School Lunches in the U.S. -Yes you can make kids want to eat vegetables: make them a bit more Mediterranean.

October 9, 2012 Leave a Comment

I’m currently in Philadelphia attending the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo organized by the Academy of  Nutrition and Dietetics (former American Dietetic Association), and while I’m here, of course there has been much discussion of the new lunches of the National School Lunch Program. Apparently kids in the US schools do not want to eat the new school lunches that must now include fruits and vegetables according to the new requirements. Not surprising considering how they are serving those vegetables.

Well let’s see what is going on here: According to the NYT, these revised school lunches include string beans, baked sweet potato wedges and packaged baby carrots. Well of course the kids are throwing them in the garbage. I don’t like eating plain string beans or plain carrots either, and I’m an adult and a nutritionist!

Boring vegetables
The problem here is that we’re trying to get kids to eat more vegetables by just giving plain, boring, tasteless vegetables. And not only kids, adults are trying to do this too. I see this phenomenon every time I visit the US; time and time again they try and get their vegetables requirements by eating raw or plainly cooked vegetables. They are trying to eat more of them by serving them with dips: there are only so many raw broccoli florets you can eat with ranch dip or steaming or boiling vegetables maybe with a touch margarine or butter. l mean really, how many vegetables can you eat that way? Read more »

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Genuine Greek Shopping at the Airport

October 6, 2012 1 Comment

I am currently in Philadelphia to attend the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (more about that later). While flying out of Athens conveniently there are a few shps that sell Greek food products. The nice thing about these stores is that they sell a good variety of Greek PDO ( Protected Designation of Origin) products and not just a couple of touristy products. So if you’re visiting Greece and didn’t get a chance to buy the goodies, here are a few unique things to pick up before you fly.

Fistiki Aiginis

These Greek pistachio nuts are known for their taste. These are the original, straight off the tree from the island of Aegina. Read more »

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3 Easy Ancient Greek Recipes You Can Make Today

October 3, 2012 21 Comments

Continuing with the Ancient Greek theme, I came across several recipes while reading all these books about the food of the ancients Greeks, that looked quite familiar. When you look at these recipes, you would never think that they were “ancient”. In fact, they look very similar to recipes Greeks and others make today. So here are 3 Ancient Greek recipes (as described in the book The Classical Cookbook) that use ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen at this very moment, so try them out, they are for the most part healthy and easy. Read more »

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Food and Diet: Ancient Greece vs. Modern Greece

September 28, 2012 15 Comments

When you live in Greece you are reminded everyday of the history of this land. Not only by the ancient temples and ruins scattered all over the country, but by almost all aspects of the culture here; language, music, art and of course the food.

A few years ago, I was asked to give a presentation about the continuity of Greek cuisine from antiquity to the present. While doing research I came across four excellent books (they are cited at the end of this post) and I wanted to share some interesting facts (as far as we know) about the food and food culture of the ancient Greeks and the similarities with today’s Greeks. Read more »

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Simple Mediterranean Sardine Spread

September 18, 2012 4 Comments

I’ve been mentioning and posting quite a few photos of sardines these past few weeks on the Olive Tomato facebook page, grilled or marinated these are great little fishes. And while they are super-healthy and tasty, what can you do if fresh sardines are not available or you just don’t really cook fish? Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, canned sardines are just as fine.

A simple recipe that you can make at home is a spread that is an alternative to the traditional tuna salad. You can spread on bread for a sandwich or as I did here on little pieces of whole wheat bread topped with a slice of cherry tomato for a tasty but healthy appetizer.

There are versions with cream cheese or mayonnaise, I use Greek style yogurt (strained) instead, to give the creamy texture but without all the fat.

Try and choose sardines canned in olive oil rather than some generic vegetable oil. Read more »

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Fish oil supplements may not be the answer, but fish is. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: One of the secrets of the Greek-Mediterranean Diet.

September 14, 2012 3 Comments

A recent study or actually an analysis of previous studies showed that Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oil supplements) did not lower risk of heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease.

However, that does not mean that fish or omega-3 fatty acids are not protective. The researchers (which happened to be Greek) studied supplements, not food. I am just clarifying, as many media outlets are saying that fish in general do not do anything.

Of course, the supplement industry was quick to react saying that study was flawed, but even if it is not clear if the supplement form of fish oils is effective, we know that getting nutrients from foods-not supplements is what is associated with all the health benefits we keep hearing about, whether that is Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins or antioxidants.

And that’s what the Mediterranean diet is all about; time and time again studies show that the combination of foods will result in protection from chronic disease and not individual nutrients. There is an interaction among the different components of a meal or a food that cannot be replicated in a supplement. Read more »

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Tomato Paste, a Mediterranean Staple and Why You Should Use It

September 11, 2012 3 Comments

In my mother’s descriptions of my grandmother’s cooking and her own, one ingredient would come up that seemed odd to me: tomato paste. I would wonder: why would you use all these fresh ingredients and then add a canned tomato product?

Well, in the olden days it served a purpose: it was used as a substitute for tomatoes, when fresh ones were not available. Tomato paste was made at home as a way to preserve tomatoes to use during the winter. I read somewhere that tomato paste originated in Italy and and then its use spread across other areas of the Mediterranean, which makes perfect sense considering how important tomato is in the Mediterranean cuisine.

My mother remembers as a little girl in the 50’s, going to the local deli (in Greece) and getting 1-2 tablespoons of the stuff on a piece of wax paper so her mother could use it for cooking. What did they do with it? Well they made the known kokkinista, which translates as the “red ones”. These are dishes either made with tomatoes or tomato paste, hence the name referring to the redness.The tomato paste along with olive oil is warmed up (or almost sautéed) in a pot or pan, and the vegetables or meat are added and cooked. Of course it is also used in pasta and sauces and basically when you want to give a little color or added flavor. Read more »

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