Alison Lewis is a nationally known Cookbook Author, Recipe Developer, Television and Social Media Food Spokesperson, Nutritionist, Food Educator, and Owner of Ingredients, Inc., a Food Consulting company in Birmingham, Alabama. She is known for creating healthy, family-friendly recipes that are easy to prepare and sharing information about healthy living on her blog, ingredientsinc.net.
As a nutritionist, I have been a fan of the Mediterranean Diet for years. I try to incorporate the key components of the diet such as exercise, limiting red meat, eating more fish, consuming more plant based foods and enjoying meals with family and friends. I became even more of a believer recently when I traveled to Italy for seven days, didn’t exercise, ate a ton, and actually lost weight.
Craig Rich, a board certified internal medicine doctor says, “I recommend the Mediterranean diet to the majority of my patients because it’s lower in saturated fat and has been said to reduce risks of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. New research also suggests that this diet can even help keep your brain healthy. What I honestly like about the diet, is that most people can really stick to it without a lot of effort.”
Top 10 Foods on a Mediterranean Grocery List:
1. Vegetables: The Mediterranean diet is practically vegetarian with a large emphasis on fish and shellfish and very little red meat. Select traditional vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, spinach, eggplant, garlic and mushrooms.
2. Fish and shellfish: Fish and shellfish are the most important protein in the Mediterranean diet. Filled with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, salmon, tuna and sardines are great options.
3. Olives and olive oil: Olives are usually consumed whole and used as appetizers as well as in a variety of dishes. Choose kalamata olives and Spanish olives. Olive oil is the principal source of dietary fat in the Mediterranean diet used in cooking, baking and in dressings. Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat that can help reduce LDL levels.
4. Legumes: Legumes are a top source of healthy fat, filled with protein and fiber. Some of my favorites include lentils, cannellini beans, fava beans and chick peas. These add flavor, depth and texture to a variety of Mediterranean dishes.
5. Grains: The majority of grains in the Mediterranean diet should be whole grains such as couscous, bulgur, faro, semolina, polenta and, of course, pasta. These are slow to digest so you feel full longer.
6. Cheese and yogurt: Cheese and yogurt are eaten often in the Mediterranean diet but consumed in moderation. A great source of calcium, these two ingredients promote bone and heart health. Some of the most popular cheeses are Parmigiano-Regiano, feta, Gorgonzola, mozzarella and ricotta.
7. Nuts: Nuts are a great source of protein, vitamins and healthy fats. Keep almonds, walnuts and pistachios on hand for a quick snack. Choose natural peanut or almond butters. Try tahini (blended sesame seeds) in recipes or even as a dip.
8. Fresh herbs: My favorite herbs, such as basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme, are popular in Mediterranean cooking. Try them to flavor your recipes while decreasing the amount of salt needed.
9. Fruit: Fruit for dessert is very popular in the Mediterranean diet, and fruit adds fiber and vitamins. Choose your favorite fruits that are in season.
10. Red wine: Red wine contains antioxidants and has been said to reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent blood clots and improve circulation. Mediterranean people drink wine with dinner frequently, but portions are small (about 3 ounces).
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