I am not the kind of dietitian who likes traditional diets or “dieting.” I am all about eating more fruits and vegetables, making more of your grains whole and incorporating additional healthy fats into your everyday eating. But if you’re going to try a new diet this year, there is one I feel a bit better about recommending, and it happens to rank as the Top Diet of 2019, topping the list for the first year ever.
The Mediterranean Diet
According to US News and World Report, this Mediterranean Diet has come out on top as the best dietary pattern for the reduction of heart disease and diabetes risk, decreased inflammation, and protection against cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke*, among other benefits.
Physiologist and researcher Ancel Keys was the first to discover how the diet and lifestyle of Mediterranean populations impacted their overall health and longevity, specifically their consumption of olives and olive oil, vegetables, lean meats in moderation, beans, nuts, and fruits. They participated in physical work during the day and spent time relaxing together in the evenings*. This lifestyle was less a choice for the people who originally subscribed to it and more about circumstances and necessity, but we can easily learn from and apply many of these practices to our own lives in today.
- Incorporating more Mediterranean foods into your diet here stateside is not hard, but may require a willingness to try some new things depending on your starting point.
- Increase vegetables and mostly satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh and dried fruits.
- Try new whole grains, legumes, and nuts and have them at most meals. Pilafs and grains salads are a great way to do this!
- Utilize olive oil in dressings and low heat cooking.
- Moderate meat consumption (focus on lean meats, fish) and using it more as a flavoring than a main course.
- Play around with herbs and spices.
- Practice more mindfulness in eating, savor your food, enjoy what you eat and the people you eat with.
When researching this post I stumbled across this Pasta e Fagioli recipe from Today’s Dietitian Magazine. This soup is chock full of beans, vegetables, fresh herbs, pasta, a little bit of meat for big flavor, and is customizable!
Pasta e Fagioli
(slightly adapted from Today’s Dietitian and Sara Talcott)
2 T olive oil
2 strips pancetta or thick cut, uncured bacon, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, diced
2 small carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Salt & pepper to taste
2 15 oz cans beans (I used 1 can cannellini and 1 can chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
1 qt chicken stock
6 oz ditalini pasta
Grated parmesan for serving
- Heat dutch oven (or similar sized pot) over medium heat, add olive oil and bacon and lightly brown.
- Add herbs, bay leaves, vegetables, garlic, salt and pepper. Saute together for 5 minutes.
- Add beans, tomatoes, water, stock, and turn up heat to bring to a rapid boil.
- Once boiling, add pasta, reduce heat to medium and cook until al dente.
- Turn off heat, remove any herbs stems and bay leaves
- Serve with sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese
The small bit of bacon and chicken stock adds so much flavor to this vegetable soup without making it heavy or greasy. I think next time I will add extra veg like zucchini and serve with a crusty bread. This soup is definitely going into the winter rotation.
When it comes to making any nutrition-related changes, sustainability is absolutely key. Focusing your goals on an overall eating pattern and not the restriction of specific foods or nutrients will have a much more lasting and positive impact*. The Mediterranean Diet reflects most of our evidence-based nutrition recommendations without being overly restrictive and still makes room for the pleasure and enjoyment of food. This eating pattern may push you to try new things, but that is a good life practice no matter your dietary preferences.
Do you already eat this way? Would you like to try something like this in the new year? Let me know! Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 859-278-1813 ext. 232.
*Palmer, S. (2012, May). The Mediterranean Diet – A Practical Guide to Shopping, Menu Ideas, and Recipes. Retrieved January 8, 2019, from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/050112p30.shtml