Did you read it? The NY Times published an article that showed astounding proof of the Mediterranean diet’s ability to change lives, showing that “about 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet.”
Yes! I’m so excited. Wait. Why didn’t they mention how satisfying and mouth wateringly delicious this cuisine is? There is so much JOY in the Mediterranean approach to eating, which includes healthy fats, plant-based foods, and fish. But what does it take to make a shift in your eating habits to create a sustainable and healthy lifestyle? (Side note: You may notice that I didn’t use the term “diet”. Our culture has changed the true meaning of the word “diet” to something that represents a short-term fix. I’d rather talk about sustainable lifestyles, especially those that excite the taste buds.)
Since so many of our dietary choices are affected by our upbringing and past experiences with food, I find it helpful to unpack some of those memories. Have you thought about the first time you fell in love with food? Go back and dig in your archives. In the U.S., we receive so much conflicting information about health and food that sometimes it’s hard to eat stress-free. Can you remember a time when you were not worrying about food?
For me, my love affair with food started at the age of six. My nickname was “chops”—uh huh, that kind of chop—the porky kind we so love in the South. I did declare the pig the most amazing animal I’d ever known at the age of six after my mom explained to me that indeed the bacon, ham, pork chops, and ribs I enjoyed all came from the pig.
This love affair with food wasn’t always smooth sailing. It all got out of hand and made me slightly chubby, in a very cute way, during my very awkward “tween” phase (ages 9-12). Let’s face it: if we’re all being honest, we’ve all had some issue with food during our lives. For some of us, it’s a food allergy that we strive to eat around and still feel normal. For others it may be a balance that gets momentarily thwarted by too much or too little of the right things. For me, it’s been a mission to find that mixture of foods that give me energy but don’t weigh me down and still taste great.
Having a joyful, loving relationship with food develops along our journey in life. It’s ok if you are still figuring it out. This month, I’d love to inspire you with a way of living I first discovered at the age of 20, when I lived with a French family while studying abroad and traveling all over Southern Europe, and later as a chef, cooking alongside my dear friend Aglaia Kremezi.
What did I learn exactly? Well, again, it’s a journey, so I’m still learning, but I do have four tips I’d love to share with you from what I’ve learned from eating like I live in the Mediterranean and incorporate into my daily life.
And in this month’s Taste Talk Interview, I’m so happy to introduce you to Aglaia Kremezi, a food historian, cookbook author, and a fantastic chef who is someone I call a mentor and whom I hope you’ll come to learn from, too. One way to get started is to go out and buy my favorite of Aglaia’s cookbooks, The Foods of the Greek Islands, to become immersed in a Mediterranean approach to eating well. If you’re up for a life changing experience, I’d insist you go cook with Aglaia on the Greek island of Kea, as my husband and I did just two years ago.
JoyFoodly’s “Eat like you live in the Mediterranean” Tips to Live a Joyful Life:
These four tips are my approach, but keep learning for yourself.
Love your heart by eating the heart healthy foods of the Mediterranean Diet: olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and YES, even drink wine with meals. One of my favorite daily side dishes that I truly came to love in Greece is any seasonal green (mustard, chard, kale, etc.) lighted sautéed in olive oil and garlic with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Eat foods that have flavor (good FATS give your food flavor): so often we’ve been told that low fat is better, but guess what? It’s often not a real food product, instead representing something science created. By eating foods like heart healthy avocados, nuts, whole milk yogurt, moderate amounts of cheese, and creating sauces based in olive oil (instead of cream or mayonnaise), we can have flavor and health and an enjoyable life.
Food should be shared with others around the table: what you’ll notice if you travel to Greece is that people rarely eat alone. Food is a time to pause in your day and catch up with your friends, co-workers, and family over a meal prepared for the nourishment and pleasure of your body and spirit.
If it’s not growing now, don’t eat it (unless it’s been picked in season and was then canned or frozen): the way I’d describe Mediterranean food is that it has clean, simple flavors that delight your palette without weighing you down. There’s a reason for this. When the quality of the ingredients you start with are very good and tasty on their own, you don’t need to do much to them in the cooking process.
If you have a story or Mediterranean recipe that you would love to share with our JoyFoodly community to inspire others to eat and live well, please share and spread the JOY.
Yours in living happy, tasty, food adventures,
Read more about Hollie