With experts saying they live longer, have more energy and lead healthier and happier lives, our Mediterranean cousins must be doing something right. And, with bikini season well and truly on the way, we decided to check out what little changes we could make to our daily meals, to follow in their footsteps…
Rule 1 – Eat at the table
Whether you’re talking about the Spanish, the Italians or the Greeks, one thing our Med neighbours do a lot of, is eating together as a family. Most importantly, they eat at the table, NOT on their laps in front of the box. And it’s a pretty smart move if you ask us. Studies have shown that if you’re regularly eating your supper slumped in front of Eastenders, not only are you not digesting your food properly, but you’re more likely to snack afterwards. Apparently, the distraction means you don’t feel satisfied at the end of your meal. For extra brownie points, eat al fresco when the weather’s nice for a dose of Vitamin D.
Rule 2 – Pack in some fish
You know the drill with this one. Fish = superfood. And over in the Med, locals chow down on an almost daily basis. Nibble on white fish like cod and you’re taking in low-fat protein and shedloads of minerals. Tuck in to shellfish like crab and lobster, and you’ll be getting selenium – thought to have cancer-fighting benefits. And if you can pack oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines into your diet, you’ll be eating fish with the highest concentration of super-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It might all sound a bit science-y, but trust us, add plenty of fish to your diet, and you’ll be laughing. Aim to eat it twice a week.
Rule 3 – Make olive oil your new BFF
Most people tend to cook with vegetable oil as it’s cheaper than olive oil or extra virgin olive oil. But make the swap to the slightly pricier stuff and you’ll reap the benefits. It’s packed with antioxidants and ‘good fats’, which are said to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and even fight cancer, among other helpful bits and bobs. And, while we know it’s really yummy, it’s well worth swapping that creamy Pizza Express salad dressing to a homemade one – just mix olive oil with balsamic vinegar and you’ve got some lovely, healthy stuff to coat your greens with.
Rule 4 – Make lunchtime the new dinnertime
Med residents tend to have a big lunch. In fact, most of them make this their largest meal of the day, following it up with a smallish dinner a few hours later. It makes sense, too. A big dinner before bed causes your digestive system to work overtime while you sleep, disrupting rest, and making you feel sluggish in the mornings. Studies also show links to this and weight gain. Eat your biggest meal at lunchtime, meanwhile, and your body will burn calories more efficiently than it would at night. If you’re not a fan of having a large lunch, try to at least sit down for dinner before 6pm.
Rule 5 – Be snack smart
You don’t need us to tell you to lay off the chocolate and snack on fruit instead. But we will draw your attention to the nut. From the peanut to the Brazil nut, they just don’t get enough praise. They’re all packed with minerals and ‘good fats,’ you see, and are even thought to lower the risk of heart disease. Throw in some seeds and berries, as well, and all the better. Basically, think ‘snack like a squirrel’ and you’re there.
Enough with the dos and don’ts. Below, you’ll find some tasty dishes that would be right up José or Maria’s street. For more ideas and recipes, check out http://oldwayspt.org/recipesresources/recipes and http://www.mediterraneanrecipes.org/by-meal/dinner-recipes
The Handy Med Meal Plan
Layer granola, fruit and Greek yoghurt, or spread some avocado on toast. Serve with 1 cup of fruit juice.
Ham on toast with ½ cup of plain yoghurt, a few strawberries and 1 cup of fruit juice.
Baked salmon drizzled in lemon juice and olive oil, served with wild rice and a dollop of sour cream.
Grilled lamb kebabs served with peppers, onions and zucchini. Plus ½ cup of boiled rice.
Spanish vegetable salad with peppers, olives, onions, pickles and basil. Slice of garlic bread on the side.
Beef stock broth with tortellini pasta
Got any great Med-style recipes to share? Let us know below…