Mediterranean diet: My 7 simple tips for the Mediterranean diet
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Mediterranean diet: My 7 simple tips for the Mediterranean diet

My Macedonian grandparents taught my family the Mediterranean diet.

My Macedonian grandparents taught my family the Mediterranean diet.
Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

My family has been following the Mediterranean diet for decades.

You can replace some of your usual meals and side dishes with vegetarian dishes like soups and salads.

Fruit, vinegar and vegetables like peppers are some of the staples that I always have on hand.

This is a machine translation of an article from our US colleagues at Business Insider. It was automatically translated and checked by a real editor.

I remember when the Mediterranean diet first became one of the hottest trends on the nutrition scene—suddenly my Greek salad looked very appetizing to my college roommates. Now it has been named the healthiest diet in the world for the seventh year in a row.

My Macedonian grandparents – who lived to be 90 – were farmers in northern Greece and taught my family an accessible version of the Mediterranean diet. We were able to enjoy McDonald’s cheeseburgers while reaping the benefits of healthy eating habits.

My family and I have maintained this lifestyle for decades. Here are seven of my top tips for incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your diet:

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Swap carb-heavy side dishes for filling vegetables

Greek salad is crisp and fresh.

Greek salad is crisp and fresh.

Swap crunchy snacks and side dishes like french fries and chips for crunchy vegetables that can fill you up just as much.

One of my favorite side dishes is a Greek salad that can be stored in the fridge for days. Simply cut onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and possibly a pepper into bite-sized pieces and pour olive oil and white or red vinegar over the mixture. Finally, add salt and feta cheese.

I use this salad as a side dish to virtually every family meal, from pizza and sandwiches to pasta and rice.

Another easy addition or alternative is torshi, a pickled vegetable mix popular in the Middle East and the Balkans. To do this, put the vegetables you have in the fridge in a large glass along with salt, vinegar and a little water.

Although you have to let it ferment for weeks or sometimes months, this mixture makes a great snack or appetizer with a crunchy bite from the vinegar.

Don’t be afraid of vinegar

If you saw my grandfather at the dinner table, he was probably holding a bottle of vinegar in one hand and a piece of bread in the other.

Vinegar is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and you can swap almost any sauce for it. You can swap the yogurt dressing for oil and vinegar on your salads, or add the ingredient to your soups to give them a lighter and spicier flavor.

The versatility and benefits of vinegar have made it a family staple that, I suspect, added years to my grandparents’ lives.

Although I don’t drink it or pour it over my soups like some family members do, I appreciate it as an easy replacement for dressings and sauces that would otherwise weigh down a refreshing lunch.

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Swap your sandwiches for soups

It’s easy to make a boring ham and cheese sandwich, but making soup the star of a meal is a way to enrich the dish with proteins and vegetables.

My family has favorite Mediterranean dishes like lentil, bean and Greek chicken noodle soup made with lemon and egg. Many of these dishes are made with the same base, namely sautéing chopped celery, onions and carrots in a little olive oil, salt and sometimes pepper or parsley until soft. If you always have these ingredients on hand, you won’t have to worry about what to cook for lunch.

Add a piece of bread and a piece of cheese and the finished dish is ready.

Pre-cuts a variety of fruits for easy breakfast and dessert

You can enjoy a bowl of fresh fruit as a breakfast side dish.

You can enjoy a bowl of fresh fruit as a breakfast side dish.

Just because you eat a Mediterranean diet doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy dessert. You can combine a scoop of ice cream with lots of fruit and nuts, for example vanilla with peaches and pecans.

This diet includes a variety of fruits, so you can increase your consumption early in the day by eating pre-cut peels for breakfast instead of just sprinkling a few blueberries on your cereal or oatmeal.

You don’t have to give up alcohol completely

The idea that a glass or two of red wine can actually be healthy is a common one in my family.

In addition to wine, we sometimes drink a glass or two of whiskey or ouzo, a strong-tasting, licorice-like alcohol, before dinner. You can easily swap your after-work beer for these alternatives, which usually contain fewer calories.

Paprika is a versatile and delicious ingredient

Peppers come in a variety of colors and flavors.

Peppers come in a variety of colors and flavors.
Krzysztof Slusarczyk/Shuttershock

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My grandfather often told strangers, doctors, and relatives that he owed his healthy gut to peppers. Stuffed peppers are one of my family’s favorite dishes, and you can easily stuff them with ground meat and rice.

One of our favorite condiments is a combination of tomato sauce and peppers that can be used to spice up dishes that might not otherwise contain vegetables – my family has even added it to cheeseburgers and pizza.

You can also easily make roasted peppers – which can range from mild to extremely hot – by baking them, then peeling off the skin and mixing them with oil and vinegar.

You don’t have to give up dairy products when following the Mediterranean diet

Although some say the Mediterranean diet limits cheese and dairy, my family would disagree.

In fact, we enjoy full-fat cheese, milk, and yogurt and add real cream to our morning coffee. In addition, a bowl of feta or kasseri (a medium-hard sheep’s cheese) should be included with every meal outside of breakfast.

My family prefers the “real thing” over the “diet version” of any food. We use whole milk instead of the low-fat alternative and prefer a spoonful of sugar to a packet of artificial sweetener. Even if these fruit-flavored yogurt cups aren’t entirely authentic, you can incorporate the homemade alternative into your meals as a sauce or side dish.

Read the original article on Business Insider.

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