Healthy Eating

The Mediterranean Diet Explained

If you've ever looked into healthy eating styles, you've probably heard about the Mediterranean diet. This diet is considered one of the healthiest lifestyle changes out there according to most dietitians and doctors, and there are a variety of books and articles on the subject.

The problem is that there is simply so much information out there, it can be difficult to define what the Mediterranean diet is. Fortunately, understanding the Mediterranean diet, and even switching to it, is relatively easy.

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What the Mediterranean Diet consists of

Rather than completely excluding you from any one nutrition source, except possibly processed foods, the Mediterranean diet embraces most food groups. Eating the Mediterranean diet doesn't mean cutting out carbs or saying no to meat. It is instead, choosing to eat mostly fruits and vegetables, supported by whole grains, lean meats, and the occasional glass of wine.

Because the Mediterranean diet consists of the food eaten by the native people of 23 different countries, there's a great deal of variety in what is considered acceptable. The focus is on fresh, wholesome, foods over highly processed ones.

So what foods specifically can you expect? Here are a couple of great options found commonly in almost all Mediterranean countries.

Salads

All Mediterranean countries serve salads, and plenty of them. Dieters who never want to see another lettuce leaf again may feel disappointed at first, until they see the dazzling toppings often included on these leafy treats. Mediterranean salads often feature a delicious blend of fruits, nuts, dressings, and other toppings to make that arugula and kale go down easily.

Fish and other Seafoods

When we think of the Mediterranean, we think of the sea, tropical beaches, and palm trees. It should come as no surprise then to learn that the Mediterranean diet consists of lots of seafood. Fish contain omega 3 fatty acids which are often neglected in the American diet, and can boost your cognitive function as well as your mood. Adding seafood of any kind is a great way to make your meals healthier.

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Flat breads

Mediterranean diets include a type of bread called pita, a bread that has gained attention through the health world because of its excellent flavor and wholesome nutrition. This flat bread is used with a host of different dips, running from hummus to olive oil, and so much more. Flat bread is a major component of this diet, and it should definitely be included in yours if you plan to switch.

How to adopt the Mediterranean Diet

If you want to lose weight, lower your risk of heart disease, and embrace a healthy lifestyle that doesn't limit you to a single food group, the Mediterranean Diet is the right choice for you. To get started, all you need to do is to incorporate more of these foods into your diet. Choose a variety of colors on your plate, including vegetables in every color and fruits as well. Enjoy lean meats, sea food, and snack away on your pita bread and dips. The Mediterranean diet even allows for some alcohol—wine in particular, in moderation.

Long term studies have followed the Mediterranean diet, and have found it to be an extremely healthy way to live. 

Amazon's Latest Competitor: The Salvation Army?

The Salvation Army has just announced a grocery brand under the name DMG Foods by inaugurating their first location in Baltimore, MD. The charity is calling it, "The Salvation Army's first nonprofit grocery store," and is planning on opening future stores in underserved communities that are sometimes referred to as "food deserts."

According to their website the store is, "Named after The Salvation Army’s branding promise of doing the most good, DMG Foods aims to expand the food availability for the community while also meeting the immediate needs of our customers." The location is 7,000 square feet, and by partnering with the Maryland Food Bank, it features some of the amenities that consumers have come to expect- like a rewards program, daily meal solutions, and cooking demonstrations. What sets this grocery store apart though is that since it is operated by The Salvation Army, profits end up going to support programs like ending human trafficking or curing diseases. The nonprofit has been operating under this model with their thrift stores, but this first test store could mark the beginning of a new way for the charity to support communities.

Source:  DMG Foods

Source: DMG Foods

Their goal of opening grocery stores in communities that currently have no access to fresh food or grocery stores is worth noting too. According to The Food Trust, "A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 23.5 million people lack access to a supermarket within a mile of their home... And a nationwide analysis found there are 418 rural “food desert” counties where all residents live more than 10 miles from a supermarket or supercenter— this is 20 percent of rural counties." In a city, where someone might not have either a car, access to public transportation, or time to use public transportation- not having a grocery store within a mile is a huge deal, and can mean the difference between having access to fresh food and having to settle for a convenience store that doesn't have as healthy of options. Even in a rural community where cars are more abundant, 10 miles is a long stretch- especially if your car is broken down and you're running out of food.

