Have you tried “diets” claiming to help you lose that last ten pounds just in time for summer, or a social event, or because you’re worth it? Have you taken diet pills, done crazy exercises, or eaten just one type of food (I’m looking at you, cabbage diet and grapefruit juice cleanse) for a set amount of time in the hopes of a miracle?
Do you know what diet means? The primary definition is: “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats”. I’ve always been of the view that a “Diet” is just that, the things that you eat. A diet is not meant to be a 3-day or 2-week affair just to get you into your wedding dress or bikini then quickly discarded and replaced with drive-through lines. Diets of that sort never last and never give lasting results.
Any diet which is high in whole foods and grains is bound to improve your health. Any diet which is heavy in processed foods with added sugars, sweeteners, salt, fat, and preservatives is bound to harm your health. The most successful dieters long-term also do not focus solely on food alone, but rather on the entire lifestyle.
The Mediterranean way of life, specifically the way of life in Greece, Spain, and other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, is just that. It focuses on staying active, eating whole foods that your body loves, lowering stress, increasing relationship bonds, and generally living as wholly and healthily as possible.
If you haven’t heard yet, there is some evidence claiming the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest “fad” diet to ever come along.
According to the Mayo Clinic website
, a leading source for health information, “Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease…an analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.”
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
The diet also recognizes the importance of being physically active, and enjoying meals with family and friends. Go for a walk after dinner, play with your kids or dog in the yard. Walk to the store, the grocery, the restaurant. Take a long bike ride on the weekend. Go up and down the steps seven times to finish the laundry. Tell stories, share food, love, and laughter.
If you follow this diet and lifestyle, you are sure to experience a plethora of health benefits. Your internal organs and skin will thank you for all the wonderful vitamins and minerals you are eating. The antioxidants in the vegetables, healthy fats, and red wine will help keep your body and brain young. And unwanted fat will have a harder time finding a resting place on your hips or gut if you are always in motion.
This is a simple recipe you can try to work extra Mediterranean-inspired flavors into your weekly meals. Start-to-finish only takes about 30 minutes, and dinner for four can be on the table. Serve with a healthy whole grain side like quinoa, couscous, or rice, or a potato medley and fresh green salad.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
- 1 whole yellow onion, slivered
- 1 large beefsteak tomato (or 1 can diced, drained)
- 1/2 cup diced red pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3-5 garlic cloves
- 1 cup chopped olives (try kalamata and/or pimiento)
- Optional: 1/4 cup feta cheese, seasonings to taste
Step 1: In a frying pan on medium heat, add the sliced onion and garlic cloves. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 7-10 minutes. Onions should become translucent and begin to caramelize and garlic becomes fragrant.
Step 2: Add the olives, sliced, and the tomato to the pan and continue to cook vegetables another 5-10 minutes, until tomatoes release their juice.
Step 3: Remove the vegetables to a separate plate and keep warm. Season the chicken, I used sea salt and white peppercorns. Cook the chicken breasts for 10-15 minutes on both sides, ensuring there is no more pink in the center.
Step 4: Add the veggies back into the skillet, and heat everything throughout.
Serve hot as is, or over your choice of grain or with a side dish. If you like, sprinkle with a tbsp or two of feta cheese or avocado. This dish could also be made with tempeh or pressed tofu instead of the chicken for a vegetarian/vegan option.