The world-famous Mediterranean diet comes in a lot of forms. It was popularized by a diet book way back in the 70s (or at some point around then), and is still held up today — at least anecdotally — as one of the world’s best and most delicious diets.
You don’t have to follow one particular example of it, and really you don’t have to follow it at all, if you don’t want to, but being here in Malta and seeing directly how people eat so differently from North America has just made us want to write about it constantly. So we started thinking of three ways you can get some of the best things about the diet without upending everything about your current routine.
Savor Your Meat By Making it Scarce and Expensive.
When you have chicken or beef several times a week, you not only cease to make it a special meal, but you also simply eat it too much. If you steer your weekly meals around vegetables and grains, the few times you have meat, you’ll be able to enjoy it that much more often.
One of the best ways to do this? Buy better meat. Go out and buy some delicious, premium quality, grass-fed, beyond-organic steaks from your local butcher. Or get some really good prosciutto from the Italian shop and do something with that. Decide to spend some real money on meat, ignore the feedlot stuff, and watch as your financial commitment forces you to slow down and really enjoy the meat you’re eating.
Create Your Own Junk Food.
This is one of Michael Pollan’s new Food Rules, and it’s perfect, really. There’s no question that people following the Mediterranean diet eat what we might call “junk” food — you’ve got your potato chips, your french fries, your varieties of donuts.
Seriously, every European culture basically has a version of deep-fried dough with sugar on it that they trot out for the dozens of festivals celebrated each year, and these things all taste a bit different and are called a billion different things and are fundamentally bad for you in terms of the amount of fat & sugar in them, but hey — they’re homemade, they actually spoil, and they take work to prepare, so you can’t just sit there, sucking them back on a daily basis.
Make a Pledge to the Good Fats
North Americans eat way too much “vegetable oil”. Most of it is inserted/injected into products and we don’t really find out what kind of vegetable is providing this oil. Could be corn, could be something else. Lord knows it’s not extra virgin olive-oil, as anyone using that on the label will trumpet it loud and clear, and it’ll be reflected in the price.
But here’s the thing: good quality olive oil isn’t that much more expensive outside of Italy or elsewhere. So much of it is exported that the prices are down, and it’s not hard to find it at a slight premium. Take a little vow — if you’re going to eat “vegetable oil”, make sure it’s only olive oil.
Why These Little Restrictions Are Easier to Do
It’s a lot easier to explain to someone that you’ve “decided to cut out X” or “are eliminating Y” from your diet, than to announce a whole-scale change in every last thing you eat. We try and cut out fats or cut down on carbs all the time — why not pick an ingredient or two instead? It’s kinda fun, restricting yourself like this, and watching the changes that result.
Pick a “meat night”, announce you only eat junk food you make from scratch, or skip 100% of the foods that have just “vegetable oil” on them. With little steps like these, you’ll be on your way to eating better in no time.
Mediterranean Readers — Over to You!
We’ve got a lot of readers from all around the Mediterranean and beyond — so tell us: what are your favorite things about your own diet? Or if you’ve visited or stayed in Spain, Italy, Greece, and so on — what did you notice the most about eating habits there?