Best-selling author, chef, and television personality shares tips to help you adopt the Mediterranean-style eating pattern and start enjoying better health.
I receive samples of products and ARC of books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.
By now you’ve probably heard a lot about the Mediterranean Diet. This eating pattern was named best overall diet of 2019 and has been linked to preventing diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and certain cancers, and reducing inflammation. If you’re ready to do what’s right for your health, right now is a great time to adopt the Mediterranean-style eating pattern. And according to Amy Riolo, getting started is easier than you might think!
“One of the best things about the Mediterranean-style eating pattern is that there’s no rigid ‘one size fits all’ daily intake list to stick to,” says Riolo, author of the American Diabetes Association’s (American Diabetes Association, May 2019, ISBN: 978-1-580-40702-1, $22.95). “The guidelines are simple and easy to follow, and you get to eat delicious food without feeling deprived.”
The Mediterranean Diet centers around seasonal produce, fish and seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy, and small amounts of meat and sweets. While choosing from a cornucopia of foods, followers of this lifestyle can decide what they would like to eat and when. But with so many options it can feel overwhelming to get started. Read on to learn Riolo’s advice to help you begin the Mediterranean Diet today.
First, rethink your relationship to food.
“Food in the Mediterranean region is more than just fuel,” says Riolo. “Throughout the region, preparing and enjoying food is viewed as one of life’s greatest pleasures, a reason for socializing, a form of art, an act of worship, a means of gift giving, culinary medicine, and much more. Restaurant dining is less important than sharing meals at home with family and friends. Remember this mindset as you incorporate more Mediterranean-themed meals into your diet. It will help you prioritize and even look forward to preparing healthier homecooked meals.”
Eat plenty of plant-based foods and seafood.
“To start following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern, plan your meals around plant-based foods including seasonal vegetables, fruit, and whole grains,” says Riolo. “Be sure to incorporate fish at least two to three times a week. Cook with olive oil. Enjoy dairy often and consume meats and sweets only sparingly. Try to cook as much of your food as possible and incorporate the freshest, highest quality foods you can find.”
Stock your Mediterranean pantry.
Having a well-stocked pantry saves you time, money, and stress when you’re ready to cook, and encourages you to eat healthfully. Begin stocking your pantry today. Don’t worry—you can take your time with this, purchasing a new item or two each time you visit the grocery store. When you’re done, you’ll have the foods and products needed to whip up a healthy Mediterranean meal.
Some essentials to buy first include extra-virgin olive oil; balsamic vinegar; baking goods like whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour; sea salt; canned black beans, cannellini beans, and dried lentils; canned tomatoes; canned tuna; whole wheat pasta; grains like basmati rice, couscous, and bulgur wheat; dried herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary, and sage; and spices and seeds such as cayenne pepper, coriander, ground ginger, cumin, and sesame, fennel, and caraway seeds.
Keep fresh foods on hand too.
In addition to your stocked pantry of dry goods, you will need plenty of fresh proteins, veggies, fruits, dairy, and other items to create your meals each week. Plan to make weekly trips to the grocery store to buy fresh ingredients like fish fillets and chicken breasts; lemons; celery, carrots, and onions; assorted lettuces; potatoes and sweet potatoes; eggs; cheeses like parmesan, goat, and feta; and yogurt.
Find some simple and healthy Mediterranean recipes.
You don’t have to be a trained chef to cook delicious homecooked meals, says Riolo. The beauty of Mediterranean cooking is that the ingredients are simple and the preparation methods are easy to execute. Start out with easy recipes. You can save more elaborate meals for holidays and special occasions.The Mediterranean Cookbook, 2nd Edition is a great place to find plenty of recipes that are big on flavor and easy to prepare. Below you’ll find some great recipes to try out.
Make a meal plan. Plan your meals on a weekly basis. Start by deciding which dishes you would like to eat in the upcoming week. Take into consideration the time you will have for cooking, which ingredients you already have on hand (and what you’ll need to buy at the grocery store), and whether your meals contain healthy assortments of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Make a grocery list and a schedule of when you will prepare which dishes.
Plan ahead for busy days.
“A busy schedule doesn’t have to prevent you from preparing healthy meals,” says Riolo. “On days when you have an hour to cook, try preparing two quick main dishes, one to eat that day and one to keep for a day when you don’t have time to cook.”
Get the whole family involved.
Getting other people in your household involved in meal prep can prevent any one person from feeling overwhelmed. Post a schedule on the refrigerator and delegate tasks. One person can make the salad, another can chop vegetables, and so on.
Supercharge your health with other Mediterranean lifestyle changes.
The foods you eat greatly impact your health. But people are healthiest when their overall lifestyle is geared toward wellness. So, in addition to adopting the Mediterranean Diet, Riolo recommends embracing the Mediterranean lifestyle as well. This includes getting plenty of exercise and physical activity throughout the day and participating in communal eating. Enjoy regular family dinners, lunch outings with coworkers, and frequent dinner parties with friends. And for optimal health and fitness, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
By now you should be ready to enjoy some tasty and healthy dishes. Here is a delicious recipes from The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd Edition:
Moroccan Lentils with Stewed Tomatoes. Gluten-Free, Vegan
Serves: 8 | Serving Size: ½ cup | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 40 minutes
Lentils have been a powerful trading commodity since antiquity. This is a simple, delicious vegan dish to enjoy with warm pita bread, couscous, or rice.
1 cup brown lentils, sorted, rinsed, and drained
1 cup chopped low-sodium canned or boxed no-salt-added tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Place lentils in a medium saucepan, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to low, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside. (This step may be done a day ahead of time.)
Combine lentils, tomatoes, onion, coriander, salt, and pepper in a large saucepan. Add 1 cup water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
Add cilantro, and stir. Serve hot.
Calories from Fat 0
Total Fat 0.0 g
Saturated Fat 0.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 125 mg
Potassium 330 mg
Total Carbohydrate 16 g
Dietary Fiber 6 g
Sugars 2 g
Protein 6 g
Phosphorus 130 mg
Healthy Living Tradition
I love serving leftover lentils tossed in pasta and sprinkled with pecorino cheese.
Starting a Mediterranean Pantry
Excerpted from The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd Edition: A Flavorful, Heart-Healthy Approach to Cooking
(American Diabetes Association, May 2019, ISBN: 978-1-580-40702-1, $22.95)
Best-selling author, chef, television personality, and educator Amy Riolo says a well-stocked pantry saves time, money, and stress when you’re ready to cook. And most importantly, it encourages you to eat healthfully. This essential checklist contains all the ingredients you’ll need to prepare delicious and nutritious Mediterranean-inspired meals.
Items to Stock in Your Pantry
The following items are categorized by where they are found in grocery stores.
Active dry yeast
Cocoa powder, unsweetened
Flour, all-purpose, unbleached; barley; bread;
chickpea; semolina; spelt; whole-wheat;
Sea salt, unrefined
Beans and Legumes
“I prefer using dried beans and legumes, but if you are not used to using them, or might need them to be ready to use in a pinch, I recommend keeping canned varieties on hand as well,” says Riolo.
Black beans, canned, reduced-sodium
Cannellini beans, canned, reduced-sodium
Chickpeas, canned, low-sodium
Lentils (brown), canned
or dried, no-salt-added
Herbes de Provence (Dried)
Anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil
Artichoke hearts, canned
Bread crumbs, plain
Capers, packed in water
Olives, green, black, Kalamata, Niçoise,
Roasted red peppers, jar
Tomatoes, canned, low-sodium
(diced and fire-roasted)
Tuna, canned, packed in water
Granola, low-fat, almond
Nuts and Dried Fruit
Chestnuts, jar, whole,
roasted or steamed
Oils and Vinegars
Corn or vegetable oil, expeller-pressed
Nonstick cooking spray
Olive oil, extra-virgin
Vinegar, apple cider, balsamic, white, distilled
Pasta and Grains
Rice, arborio, basmati, medium-grain, wild
Whole-wheat pasta, spaghetti, penne rigatii
Spices and Seeds
Cinnamon and cinnamon sticks
Cloves, whole and ground
Crushed red pepper
Green cardamom, ground and pods
“I prefer making homemade stocks and freezing them for future use,” says Riolo. “However, it’s also good to keep a few boxes on hand in a pinch.”
Items for the Fridge
(Use local and organic if possible)
Cheese, Parmesan, Romano, mozzarella,
feta, and goat
Fresh Seasonal Produce
Yogurt, plain, fat-free
Items for the Freezer
“While I prefer fresh food whenever possible, a well-stocked freezer can help when you are short on time,” says Riolo. “In terms of nutrition, frozen items (without high-fat ingredients or excess sodium) are often a better option than takeout and delivery items, which can sabotage a healthy lifestyle plan.”
Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
About the Author
Amy Riolo is the author of The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd Edition: A Flavorful, Heart-Healthy Approach to Cooking (American Diabetes Association, May 2019, ISBN: 978-1-580-40702-1, $22.95). She is an award-winning, best-selling author, chef, television personality, and educator.
A graduate of Cornell University, Amy is considered a culinary thought leader who enjoys changing the way we think about food and the people who create it. Amy is a food historian, culinary anthropologist, and Mediterranean Diet advocate who makes frequent appearances on numerous television and radio programs both in the United States and abroad, including FOX TV, ABC, CBS, NBC, the Hallmark Channel, Nile TV, the Travel Channel, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and Abu Dhabi Television.
For more information about Amy, please visit www.amyriolo.com.
The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd Edition: A Flavorful, Heart-Healthy Approach to Cooking (American Diabetes Association, May 2019, ISBN: 978-1-580-40702-1, $22.95) will be available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers.
Thank you for reading this edition of The Badass Writer, where we bring you positive news on beauty, books, lifestyle topics and luxury travel. We have a look at subscription-based workout wear, a review on Blue Hill Perfume and Love Potion, along with a review of Shani Darden’s Resurfacing Serum. Please subscribe, and if you liked this post share it on social media. See you soon!