By ALICE ALECH
The Mediterranean diet is the easiest, most sensible diet around, yet in the search for weight loss, many turn to other food plans—the Paleo, the Dukan, and the Atkins diets, to name a few. However, it is an overindulgence of the wrong foods and inactivity that creates the need to lose weight. Wouldn’t it be better for all the family to incorporate a healthy lifestyle with simple eating—good eating habits that are easy to follow, nutritious, and healthy? Also, as parents, it’s up to you to put kids on the right track, to inspire them to make the right food choices, so they blossom into healthy adults.
There’s no real definition of the Mediterranean diet, no single model. It is based simply on the quality of the food we choose to eat, a balanced lifestyle based on a southern European approach that includes food from livestock, fishing, and agriculture. The people of the Mediterranean region consume lean sources of protein, drink red wine in moderation, and flavor their dishes with herbs and spices.
Healthy Food Choices
Historically, eating this way does not include much red meat—only a bit of fish—and lots of seasonal fruit and vegetables. This is the diet that has been proven to reduce heart disease as well as some medical conditions brought on by the Western lifestyle. This eating plan has been thoroughly researched over the years with scientifically backed evidence showing that you can achieve weight loss and reduce your risks of certain diseases.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and relatively low in saturated fat. It consists mainly of plants, vegetables, fruits, cheese, cereals, and olive oil—the main source of fat. To that, some choose to add one or two glasses of red wine a day (excessive alcohol use can lead to increased risk of health problems), fish, and white meat in moderation and small quantities
A weekly shopping list would include everything that’s healthy, tasty, not processed, and fresh.
Here are the essentials of eating the Mediterranean way:
- Olive oil is the primary source of fat in Mediterranean cuisine; you can cook with it, have it in salads, and some people even use it on bread instead of butter.
- Lots of fruit and vegetables low in fat and high in fiber; popular choices here are zucchini, eggplant, avocados, tomatoes, peppers, and melons.
- Fish is the predominant protein – packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- Nuts, not to be consumed every day, but two or three times a week.
The sooner our children learn about eating healthier, the better. A recent study in Barcelona found that kids who followed a Mediterranean diet may be less likely to have attention deficit disorder (ADHD). The research conducted on 120 children found that those with low adherence to the Mediterranean diet were seven times more likely to suffer from the disease.
No Food Restriction
The great thing about the Mediterranean food plan is that there are no strict laws on what you should eat and what you should not. Instead, the diet focuses on the variety of fresh vegetables and fruit and encourages you to experiment with locally sourced products.
It’s best to avoid snacking so make sure there are lots of fresh fruit and nuts around, so the kids get into the habit of reaching for fruit instead of raiding the cupboard for processed snacks. The French approach to avoid snacking when kids come home from school is a good one: it’s a disciplined affair, a routine that works well. Kids are used to an afternoon snack, called Le Goûter, where they enjoy something simple like bread and jam, or peanut butter to keep them going until dinner time.
A Family Affair
The Mediterranean diet isn’t just about food; it’s about a lifestyle: it’s about bringing the family together, taking the time to eat together not in front of the television but around the table. When you share food like this, you create a deep appreciation of food. Go one step further and plan your meals together over the weekend.
We’re all rushing around these days. As adults, we’re connected to work by our mobile devices, and bring work with us everywhere we go, including at home on the weekends and on vacation. Our kids say they are oversaturated with homework. It might be overwhelming at first but put a plan in action where everyone meets up at the weekend to decide what they want to eat the following week. This means total family involvement without the devices that connect the family to the internet.
The Poor Man’s Diet
Don’t think that following a Mediterranean diet is too expensive for the average family. By buying fresh and local, you will not be paying too much for food. Choosing the right food automatically cuts out those expensive junk food item from your weekly shopping. Eating less meat and stocking up instead on seasonal fruit and vegetables might require some discipline in the beginning but if keep a record of your spending you should see a significant difference. You could also start growing a vegetable patch incorporating herbs into your cooking; it will teach the family the importance of quality rather than quantity.
The Mediterranean diet is simple, fresh and wholesome and above all, it is a healthy alternative for all the family.