For this blog post I had to choose a diet or dietary concept and follow it for the week. I chose to try out the Mediterranean Diet for this past week. The Mediterranean Diet interested me because I didn’t know much about it except that it was a very heart heathy diet that included eating lots of fish & vegetables, and using olive oil instead of butter. When I looked into this diet more, I found that it was more of a healthy lifestyle choice than a “diet” that you go on short term but eventually fall off the wagon because it’s too restrictive or no longer the popular diet trend.
Mediterranean Diet 101
- Include plant-based foods like fruits & veggies, whole grains, nuts & legumes as a main part of every meal
- Choose fresh & minimally processed food
- Replace butter/margarine with extra virgin olive oil as your main type of fat
- Choose low fat milk, yogurt & cheese – limiting whole milk, fatty cheeses, sour cream & ice cream (this last one is my kryptonite, especially in warm weather)
- Flavour food with herbs and spices instead of salt
- Limit red meat to a few times a month
- Limit refined sugar & processed sweets
- Eat fish, seafood & poultry a minimum of twice a week
- Drink red wine in moderation (if you enjoy it)
Sample Menu for the Week
- 2% Greek yogurt with a banana & a cup of purple grapes
- Multigrain or dark rye toast with all natural peanut butter, honey & banana
- Raisin Bran cereal with 1% milk, strawberries, bananas & unsweetened coconut flakes
- Usually a large salad with varying vegetables such as – lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, red peppers, radishes, crumbled walnuts, almonds, pecans, chia seeds & sometimes feta or goat cheese with a balsamic/olive oil dressing
- Homemade 4 bean chili – kidney beans, black beans, red beans, chickpeas and lean ground beef (ratio of beans to meat about 60:40 since I had made it earlier in the year and froze it for later)
- Mackerel marinated in white wine & sherry vinegar with onions, carrots & garlic served on European dark rye/pumpernickel type bread
- Grilled Calamari & Arugula Salad with grilled cherry tomatoes, capers and olive oil
- Kale & Quinoa Salad with sautéed veggies, shiitakes, avocado, black beans, corn, grape tomato, queso fresco, lime, cilantro, chipotle sauce (from bgood restaurant on front st.)
- Hummus with whole wheat pita and purple grapes
- Fruit smoothie with strawberries, kiwi & coconut water ice cubes (so tasty I finished it before remembering to take a pic!)
- Multi-grain toast with honey & natural peanut butter
- 1/2 baked sweet potato & broccoli & carrots with sesame seeds & extra virgin olive oil
- Lots of fish, vegetables & salads (some variation on the lunch salads)
- Baked sweet potato or potatoes with olive oil & dill, broccoli/carrots with either poached Fluke or Arctic Char baked with lemon juice & dill
- Homemade Crab Cakes on Boston lettuce
- Beet & Arugula Salad with walnuts, goat cheese & balsamic/olive oil dressing
- Brown Rice Pasta with baked chicken, tomatoes, onions & chopped herbs in a lemon-infused olive oil
Mixed Salad Recipe
Since vegetables, nuts &/or seeds were to be a main part of most meals I decided to create a salad recipe that included a range of these foods.
- 3/4 cup raw spinach leaves
- 1/4 cup green leaf lettuce
- 1/4 red pepper, chopped
- 6 thick cut cucumber slices
- 4 cherry tomatoes
- 2-3 small radishes, sliced thinly
- 1/2 green onion, sliced
- 1/4 cup whole walnuts, crushed
- 1 tbsp slivered almonds
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 tbsp goat cheese
- 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
Wash and rip up lettuce and spinach. Roughly chop peppers & cucumbers, thinly slice radishes & green onion. Layer the salad, place half the peppers, cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes & green onions on the bottom of the bowl, followed by half of the lettuce and spinach leaves. Repeat. Garnish the top of the salad with all the nuts and seeds and crumble goat cheese on top. Whisk the balsamic vinegar & olive oil together and pour over top salad, mixing until evenly dispersed.
Thoughts on the Week
The first few days weren’t too difficult because I already enjoy eating seafood, salads, fruits and veggies. Although limiting my cheese consumption was more difficult than I thought it would be. I am a definite lover of cheese & some times eating a few different kinds in a day. I also realized that fish and vegetables didn’t seem to fill me up for nearly as long as red meat did.
I generally don’t enjoy eating lentils or beans (except green beans) unless they are in chill, so I found trying to include them in a few meals, difficult to do. I also found that they made me feel a bit bloated & gassy. They aren’t called the musical fruit for nothing.
By day 5 & 6 I was getting tired of eating so much fish and no red meat, except for the little bit that was in the bean chili I had on Monday. I enjoy fish & seafood, but not enough to eat it almost everyday. I was starting to feel the same way about salads too, I enjoy eating them, but I got tired of making them every day and eating them as a main part of my meal with nuts, seeds, low-fat cheese or avocado as my source of protein. I was also I little bored with having balsamic vinegar & olive oil dressing on salads as a healthy alternative to a creamy greek dressing or honey mustard dressing I usually enjoy on top.
Starting this diet, I thought I was a fairly healthy eater, but following this diet for a week made me realize that I don’t eat nearly as much fruit as I should, nor do I eat enough nuts and seeds. I think the main reason for this is that it’s more work and planning in advance to include either fruit or veggies in every meal or snack.
The popular saying, “Everything in moderation” is a good way to sum up the main focus of the Mediterranean Diet. The focus is on choosing healthier alternatives of fat and protein and increasing your fruit and veggie consumption. It makes following this eating plan more of a lifestyle choice that people can continue with long term because they can eat less healthy foods too, but in moderation.
As a chef, following this diet wouldn’t be too difficult, since a chef would be more knowledgeable on how to use herbs and spices to season food instead of salt, and how to incorporate more nuts and seeds into salads or other meat-light meals. This knowledge, creativity and flexibility to adapt recipes to make them healthier would be an asset in the industry, because people are trending towards eating healthier, less processed foods.
Personally, I could follow parts of this diet, but I love red meat, all types of cheese, butter and ice cream too much to only have it a few times a month. I plan on making a deliberate effort to continue to increase my daily fruit, nuts & seeds intake because I enjoy fruit & nuts, but I’m often not organized enough to prep it in advance to bring as a snack or part of my lunch. I would try to eat seafood twice a week as suggested since I usually don’t eat it quite that often, but I would probably eat red meat more than a few times a month, since I enjoy all its various forms too much to eat it so little.
Until next time!