Did you know that two-thirds of chronic diseases can be prevented by lifestyle changes, specifically diet and exercise? This means changing our eating patterns and spending some time outdoors or at the gym. So why is this so hard? According to a workshop I attended from NC State University’s specialist, Dr. Carolyn Dunn, people feel stuck. They feel eating healthy is too hard, too confusing, too expensive, not delicious, and time consuming. So how do we shift from feeling stuck to having that “can-do” attitude?
One solution is following the Mediterranean diet for better health. Research has shown that there is a complete shift from how we were advised to eat in the past. A low-fat diet isn’t actually the best option for us. We went from eating healthy fats like nuts and oils, to eating low-fat foods like gummy bears and pretzels. We ended up increasing our refined carbohydrates with limited nutrients, and decreasing many of the nutritious foods that were actually good for us. During the workshop, many FCS agents posed the question “how do we know this diet is actually good for us? We were told low-fat was good for us before.” There also was a time when even Doctors promoted the use of cigarettes. Science and research is improving. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can aid in weight loss, protects against cognitive decline, may improve eye health including decreasing the risk of macular degeneration, decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes, can help manage blood pressure, and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease as much as 30%-60%. Most importantly, it’s delicious!
Here are some simple tips to eating the Med Way:
1. Get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Choose a variety of colors and eat more of the dark green, leafy vegetables such as collards, kale, spinach, and turnip greens.
2. Eat primarily plant-based foods. Replace red meat with plant-based proteins, such as beans and legumes often.
3. Choose whole grain foods such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and popcorn. When choosing bread and pasta, look for “whole” in the first ingredient on the ingredient list.
4. Choose at least three ounces of nuts per week, while keeping within your calorie budget. Avoid candied, honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts.
5. Choose olive oil. Replace solid fats (e.g., butter and margarine) and other oils with olive oil. Use olive oil for cooking, in dressings and marinades. Aim to consume at least 4 tablespoons per day, while keeping within your calorie budget.
6. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods. