Okay – this one has been covered by numerous dietitians, nutritionists, cardiologists, and everyone else in between.
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past 10 years or so, everyone has heard that the Mediterranean food diet is one of the healthiest diets you could eat. What I am about to share with you as how the Mediterranean men and women actually eat on a daily basis, not simply on health kick. I am a true believer that the reason I look better today, as a mother of two, pushing 40, than I ever had in my teens and twenties, is because of the delta change in diet I adopted.
If you were anything like me, you may largely abstain from fast foods, try to eat “right” by snacking on granola bars and slurping down Diet Cokes. But, the weight still accumulated, not fast, but slowly. I remember shortly after giving birth to my first child in Atlanta, I visited my Ob/Gyn concerned about something so trivial that only a new mother would be concerned about. The doctor began discussing birth control options (wasn’t abstinence a pretty good method?), he espoused a new birth control pill that had recently entered the market. Does it cause weight gain?, I asked. He shrugged his shoulders and said, About five pounds, the same amount that women gain, on average, per year.
Five pounds PER YEAR?! Are we still in some sort of growth spurt and weren’t told? I declined the pill and subsequently got pregnant with my son several months later. <Side note: no regrets there. He’s the love of my life.>
After I moved to Cyprus, all the weight I had gained from the pregnancies and even from my sedentary corporate life started to slowly melt away. Yes, I was more active with children. But there wasn’t much food that came already prepared and in bags or cartons on the shelves in the market. They exist, of course, but they are so much more expensive than actually fruits, vegetables, dried beans, yogurt, milk, and other basic ingredients, that many people shy away from them from a financial standpoint, not a health one. But the problem with all these basic ingredients is that you need to know how to put them together. This is was a problem for me in the beginning of our marriage and leading up to the early days of life in Cyprus. Now let me preface all this: my mom is a killer cook. Seriously, she would bring in trays of lasagna and ziti to my dorm or college apartment and there would be a collective squeal from all my suite-mates and friends. Mama Hanna came to visit! And the vultures would descend. My mom is Greek and Egyptian; cooking, keeping a tidy home and caring for the welfare of her family were her hallmarks. I liked to think that her cooking genes somehow slipped into mine. But before I moved to Cyprus, I couldn’t even make a tasty rice. I had to literally read the box to make pasta (does this sound familiar, ladies?). And even then, my pasta would stick into a globby mixture, impossible to separate one elbow or tagliatelle from another.
That changed once I moved to Cyprus and started taking cooking lessons (or at least paying attention) to my mother-in-law and some local friends. Cooking can be so fun and rewarding, I learned. Now I am actually fairly decent at it. I can cook grilled octopus, spanokopita (spinach pie), braised veal, breaded chicken, moussakka, hummus, tzaiki, linguine with white wine and mussels, and nearly any bean dish out there.
When I was a child growing up in Virginia, we would get a decent amount of snow throughout the winter. Whenever the meteorologist called for snow, there would be a mad rush to the markets to pick up the “essentials,” in case we were ever snowed in for days (which never, ever happened, by the way). Dad and I would go to the market and the shelves would be empty of sliced white bread, eggs and milk. They were the first to go. It seems that these items were the must-haves in the typical American kitchen.
In the Mediterranean kitchen, however, the key ingredients are much different. Below is a short list of items are forever-present in any refrigerator or hanging basket in the Med.
- Fresh tomatoes
- Olive oil
As long as you keep the above items stocked in your kitchen, we can eat and live through any snow storm (I know, I know: the weather is too mild in the Mediterranean for snow storms, but you know what I mean). There’s a lot of raw information on what to eat in the Mediterranean Food Diet, such as the below links:
But these links don’t go so far as explaining how to put them all together. Every week, I will lead you through a scrumptious, easy-to-follow typical Mediterranean meal, complete with photos and (if I can manage) video. We will call them Mediterranean Mondays. Sound good? Good. It will be a lot like your very own Mediterranean mom giving you simple instructions, and then smacking your fingers with a wooden spoon if you dip your finger into the bowl to taste.
In the meantime, please share below and let me know what are some of your favorite Mediterranean or Middle Eastern meals that you have always wanted to learn how to prepare.
Discover your Inner Aphrodite!