This gap in access to fresh food takes a toll on an individuals' health, and is a problem that needs to be solved. In that same study, The Food Trust states that, "A multistate study found that people with access to only supermarkets or to supermarkets and grocery stores have the lowest rates of obesity and overweight and those without access to supermarkets have the highest rates... In Chicago and Detroit, residents who live farther from grocery stores than from convenience stores and fast food restaurants have significantly higher rates of premature death from diabetes." This means that the simple fact of not having a grocery store within access to you directly impacts your health negatively, and is something that millions of Americans deal with daily.

Source:  Flickr

Source: Flickr

This comes at a time where the online giant Amazon who bought the high end grocery store chain Whole Foods, has also recently opened a lower cost 365 brand location in New York. While Amazon seems to just trying to occupy a more competitively priced level to compete in the heavily contested grocery marketplace and DMG Foods seems to be trying to alleviate a source of food insecurity in their first test market, it will be interesting to see how these two strategies operate in relation to each other. That is to say that if Amazon continues the path that the current national grocery operators are walking on, or not serving broad swaths of the country, it's hopeful to know that a well resourced organization like the Salvation Army is now attempting to solve a long standing problem. 

The importance of healthy eating has never been more in the public consciousness than now. Michelle Obama writes on the website for her Let's Move campaign, "In the end, as First Lady, this isn't just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition." If the former First Lady says that she's that committed to solving this real problem, then that's a phenomenal asset to the cause at large.

While food deserts do exist in America's underserved communities, there has also been a groundswell in information, awareness, and advocacy on the problem. Oscar award winning documentaries about food abound, healthy eating campaigns are happening, people know what kale and quinoa are enough to make jokes about it on late night television. Legislators are beginning to ask questions and submit bills. The Salvation Army is attempting to directly alleviate the problem by opening a new store in Baltimore. These are all great strides that are happening in an effort to bring fresh food to the communities that need them the most.

 

Image source: Flickr

Watch: How to Make a Quick and Delicious Green Smoothie

Have heard about the health benefits of juicing and fresh smoothies, but don't know where to start? Have you tried a bottle from your local grocery store, and want to recreate those recipes at home for half of the cost?

In this video, Drea Beauty walks us through her green smoothie recipe that is packed with fiber from spinach, protein from bananas, and other essential nutrients from the rest of the ingredients- all while tasting great. We even tried it!

(Scroll below for the full recipe)

Green Spinach Smoothie Recipe

- 3 to 5 cups of Spinach (freeze for a thicker smoothie)

- 1/2 Banana

- 1 cup of Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

- 1-2 scoops of Orgain Organic Chocolate Fudge Protein Powder

- Powdered Peanut Butter to taste

- Ground Cinnamon to taste

It's Never Too Early to Start Eating Healthy

"I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’m untouchable." Or… that’s what some of us tend to think.

Recently, I had a doctor’s appointment. I like to think I’m pretty healthy. I track what I eat and keep under a calorie amount, I work out four times a week, and I live a pretty positive lifestyle. So, imagine my surprise when I learn that my blood pressure has jumped up in the past few years.

Eat less salt, lose some weight, and add more vegetables into your diet.

That’s what I was told. I hardly feel like I’m old enough to be considered an adult, and here I am worrying about blood pressure. It really woke me up. Eating healthy isn’t just important for the elder demographics. It’s important for me, and it’s important for you.

There are a million and one reasons why it’s important that humans of all ages eat healthy. Food pyramids aren’t a joke, and neither were Michelle Obama’s initiatives to get America healthy. But despite the clear reasons for why we should, and the innumerable resources for how we should, many of us still opt not to eat healthy.

Eating healthy isn’t convenient. I know this. But your heart doesn’t care what’s convenient, and it’s time we all took a page out of the ol’ science book. If you throw convenience out the window and focus on the benefits of what spending a little time in the kitchen with a grocery bag full of healthy whole foods, I think you’ll start to agree with your heart.

Source:  Flickr

Source: Flickr

Other than… well… health, what are the benefits of having a healthy diet? Here are a few benefits to healthy eating that you might find endearing if you’re anything like me:

You’ll be more productive.

