Registered Dietitian Gives Tips to a Healthier Pantry

Time to clean out the pantry and think Mediterranean! 

What’s the hoopla about those olive-oil, wine-drinking, cheese-eating skinny people over there? It’s simply not fair. Haven’t they heard about fat-free products? Don’t they know that they’re walking cholesterol bombs?

The Mediterranean Diet has been touted by registered dietitians, nutritionists and physicians as one of the healthiest diets in the world. The Mayo Clinic says it’s “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.”

We’ve all heard how important a variety of fruits and vegetables are. But the Mediterranean diet also includes crusty bread drizzled with olive oil, olives, wines and cheese, among what many consider to be big diet no-nos. Not only the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet are important, so, too, are the quantity, quality and preparation of them that makes a huge difference to our health. It’s all about nuance.

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy flavor bomb. It’s time to conclude our spring cleaning with cleaning out our pantries – making some practical, easy changes to become healthier, eat better, and all the while indulging in the flavors of the Mediterranean.

  • Replace salt with the medley of Mediterranean flavors and spices – saffron, thyme, basil, rosemary, sage and oregano. Reducing salt in your diet can improve your blood pressure.
  • Replace butter and other fats with olive oil. Olive oil is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. Its beneficial properties include reducing the risk of cancer, lowering blood cholesterol, lowing blood pressure, as well as helping our bodies stave off Type II diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.
  • Replace white rice with whole grains. Replace crackers with almonds, cashews, or any number of nuts (walnuts, brazil nuts). Replace chips with olives. Sprinkle salads with soy and sesame seeds. Use legumes in casseroles, soups and pasta sauces and reduce the amount of meat you use (making it healthier and less expensive). These high-protein, fibrous snacks and sides are power foods.
  • Replace mac and cheese with omelets, frittatas, scrambled eggs with veggies are a Mediterranean mainstay. Eggs are in. 
  • Replace that burger with fish tacos, grilled steak with grilled fish, roast beef with baked fish. Try to eat at least two to three servings of fish each week.
  • Got dairy? Yogurts and curded cheeses are a big part of a Mediterranean diet. Cube feta in your salad. Spoon sugar-free yogurt over eggs instead of sour cream. Scoop yogurt on your granola and cut-up fruits.
  • Replace white pasta and white breads with whole grains, quinoa, and even sourdough.
  • Bring the Mediterranean, and health, to your pantry and enjoy some of these delicious recipes.