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Sandra Bittner: Recipes spotlight Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet reflects how residents of the countries who live around the Mediterranean Sea often eat. Here are some of the basics:

  • Eat generous amounts of fruits and vegetables.
  • Consume whole grains, such as wheat, oats, rice, rye barley and corn.
  • Add nuts, beans, legumes and seeds to meals.
  • Replace butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil and canola oil.
  • Flavor foods with herbs or spices instead of salt.
  • Incorporate more fish and poultry into your diet.
  • Limit red meat to no more than a few times each month.
  • Drink red wine in moderation (optional).

Other important aspects of this diet are enjoying meals with family or friends and being physically active.

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy, delicious way to eat. Incorporate the main principles of the Mediterranean diet by following these tips:

  • Plan your meals with the majority of your meal consisting of plant foods. Fresh and whole foods are recommended. All meals should include vegetables and fruits as well as snacks.
  • Switch your refined grains to whole-grain breads and cereals, rice and pasta.
  • Nuts and seeds are good sources of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Great snacks include almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and cashews.
  • Olive oil and canola oil are the preferred oils. Breads are great dipped in olive oil. For variety, try adding herbs to the oil.
  • Using herbs instead of salt can add more taste appeal.
  • Eat more fish and shellfish, at least two servings each week. Examples include water–packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sea bass, tilapia, as well as shrimp and clams. Baking, broiling or grilling are healthy ways to prepare fish and shellfish.
  • Limit red meats to no more than a few times a month. Keep red meats lean and portions small. Avoid the highly processed meats such as bacon and sausages.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt.

The Mediterranean diet typically includes a moderate amount of wine. Moderation is defined as no more than 5 ounces of wine daily for women of all ages and men older than 65, and no more than 10 ounces of wine daily for younger men. If you are unable to limit your alcohol intake to these defined amounts, have a personal or family history of alcohol abuse, or if you have heart or liver diseases refrain from drinking wine or any other alcohol. Ask your doctor for more information.

These recipes are a tasty way to enjoy the Mediterranean diet:

Berries Marinated in Balsamic Vinegar

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup sliced strawberries

½ cup blueberries

½ cup raspberries

2 shortbread biscuits

In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and vanilla. In another bowl, add the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Pour the balsamic vinegar mixture over the berries. Let the fruit marinate for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the marinade. Refrigerate or serve immediately. To serve, divide the berries into 2 serving dishes. Place the shortbread biscuit on the side of the bowl.

Makes 2 (¾-cup) servings.

Per serving: 6 grams total fat, 256 calories, 3 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 1 gram saturated fat and 378 milligrams sodium.

Mediterranean-Style Grilled Salmon

4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 (5-ounce) salmon fillets (see note)

Cracked black pepper, to taste

4 green olives, chopped

4 thin slices lemon

Prepare a hot fire in the charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or broiler. Away from the heat source, lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. In a small bowl, combine the basil, parsley, minced garlic and lemon juice. Spray the fish with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with black pepper. Top each fillet with equal amounts of the basil-garlic mixture. Place the fish herb-side down on the grill. Grill over high heat. When the edges turn white, after about 3 to 4 minutes, turn the fish over and place on aluminum foil. Move the fish to a cooler part of the grill or reduce the heat. Grill until the fish is opaque throughout when tested with the tip of the knife and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish reads 145 F. Remove the salmon and place on a warmed plate. Garnish with green olives and lemon slices

Note: You may substitute swordfish, halibut, sea bass or any other whitefish.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 9 grams total fat, 183 calories, 28 grams protein, 78 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams total carbohydrates, 3 grams monounsaturated fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat and 105 milligrams sodium.

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