The temperate isles of the Mediterranean are home to sun, sea and delicious dishes thought to hold the key to good health. But what is it that makes a Mediterranean diet quite so good for us?
It can be easy to focus on one particular dietary component in looking at healthy or unhealthy foods, but the traditional Mediterranean diet isn’t about one particular food group or set of superfoods. Rather, it is all about balance, variety and moderation. It is with this approach in mind that we develop our recipes.
What part does food play in Mediterranean Goodness?
We often associate the Mediterranean diet with pizza and pasta from Italy, pita and hummus from Greece and paella and seafood from Spain, but actually when people talk about the healthy Mediterranean approach, they are referring to the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, which is based on the dietary traditions of Crete, Greece, and southern Italy around 1960, when incidences of chronic disease in these areas were among the lowest in the world, coupled with the fact that adult life expectancy was among the highest.
The typical Mediterranean diet at this time included lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, cereals and wholegrain cereal products. It also contained moderate amounts of fish, white meat and some dairy, and healthy fats such as the monounsaturated fat olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats that are present in nuts, seeds and oily fish. It was thought that the combination of all these elements is what brought about the numerous health benefits.
The Piccolo philosophy of Mediterranean Goodness however, does not just centre around diet, although food is a huge part of it! Aside from eating a diet that consists mainly of fresh, local foods, we look at how important it is to share a meal with others, sitting down together and taking time to enjoy the company and the food. It is also about how vital friends and family are, the sense of belonging that comes with our community and having that support network around us, particularly as parents. And last but absolutely not least is getting some form of daily exercise and plenty of sleep.
Food plays a big part in the Mediterranean lifestyle but it is important not to overlook the other elements. Taking the time to sit down for a meal and have conversations rather than eating in front of the television or at your desk. We believe that the way you eat is just as important for your health as what's on your plate.
How to incorporate the Mediterranean approach into your diet and lifestyle
It doesn’t take much effort to adopt some of the brilliant philosophies of the Mediterranean approach into you and your family's life:
- Don’t skip breakfast: Fruits, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods are a great way to start your day, keeping you energised for hours. We also like to include a good quality source of protein into each meal, especially breakfast, such as eggs, nuts or seeds.
- Eat lots of vegetables: Add a handful of leafy greens to your morning smoothie, have a plastic box of cut raw vegetables in cold water in your fridge to snack on, and try to go for salads and soups for lunch over sandwiches. Eat a rainbow of colours to get a good variety of nutrients into your diet each day.
- Try out a vegetarian meal once a week: Get involved with ‘Meat-less Monday’, a movement to cut out meat once a week- there are lots of great meal inspirations to try.
- Change the way you think about meat. If you're a self-confessed carnivore, try eating less red meat, and be sure to choose organic and grass-fed whenever possible to avoid the antibiotics and hormones often present in industrially raised meat.
- Eat seafood twice a week. Fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and shellfish like mussels, have similar benefits.
- Use good fats such as unsaturated fats: Extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocados are great sources of healthy fats for your daily meals.
- Try full fat dairy products: such as plain yoghurt or natural cheese.
- Avoid processed, fried or foods with lots of added sugars: if you can reduce the sweet treats to occasionally with meals and when you have a sweet craving reach for naturally sweet fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, apples or fresh figs.