Get a taste of the MediterraneanMay
5/15/2012 10:19 AM
Little Susie Applebaum sat down to eat lunch during fifth period at All American Middle School. She opened her lunchbox and discovered a bologna and cheddar sandwich on white bread with mayo, a few crackers, and a brownie for dessert.
Thousands of miles away, Little Giovanna di Cosimo took a seat at her lunch table at Bella Signora Middle School. Giovanna unwrapped her lunch and found a whole wheat pita spread with hummus and stuffed with roasted vegetables, a small spinach salad drizzled with citrus and olive oil vinaigrette, and a container of grapes.
Guess which lil lady is healthier, and which one is on the road to obesity, heart disease and cancer? (*Cue Debbie Downer music*)
In a typical year, the average American downs a whopping 40 pounds of white bread, 75 pounds of added fats and 32 gallons of soda. True, we’ve gotten better at eating our veggies, but two-thirds of the “vegetables” we consumer are from potatoes (fried or mashed) and iceberg lettuce. As a result, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and millions struggle with heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Compare that with the traditional eating patterns of the Mediterranean (Greece, South of France, Italy, Turkey). Those folks center their meals around whole grains, fruits and vegetables, heart-healthy olive oil, fish and lean meat and plenty of nuts, beans and seeds. They snack on walnuts and enjoy a glass of vino before dinner, whereas we munch on cheese curls and swig sugar-soaked energy drinks. As a result, Mediterraneans enjoy drastically reduced rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer and have a much higher life expectancy. One study found that eating Mediterranean as part of an overall healthful lifestyle was associated with a more than 50% lower rate of death from all causes.
May is National Mediterranean Diet Month and Oldways, creator of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid back in 1993,is featuring a host of top-notch Mediterranean-minded dietitians on their website, offering up recipes galore. We had the chance to chat with The Nutrition Twins– Lyssie Lakatos, RD, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD – who reminisced about growing up with a Thursday “pizza night” tradition. However, unlike most households where such a meal no doubt features artery-choking pepperoni and sausage, the twins’ mom was ahead of her time, whipping up a Mediterranean version featuring juicy plum tomatoes, artichoke hearts and feta cheese with basil and tangy black olives. (Here’s the recipe.)
The twins also treated us to a yummy Mediterranean-minded recipe for Chilled Watermelon Soup, perfect for a summer BBQ:
Chilled Watermelon Soup with Kefir
Makes 4 cups
• 4 cups seeded watermelon cubes
• 1/3 cup apple juice
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
• 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
• 1/3 cup plain nonfat kefir
Process first 5 ingredients and honey, if desired, in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Cover and chill one hour. Serve in individual bowls and top with a generous swirl of kefir.
Join in the Mediterranean Month conversation on Twitter, sharing your recipes and thoughts, by using the hashtag #MedMonth.