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How to Build a Mediterranean Diet in 3 Simple Steps

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

April 19, 2019

Increasing evidence suggests that following a Mediterranean Diet could counter diseases associated with chronic inflammation, including metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, obesity, pulmonary diseases, and cognition disorders. The Mediterranean Diet is associated with the beneficial effects fo anti-inflammatory cytokines secretion, antioxidant cellular, and circulating biomarkers as well as the regulation of gene polymorphisms involved in the atherosclerotic process. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by high consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.), whole grains, fish and seafood, and olive oil. In this bulletin, we will learn how to follow this beneficial diet and you will get great resources to help you to transition into it.

Frequency matters
• Every day: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil. 2x/week: Eat fish and seafood twice a week.
• Eat in moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt.
• Occasionally: red meat, sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, Trans fats, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils, and other highly processed foods.

Build your menus in three easy steps
1. Pick a whole grain
2. Pick a protein (eggs, soft cheese*, hummus, Greek yogurt or nuts,)
3. Add veggies as needed
*Note: You can eat fruit (no juice)
1. Salads
2. Soups
3. Wraps or stuffed pitas
Note: You must include a protein source (beans, cheese, eggs, fish, etc.), include plenty of veggies and whole grains. You can eat fruit (no juice) for dessert.
1. Pick a protein source (seafood, lentils, chickpeas, cheese, etc.)
2. Add lots of vegetables
3.  Pick a whole grain (barley, brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, couscous, etc.)
*Note: You can eat fruit (no juice) for dessert.

Basic rules when you build your Mediterranean Diet menus:
– Choose fresh produce: Eat lots of vegetables. They are an excellent source of vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.
– Look for whole grains: In the Mediterranean Diet, the majority of grains should be whole grains in minimally-processed forms, because refining and processing can remove many valuable nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Look for the word “whole” to make sure you are getting a whole grain. You cannot trust in the color of your bread or crackers. Some brands use food dye to make them look whole, while they are using refined flours. Avoid products with “refined flour” or “enriched flour” and prefer “whole wheat flours” or “whole grains flours”. “Wheat” or “multigrain,” without the word “whole” attached, means the bread might not be made from the entire kernel.
– Focus on heart-healthy fats: Include other healthy fats in daily meals, such as olive oil, nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocados, as well as fishes with a high content of omega 3 into your diet.
– Sweet treats: Eat fruits as a dessert and save sweets for a special treat or celebration.
– Twice a week: Fish and legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, etc.) common to the traditional Mediterranean Diet, include both food groups at least twice a week.
– Herbs and spices: Herbs and spices are rich in flavor and provide health-promoting antioxidants.

Greek Leek Pie with Homemade Phyllo-Prasopita
This week’s recipe comes from Olive Tomato.
4 cups sliced leeks-only white parts, not the leaves ( ½ inch thick slices)
3 spring onions sliced in ½ inch thick slices
¼ cup olive oil + some for brushing the dough
4 ounces feta (120 grams) grated, it will mix more evenly rather than using crumbled
2 eggs
¼ cup chopped dill
A pinch of salt
Ground pepper
Phyllo dough

• Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius)
• In a large pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the spring onion until soft for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped leeks and heat stirring until leek wilts and softens for about 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure there are no liquids left.
• Empty contents of the pan (leek and spring onion) into a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, dill, and feta and blend well.
• In a small bowl beat the eggs and add them to the leeks and blend.
• Brush a round 10-inch pan with olive oil. Place your first phyllo on the base of the pan making sure it hangs over the pan. Brush with olive oil.
Note: If you are using regular store-bought phyllo use the method below
• Spread the leek mixture over the phyllo evenly.
• Cover with second phyllo and join both phyllo sheets together twisting around the pan so it forms a border.
• Brush the top phyllo with olive oil and score the pie where you will cut the pieces (do not cut all the way through).
• Bake for about an hour until the crust is golden.
• Let it cool and cut into pieces.
• Serve warm or at room temperature and enjoy!

For some ideas on how to use herbs and spices click the links below:
• Oldways – Fresh Herbs
• Oldways – 7 Spices Tips

For more information and free recipes Mediterranean Diet visit these websites below:
• Oldways – Mediterranean Diet
• Olive Tomato

For more recipes and details on how to follow a Mediterranean Diet, check out the cookbooks below:
• The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook from the American’s Taste Kitchen
• Mediterranean Table: Simple Recipes for Healthy Living on the Mediterranean Diet


Karen Alexander, MS, RDN, LD/N

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