FAITH-FILLED LIVING | SWEET TREASURES | SIMPLE PLEASURES

May 2, 2009

A Mediterranean Getaway


My previous post introduced the title, "Fat to F.A.T." (fit and trim) and my approach to shedding the extra pounds that have been robbing me of energy and the ease of being. By choosing the healthful, satisfying components of Mediterranean cuisine, I have truly found a getaway from our compromised American diet.

Author Melissa Kelly, co-owner and executive chef of Primo Restaurant, located in a charming 125-year old Victorian home in Rockland, Maine, wrote the book Mediterranean Woman Stay Slim, Too: Eating to be Sexy, Fit, and Fabulous. She has been featured in Esquire, Gourmet, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Kelly's food philosophy is "not just to eat Mediterranean food but to fully embrace the Mediterranean life, where every bite matters, where only the best will do, and where every day is a passionate adventure." Does this sound like a regimented diet filled with faux sweeteners, flimsy substitutes, and multi-syllabic chemicals?

Oldways.org itemizes the following attributes of a delicious Mediterranean diet:
  • An abundance of food from plant sources, including fruits and vegetables, potatoes, breads and grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Emphasis on a variety of minimally processed and, wherever possible, seasonally fresh and locally grown foods (which often maximizes the health-promoting micronutrient and antioxidant content of these foods).
  • Olive oil as the principal fat, replacing other fats and oils (including butter and margarine).
  • Total fat ranging from less than 25 percent to over 35 percent of energy, with saturated fat no more than 7 to 8 percent of energy (calories).
  • Daily consumption of low to moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt (low-fat and non-fat versions may be preferable).
  • Weekly consumption of low to moderate amounts of fish and poultry (recent research suggests that fish be somewhat favored over poultry); from zero to four eggs per week (including those used in cooking and baking).
  • Fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert; sweets with a significant amount of sugar (often as honey) and saturated fat consumed not more than a few times per week.
  • Red meat a few times per month (recent research suggests that if red meat is eaten, its consumption should be limited to a maximum of 12 to 16 ounces [340 to 450 grams] per month; where the flavor is acceptable, lean versions may be preferable).
  • Regular physical activity at a level which promotes a healthy weight, fitness and well-being.
  • Moderate consumption of wine, normally with meals; about one to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women (from a contemporary public health perspective, wine should be considered optional and avoided when consumption would put the individual or others at risk.)*
*My husband and I choose not to drink; nonetheless, it is naturally embraced in the Mediterranean.

Kelly suggests a 3-step process to pleasure-eating which includes putting one's fork down between bites.
  1. Stop doing everything else.
  2. Focus totally on the taste of every single bite.
  3. Chew every bite thirty times.
I grew up with TV trays, frozen dinners, and having some sort of audio/visual stimulus such as television or radio on during the meal. Then, the busy agenda of my adult years had me eating on the fly, often in the car. I have taken huge strides to isolate my dining experience from the flurry and distraction of life, substituting radio and TV with soothing music or silence, and good conversation. Admittedly, it is still a challenge to take a bite and place my fork down until I have thoroughly satisfied my palette. One very pertinent reward is not bypassing one's natural signals of feeling full.