog was to clear up any misunderstandings and misconceptions about the Mediterranean diet, and there seem to be many judging by the ranking of the Mediterranean diet in the U.S. News and World Report I read yesterday.
Why is this U.S. News review and ranking inaccurate?
First of all the Mediterranean diet is not really a diet but a way of eating that has been tried and tested and has been followed for many years by real people. Therefore you can’t really compare it with “man-made” diets such as the DASH or TLC diet. It’s a diet with real food and therefore comparing it with diet programs like Jenny Craig that consist of prepackaged meals and announcing them as easier to follow is inaccurate and misleading. What message does this send to the public? Basically if you want to eat healthier buy prepackaged foods? Unfortunately this method does not teach you lifelong good nutrition habits.
It was noted that the Mediterranean diet is moderately expensive and provided tips such as: “Can’t spring for the $50 bottle of wine? Grab one for $15 instead. And snag whatever veggies are on sale that day, rather than the $3-a-piece artichokes.” The is completely inaccurate. First of all we need to clarify that the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid developed by Harvard, Oldways and the World Health Organization was based on the diet people were following on the Greek island of Crete, the rest of Greece and southern Italy in the 1960’s. These people were poor which is probably one of the reasons their diet was healthy: they ate mostly plant foods. Contrary to what is implied, the Mediterranean diet is not about drinking copious amounts of expensive wine and feasting on expensive non-local fish such as salmon. They did not spend 50$ on wine (or 5$ for that matter), and they ate artichokes only when they were in season. They usually drank the cheap retsina wine, or their own homemade wine or tsipouro a strong distilled spirit, and ate only fruits and vegetables that were in season and local (most likely from their garden or their neighbor’s garden or from their village). The “experts” in the article failed to mention that one of the main sources of protein were beans such as lentils, which we all know are pretty cheap, and what about the fact that they hardly ate meat? Isn’t that a money saver? Read more »
Yes we all know how great cauliflower is. What’s so great about it? Besides the fact that it’s low in calories and high in fiber, it has other properties that protect from chronic diseases. It contains several phytochemicals such as sulforaphane, which is a substance that is released when we chew the cut cauliflower and has anticancer properties. It also contains a substance called indole-3 carbinol, which appears to have anti-estrogenic activity and slows or even stops the growth of tumors in the breast.
In the US, I usually come across it raw and crunchy in salad bars or as an appetizer along with carrot sticks and ranch dressing. In my mom’s Greek kitchen though, I had as a main course, and I liked it!
Cauliflower is generally consumed as a main course by Greeks and it was a common dish during fasting periods. My mom made it two ways: kokkinisto, cooked in tomato and olive oil or boiled and then adding olive oil and lemon. Both were accompanied with feta cheese (unless we were fasting) and bread. In the past few years I roast the cauliflower in the oven, since I don’t really have to look over it all the time. The addition of olive oil to cauliflower and roasting it really makes the difference, giving it a nutty and sweet taste. Read more »