Our food philosophy series | Mediterranean-ize your meals

Principle #1 of our eight-part food philosophy

These days, it’s hard to know what it means to eat well.  New food trends, changing guidelines, conflicting research and the spread of misinformation leave many people scratching their heads.

That’s why the food we serve at Medcan goes beyond what is in line with current nutritional guidelines. The healthful and nourishing items offered —  during our annual health assessment, on our corporate catering menus, and on our soon-to-be launched take-away menu — all reflect the cutting-edge of scientific knowledge for what contributes to a long, healthy life.

Introducing the first principle in our eight-part food philosophy

The principles of our food philosophy provide guidance not only for menu creation but also for client dietary recommendations. They offer a foundation for eating that promotes health and reduces the risk of nutrition-related chronic disease … and considers the environment.

Right here at Medcan.com and in our monthly e-newsletter, we will introduce the eight principles over the next eight months. First up, the dietary and nutritional foundation: the well-researched, plant-based Mediterranean diet.

What is a Mediterranean way of eating?

The Mediterranean diet, a collection of eating habits traditionally followed by Mediterranean populations in the 1960s, is considered the optimal eating pattern in terms of the wide range of health benefits it provides. Countless studies have tied adherence to the diet with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and premature death.

Randomized controlled trials – the gold standard of scientific evidence –  have found that following a Mediterranean-style diet guards against heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease.

The Mediterranean diet features a daily emphasis on fruits, vegetables, pulses (beans and lentils), nuts and grains. It includes whole and minimally processed foods, incorporates seasonal and locally grown foods whenever possible and contains little red and processed meats, or sweets. The diet is low in saturated fat, high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and fibre, and is plentiful in protective phytochemicals.

7 ways to “Mediterranean-ize” your diet

The following tips will help you add fresh flavours and tastes to your diet while increasing your intake of good fats, fibre and antioxidants.

Rethink meat.  If you eat red meat (beef, pork, lamb), treat it as a condiment rather than the main attraction of a meal.

Instead of a 10-ounce steak, enjoy three ounces of meat grilled with bell peppers, mushrooms and onion on a skewer or stir-fried with lots of vegetables.  Include fish, especially oily fish such as salmon, trout and sardines, in your diet at least twice a week. Eat chicken or turkey twice a week.

Increase plant-based meals. To reduce animal protein and saturated fat, plan at least four meatless meals each week.

For lunch, try a whole wheat pita stuffed with bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, arugula and hummus or tahini sauce. Add white kidney beans instead of ground meat to marinara sauces. Make a pot of hearty bean or lentil soup each week to enjoy for lunches or light dinners. Try a vegetarian lasagna with eggplant, zucchini and spinach.

Batch cook whole grains. Barley brown rice, bulgur, whole wheat couscous and farro add fibre, protein, B vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to the Mediterranean diet.

Make a quick salad by mixing leftover cooked grains with roasted vegetables, lentils, fresh herbs and a vinaigrette.  Or, toss leftover whole grain pasta with tuna, red kidney beans, chopped vegetables and dressing. Add cooked grains to vegetable soups and stews. Stuff bell peppers with whole grains and beans.

Eat vegetables with every meal. Aim for at least one serving (one-half cup raw or cooked or 1 cup of salad greens) at each meal, including breakfast. 

Add baby spinach and mushrooms to an omelet, greens or pumpkin puree to your smoothie, and shredded carrot or zucchini to muffin and pancake batters. And there’s no rule that you can’t eat a small side salad with your oatmeal.

Snack on fruit and nuts.  Eat fresh fruit with a small handful of walnuts, pecans or pistachios for a midday snack.

Or, top Greek yogurt with pomegranate seeds, toasted sliced almonds and a drizzle of honey. Serve naturally sweet dried fruit such as figs, dates and apricots for dessert.

Change your fats. Make olive oil your principal cooking fat.

Swap olive oil for butter in baking; you’ll need less oil than butter. If your recipe calls for one-quarter cup of butter, for instance, you’ll need 3 tablespoons of oil. Extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 410 degrees F, so it’s suitable for sautéing and baking.

Spread mashed avocado (high in monounsaturated fat) on whole grain toast. Substitute plain Greek yogurt for mayonnaise and sour cream in recipes.

Add herbs and spices.  Flavour grain dishes, salads, soups and dressings with fresh or dried herbs and spices instead of salt.

You’ll also add polyphenols, potent antioxidants thought to boost brainpower and guard against cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

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