Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan – Five Tips For Eating Out
One of the advantages of the Mediterranean Diet is how easy it is to bring the right foods and eating habits into your own home. Dining out, however, can bit a bit tougher. In a world full of fast food, army sized restaurant portions and low-fat menus, it takes a little work to maintain your Mediterranean Diet menu plan. Here are 5 tips for finding and creating Mediterranean Diet meals when eating out.
1. Order an appetizer
With restaurants serving such large meals, most appetizers have become meals in themselves. An Italian restaurant chain I like offers an appetizer of steamed mussels in butter and garlic served over pasta with a slice of garlic bread. I can’t even imagine what the dinner portion looks like! Choose appetizers with a good amount of healthy fat (olive oil, butter, hard cheese), and fresh vegetables, fish or lean meat. Sorry, mozzarella sticks don’t count.
2. Split a plate
Even the healthiest Mediterranean Diet meals heaped in a pile can ruin your whole Mediterranean Diet menu plan. One solution is to share a plate with a friend. Again, with portion sizes what they are, you’ll be more than satisfied with a half order of most meals. Many restaurants even allow you to request a plate split for two when you order. You’ll get two individually prepared plates rather than one with half the meal scooped onto it and just have to pay for one dish.
3. Side it up
Many restaurants offer a virtual menu of side dishes you can combine to make a meal. Usually there are good grilled or steamed vegetable options so you can avoid artery-hardening deep-fried sides. For breakfast stir a side of fruit and a touch of honey into unsweetened whole yogurt (or add a splash of half-and-half to low-fat yogurt). Meal salads are also becoming more popular and usually fit nicely into the Mediterranean Diet menu plan without being altered. Since the vitamins found in vegetables are fat soluble, avoid low-fat salad dressings.
4. Create a meal
Sometimes when all the restaurants in sight are fast-food joints, a grocery store can be your best friend. Armed with your well-honed Mediterranean Diet menu plan, you can stalk the aisles for the right ingredients to create a lunch on the go. In France, a whole meal can be made from a baguette and a wedge of cheese. Try adding olives (or olive oil), cucumbers, sun-dried tomatoes, salami, anchovies, avocado, etc. to create a hearty Mediterranean sandwich.
5. Pack it
If the food you love is at home, why not take it with you when you go out? This is particularly good on a day you’re running errands and don’t want to spend money on a meal out. Pack some good leftovers like salad, pasta, olives, fruits, veggies and bread. Grab a blanket and enjoy the most leisurely Mediterranean Diet meals in the park between errands. Your wallet and stomach will thank you.
The Importance of the Mediterranean Diet
A restaurant, family, or individual that serves and eats the “Mediterranean Diet” knows something that many of us don’t. The Mediterranean Diet is much more than just a diet. It is a full and complete lifestyle. You have to adopt it, it must become second nature. For centuries it has been the accepted way of life of the people surrounding the Mediterranean Basin, especially in places like Spain, Italy and Greece. The Mediterranean Diet is a heart-healthy diet combining elements of Mediterranean-style cooking as well as the specific ingredients, herbs, and spices from this region of the world.
The Mediterranean Diet is also an accepted way to aid in the prevention of common diseases. The most significant are stroke (first cause of death in women and second in men) and heart attack (the main cause in men), but include many more. The importance of the Mediterranean Diet in the prevention of the metabolic syndrome has been proven time and time again (some health disorders of which the most important are: too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure and/or insulin levels and unbalanced levels of cholesterol). Other benefits include prevention of lung diseases, asthma, many allergies, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and also helping keep bone mass in the elderly. Recently, it has been reported that the Mediterranean Diet is consistent with low incidences of many types of cancer. People “living” the Mediterranean Diet plan have a 70% higher expectancy of life and an 80% higher quality of life (supposing they do not smoke, etc.).
The essential Mediterranean Diet characteristics consist of:
1. High consumption of virgin olive oil.
2. High intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
3. Use of non refined carbohydrates (portions to be adjusted to physical activity).
4. Consumption of fish, specifically oily fish, three to four times a week.
5. Consumption of milk and derivates, cheese (goat and feta are popular) and yogurt. Keep an eye on the saturated fats of the dairy products and keep them low!
6. Eggs in moderation (3-4 weekly).
7. Moderate consumption of meat and saturated fats (special occasions, etc.).
8. One or two small glasses of wine a day, preferably a glass with your dinner. White wine and beer can be used as alternatives.
9. Nuts as the main snack.
When dining out at local restaurants, try to find healthy options or search your area for a restaurant specializing in Heart Healthy, Mediterranean cuisine. It is a simple way to keep yourself healthy and happy. Cheers!
Eat, Drink, and BE Mediterranean!
Eat Better, Fresher, Smarter
Look to Mediterranean Fare for Vegetarian Restaurant Dining
Fine restaurant dining is all about enjoying a delicious meal prepared by a professional chef who has the ability and skill to take that food to greater heights of excellence than ordinary, everyday fare. It offers the lovely opportunity to sit back in leisure while someone else does the food preparation and clean-up, but mostly it’s the occasion to chow down on really good eats. For those who carefully watch their diets the rest of the time, a restaurant meal is often an excuse to splurge a little, or a lot, to indulge in the wonderful flavors and culinary sensations without regard to the waistline or heart health.
Fortunately for those who have a Mediterranean cuisine restaurant in the area, fine dining on exquisitely prepared and delicious dishes can equal healthy dining regardless of dietary needs and desires. Mediterranean cuisine actually encompasses foods from throughout the region, including Southern Italy, Greece, and Albania. Being an historic trade region, it has been influenced by many cultures over the centuries, blending spices and cooking techniques from throughout the world.
The one thing all Mediterranean influenced dishes have in common is that they use the freshest ingredients prepared with a minimalist style. Fresh, wholesome vegetables, fruits, legumes, seafood, nuts, herbs, and olive oil are the mainstay of Mediterranean dishes. Vegetarian and vegan dishes are common favorites, making a Mediterranean themed restaurant a natural vegetarian restaurant choice for those who don’t consume meat or animal products. Minimalist preparation techniques using olive oil and abundant herbs and spices create heart-healthy, nutritionally-rich dishes that indulge and excite the taste buds without guilt. It’s the natural choice to enjoy the best of both worlds.