They may be out of the World Cup but Italy‘s diet is still world-class. It along with Greece, Portugal and Spain have what is known as the Mediterranean diet.
Much has been written about the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. The star players are heart-healthy olive oil, anti-oxidant containing red wine along with whole grains, nuts, legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables. Sources of animal protein focus on fish and steer clear of excessive red meat consumption. The Mediterranean diet is also known for being low in saturated fats (e.g. butter, red meat). The use of herbs and spices also help to season food without relying on a copious amount of salt.
Mayo Clinic – Mediterranean diet for health
Whether you dine in an Italian trattoria, break plates in a Greek restaurant, share food in a Spanish tapas bar or eat the catch-of-the-day at the Portuguese seaside, or are simply at home looking for some dining inspiration, here are some ways you can Mediterranean-ize your diet:
- Shop regularly for produce. European fridges have been typically small and not meant as long-term storage units. Fruits and vegetables are purchased almost daily and eaten fresh. Travel tip: Shopping at the local markets and eating picnic style is a budget-conscious way of experiencing your surroundings.
- Olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, is said to lower the risk of heart disease and possibly cancer. Opt for the cold-pressed variety of EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) and use as a dip for bread or dressing for salad. Travel tip: When in Greece, Italy or Spain, a bottle of good quality olive oil makes for a great souvenir. Remember to pack it in your checked luggage and ensure you are within your country’s guidelines for bringing food back into the country (i.e. type, quantity, etc.)
- Resveratrol is a key ingredient in red wine and is said to help lower the bad cholesterol known as LDL or low-density lipoprotein. A bottle of the red vino also makes for a great souvenir. Again, check for restrictions on travelling with alcohol before you purchase.
- Whole grains, nuts and legumes provide a good source of flavourful plant-based protein. However, like everything good for you (and bad for that matter), moderation is key. Aim for a handful of nuts, some whole grains and a cup of legumes as your daily quotient. Travel tip: Being vegetarian/vegan on the road can be challenging at times. Luckily, most countries have bakeries and markets, where you can purchase a DIY ‘kit’ of non-meat food items. With a little creativity you can feast well when you travel.
And what’s your favourite food from each of these World Cup teams? (My memorable ones are in brackets)
Italy (square margherita pizza in Pisa)
Greece (flaming cheese-Opa!)
Spain (chocolate con churros)
Portugal (custard tarts)