The cheap gas at the pump is tempting, but we all know that the higher-octane fuel is higher performance and better for the car, right? Think of food the same way. Though fruits and vegetables often aren’t expensive, we put them aside in favor of more tasty and fun foods like fruit snacks and chocolate chip cookies. However, when we put the “high octane” foods into our bodies, they run more efficiently. Easy in, easy out. Studies show that an unhealthy diet can cause you to lose up to 66% of your productivity. Ouch.

You’ll spend less money.

The idea that eating healthy is an expensive endeavor is a myth. Produce is some of the cheapest food you can get at the grocery store, and it’s the perfect fuel for our bodies. Sure, most healthy diets also include meat, which is the most expensive, but meat is ideally consumed in moderation. Get your protein needs from plant sources like legumes, beans, and soy, and stock up on produce and healthy grains, and then add in some meat (or vitamin b12 supplements if you’re vegan/vegetarian), and you can eat three square meals a day on a budget. Plus, your life insurance will cost less. So that’s… a benefit. I guess. Does anybody have life insurance in their 20s? Hm.

You’ll feel better.

It’s almost like our food helps regulate our hormones. Crazy, right? Sarcasm aside, eating right keeps your mood regulated and helps you stay more upbeat. This is because when we eat right, we keep our blood sugar down and our vitamins and minerals up. This lessens our risk of depression and increases our feelings of well-being, our focus, and keeps our stress levels down by keeping the stress hormone cortisol at bay. Phew.

Though healthy eating does help with mood, it is not a substitute for antidepressants. Please consult with your doctor about your medication before ever stopping it yourself.

Okay. We’ve scratched the surface of why we all should eat healthy and have a well-rounded diet. There are tons of other reasons why healthy eating is vital to our lives, not the least of which is… our lives. Healthy diets keep us alive longer and make our lives better along the way. So, make those changes in your life and adopt healthier habits around your eating. Some changes you might want to consider include:

  • Limiting sweets and processed foods to take up only 20% of your diet (at most).

  • Adding more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

  • Eating a variety of colors of produce. Color corresponds to different vitamins and minerals, so a variety will make sure you cover your bases.

  • Drinking lots of water instead of other drinks.

  • Knowing how many calories you should be eating a day and be mindful not to exceed that number.

The effort to make the changes will pay off exponentially. Now, go treat yourself to some lettuce and go wild!

How to Incorporate Fitness Into Your Daily Life

Living a healthy and active life is particularly important, yet not many people are able to spend time training or working out. Many of us are stuck at work, often performing sedentary tasks that involve sitting on a chair and staring at a screen for many hours a day. Others might feel like they are too old or out of shape to start practicing fitness regularly. Regardless of your particular situation, there are many things you can do to incorporate fitness into your daily life and start noticing massive improvements.

Source:  Dave Rosenblum

Make time! 

Are you concerned that you can't spend too much time to dedicate to your wellness? If that’s the case, make some time! Waking up earlier than usual is a great way to gain some time without detracting any from your day-to-day activity. Simply set your alarm one hour earlier and use the time to do some exercises, go for an energizing morning run or have yourself a nutritious breakfast!

 

The gym is not the only way.

Source:  Adam Bautz

Source: Adam Bautz

Practicing fitness does not necessarily mean that you have to head over to the gym. There are many things you can do to stay physically active at home, at the office or elsewhere. Walking is a perfect example: it provides a lot of significant health benefits, such as improving blood circulation and preventing heart disease, and it is accessible to people of all walks of life - from youngsters to seniors!

 

In addition to walking and running around your block, there are a wide variety of fitness activities that you could practice without the need of going to the gym. Even 10-15 minutes of yoga a day could go a long way! If you are lucky enough to own a swim spa or a hot tub, you could also use it to stay active by practicing water-based exercises, such as stretches or aqua gym. The possibilities are endless!

 

Image source: Flickr

6 Simple Recipes That are Easy to Make and Taste Great

Now that February is here, are you still trying to eat healthy into the New Year? 

Whether it's berry smoothie bowls, sweet potato fries, grilled vegetable skewers, baked ratatouille, tomato pesto salmon, or shrimp asparagus stir fry - this step by step walkthrough video made by Tasty breaks down how easy it can be to keep up with your healthy eating goals!

Because a lot of healthy recipes can be made out of whole ingredients, it doesn't have to take a long time or be difficult to prepare a meal that tastes great and is great for you!

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