Let’s face it, Mediterranean Europeans are the apple of many of our eyes; from the glowing, clear skin to the chestnut eyes and bright white teeth, these hardworking and joyful people are often admired from afar in their seemingly utopian lifestyle. Something which has definitely struck me from my time in the South of France is the influence of diet on people’s vitality and happiness.
We’re all guilty of slipping off the “good food” wagon now and again. Picking double pepperoni over the vegetable medley is fine, and no one is pretending that the romans don’t get sore heads from having one too many flagons of wine, but there is actually an huge amount to be gained from living a more Mediterranean diet.
The key is simplicity.
What are the obvious ingredients to a “healthy” diet? Vegetables – check; freshness – check; natural – check. That’s the bones of eating in the Mediterranean style. It’s not about loaves of bread as big as the dog; it’s about balance and using carbs like pasta or bread as an accompaniment, not the main body of a meal.
To give you an idea, an average meal might be like this.
- Breakfast: a bowl of fresh fruit topped with Greek yogurt and a handful of almonds,
- Lunch: a selection of crudités with dips such as hummus, guacamole and tzatziki served with cucumber and chickpea salad,
- Dinner: grilled fish and roast veggies, a large green salad and maybe a glass of red wine,
- Snacks: a small handful of nuts, fruit, yoghurt, cheese or olives.
Suddenly it’s not so complicated, right? There’s a stigma which says this diet is too expensive or complicated to be achievable, but if millions of people do it naturally, it’s probably not all that difficult.
The best part is that so much of this diet is right out the ground or off the tree; if you are fortunate enough to have a large garden or a small plot of land, then put it to good use and grow your favourite vegetables. If not, the supermarket will supply everything listed above and the cost is comparable to convenience foods.
A real highlight of this diet, aside from the mouth-watering taste and obvious health benefits, is that it’s a sociable way of eating. If you tell the Italians to be quiet during dinner so you can hear the TV, you’d better be ready for the response. Around the Med, a meal means sharing; it means conversation, friendly banter and getting the family around the same table. It’s an experience, not just a means of providing us heterotrophic organisms with energy. And yes, I found the term “heterotrophic organisms” using Google…
Another boon of the Mediterranean lifestyle is the use of fresh herbs. Salt and pepper are the wooden spoons of seasoning: useful, but limited. Fresh garden herbs are the Swiss army knife: varied, exciting and always the solution to creating a flavoursome meal.
When it comes down to it, a Mediterranean diet is quite easy, but you will want to ease yourself in. Try going vegetarian one night a week, or experimenting with different types of fish. Try hummus with lunch at work over a chocolate bar. With time, it’ll feel natural and your body, as well as your mind, will thank you for it.