May 2, 2011

Go Mediterranean in May

Macon, Janet b&w

By Janet Macon, M/S., R.D., L.D.
HyVee Registered Dietician
Davenport, IA
(563) 324-9948

Most Americans have heard of the Mediterranean Diet. It is well-established that eating foods common in the Mediterranean region promotes a healthy weight and reduces the risk of various chronic diseases, including heart disease, some forms of cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.

So why don’t more American’s eat a Mediterranean Diet? Perhaps we think we will have to give up too many of our current foods. Perhaps we are intimidated by the unfamiliar foods we assume it contains. To overcome these roadblocks, take a gradual approach toward a Mediterranean lifestyle. Remember that there is no one diet that is consumed by every healthy Mediterranean person. Their diets are as varied as Americans’ diets. Consider the basic principles of Mediterranean living. Work to incorporate them into your life, starting today.

1. Make plant foods the foundation of your food pyramid, including fruits and vegetables, potatoes, breads and whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.

2. Minimize processed foods in favor of seasonally fresh and locally grown foods.

3. Olive oil is the primary source of added fat; replace other fats and oils (including butter and margarine).

4. Choose low to moderate amounts of low-fat and non-fat dairy, including cheese and cultured yogurt.

5. Aim for lean protein, including poultry and omega-3-rich fish at least two times per week.

6. Limit sweets. Fresh fruit serves as dessert in a typical Mediterranean diet. Sweets with a significant amount of sugar (often as honey) and saturated fat are consumed only a few times per week.

7. Enjoy red meat a few times per month. Research suggests that if red meat is eaten, its consumption should be limited to a maximum of 12 to 16 ounces per month.

8. Be physically active every day. This may be an |easier goal at attain for those living in southern France, Italy, Greece, or other countries in the region. Make the most of our Midwestern summer: get out for a walk or bike ride.

9. Enjoy wine in moderation, normally with meals: about one to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women. Consuming wine is optional; it does not need to be added to an alcohol-free lifestyle to improve health.

Janet Macon is a registered dietician at Hy-Vee. She can be reached at (563) 324-9948 or