Nutritious doesn’t mean tasteless
March is National Nutrition Month, a time to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating habits. Healthy, nutritious foods aren’t limited to salads and raw vegetables.
One very popular way of eating – The Mediterranean Diet – is both healthy and delicious. It’s based on the cuisines of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Greece –all of which are known for tasty, enjoyable food. The Mediterranean Diet offers a variety of inexpensive, tasty foods and many health benefits, such as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Some common Mediterranean ingredients are pantry staples: tuna, beans, tomatoes, olives, pasta, potatoes, onions, plain yogurt, fruit and vegetables.
Here are five simple ways to start eating more Mediterranean-inspired dishes:
• Don’t cut out carbs: Instead, choose healthy carbs, like whole grains, beans and produce. Try whole wheat pasta, instead of white. Cook it al dente, according to package directions. Water-logged pasta has a higher glycemic index that will leave you feeling hungry sooner.
• Cook with olive oil: This cornerstone ingredient of the Mediterranean Diet contains monounsaturated fats that have been shown to lower total cholesterol level and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Olive oil comes in many price ranges. Look for an extra-virgin variety that fits your budget. Buying a large, bulk-size container will save you money in the long run.
• Season with citrus: A squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds lots of sodium-free flavor. Citrus zest (the outer layer of the peel) delivers lots of flavor, too. Use a zester or fine vegetable grater to remove the zest.
• Eat fish twice a week: Higher-fat fish, like salmon and mackerel, contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. All kinds of fish and shellfish are healthy protein sources. The healthiest way to cook fish is to grill, bake or broil it with a little olive oil. You can add flavor with fresh or dried herbs and spices and a splash of fresh lemon juice.
• Include more yogurt: This healthy, fermented food is more than just a sweet breakfast or snack food. It can also be used as a savory ingredient in meals. Try adding a swirl of 2% (low-fat), plain Greek yogurt to spicy, vegetable-packed or meat dishes.
• Eat veggies at every meal: Vegetables aren’t just for lunch and dinner. For breakfast, add some greens, diced tomatoes, onions and sliced mushrooms to omelets. Remember that beans are veggies, too. Try this healthy avocado toast: Mash canned cannelloni beans with fresh avocado, a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then spread it on whole-grain toast.