One diet or lifestyle regime which has transfixed the nutritionists of the world for many years is the Mediterranean diet. It is quite simply a way of eating, rather than a dietary plan to follow, featuring foods eaten in Greece, Spain, Southern Italy and France. It is not so much about recreating dishes derived from these countries but rather emphasising the consumption of fruit, vegetables, oily fish, high fibre grains, wholemeal pasta, multi grain bread, cereals, beans, nuts and seeds. It uses olive oil as its key monounsaturated fat source, suggests a moderate/low daily consumption of dairy products and poultry, permits a minimum amount of red meat and allows for the moderate consumption of wine.
This diet gives the body access to a wide range of fruits and vegetables, maximising the sources of vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients, which, over time, contribute to a healthier life.
Investigations into this diet found that inhabitants of places such as Greece and southern Italy had considerably lower levels of heart disease than other people in Europe. Combined with moderate exercise and not smoking, this diet can almost guarantee health benefits.
The total levels of fat consumed in this diet are practically identical to those of other parts of the world, yet cases of chronic heart disease in these regions are significantly lower, suggesting an emphasis on the types of fat that we ought to consume, rather than the quantity. The Mediterranean diet is high in monounsaturated fats found in foods such as avocados, olive oil and nuts, compared with other diets high in saturated fats, found in red meat, processed meats, animal products and full fat dairy products.
Instead of red meat, the diet recommends the consumption of fish at least three times a week, especially oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, which has a high concentration of the Omega-3 fatty acid that I have mentioned throughout my blogs on nutrition.
Although the Mediterranean diet regulates the consumption of saturated fats and dairy products, it doesn’t mean to say they’re intrinsically bad for us. I have not once suggested you should consume a lot of it but I have told you that the benefits of eating moderate amounts of it are far greater than cutting it out completely. As with everything you eat, the single rule you should stick to hard and fast is: to moderate.
Over the course of my nutrition blogs, I’ve explained to you the distorted truths about fat and the deceit that has got us hooked on sugar. I’ve also briefly mentioned the importance of proteins, fibre and good carbs, so I’m now going to tell you what to do about it.
If you’re unlucky enough to have lost them, there is no quick and easy way to recapture your former worry-free, belly-free days. Do not be fooled by some fad diet, because they are merely ways for other people to make lots of money out of you. It’s a cliché I hear everyday but: eat a healthy, balanced diet. By following the scientifically proven facts and techniques I’ve discussed in these blogs, you will be well on your way to slimming down, or if that’s not your focus, eating a nutritionally balanced diet that allows your body to function like it should.
I remember going on a date with a girl, many years ago (Long before my beloved wife came into view), and waxing lyrical about the unbelievable invention of the spiralizer. Needless to say, the date didn’t go so well but I think I got my point across because at the end of last year I got a random text from the same girl, telling me that she had just bought herself a spiralizer (or she secretly wanted me to ask her on another date...who knows). Anyway, if you’ve never had one, get one. They are the most incredible devices you will come across, which shred whatever vegetable you are using into long spirals that you can then fry, steam (wait for it, I’ll be championing this momentarily), boil or just eat raw. I remember one of my staple dishes at university being the classic spaghetti bolognese (hence the gut, in part because I ate copious amounts of white spaghetti with the meat). Fast forward to now and I will either spiralize a few humble carrots or a sumptuous courgette in place of pasta, to create the perfect, healthy, tasty base for the bolognese. And that is only the beginning, you can do so much more with them, so get one and start experimenting.
This isn’t new, it’s been around for a long, long time, but start steaming your vegetables. You can buy awesome tiered steamers that let you steam up to 5 different items at the same time, or you can just place a colander filled with a particular vegetable or vegetables, covered with a lid, over a pan of boiling water, to create an economical version. Don’t, however, use a plastic colander over a gas flame, like an ex housemate did once, because that won’t end well for the colander, your veg, or your relationships with the people whose kitchen you share. Steaming vegetables ensures that vitamins such as vitamin B, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, biotin, B12, pantothenic acid and vitamin C, as well as minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc are all retained. When you boil or fry your vegetables, you lose a lot of the goodness into the water or oil.
If you find yourself over-indulging on one particular day, enjoy yourself because that is what life is all about. Don’t, however, punish yourself for having fun. Instead, know that you have to refrain from beer for the next few days, and treat yourself to a massage or a cinema trip instead, or whatever makes you happy.
Use the 80/20 rule. Eat normally and healthily 80% of the time, let yourself go a little bit, 20% of the time. You will still stay a healthy weight if you keep to this ratio.
Try to exceed your five-a-day fruit and vegetable intake. The more colour you have in your fruits and vegetables, the wider the range of nutrients. Spiralize your vegetables to create healthy alternatives to white spaghetti. Steam your vegetables in order to retain all the goodness.
Try to include as many nutrient-rich foods as possible, such as eggs, liver, sardines etc. Eat more fish to boost your Omega-3 supplies. Get as much of it as you can. These are a great means of adding depth of flavour to a largely vegetarian dish, too.
Serve yourself smaller portions if you’re trying to lose weight and don’t go for seconds. Instead, add another course to your meal in the form of a herbal tea or similar, that gives you something to focus on after the main event.
Eat slowly. The longer you take to consume a meal, the more likely you are to feel full before you finish it. It takes longer for your body to know it is full than it does for it to digest everything. Chew your food for longer, which will help with slowing down. It will also help to stimulate the release of digestive juices in your gut.
Eat mindfully. This will help slow you, too. Appreciate it and think about what it has gone through to get onto your plate. What does it look like, first? Did you think it would taste like that? Do you like the texture of it? Do you like the taste?
Drink a glass of water before you eat as it will help to lessen your appetite. Drink water anyway because it is so important. Love it. Love yourself. Be happy. Smile. Laugh. Have fun. Be joyful.
If you’re a bacon and red meat eater, don’t restrict yourself from eating it completely, rather, save it for special occasions and maybe don’t consume it everyday. If you’re not eating bacon or steak, eat chicken, and eat as much of it as you want. Not only does it taste great, it is also incredibly lean and a great source of that all-important protein.
Develop a way of making offal taste amazing and then eat it yourself before launching a brand new restaurant that changes the health of the country.
Moderate the amounts and types of food you consume.
Balance your diet to include a healthy amount of fibre, protein, fat and good carbs.
Look at labels - If you don’t understand the word on the back, don’t buy it.
Go to your local green grocer to bulk buy vegetables.
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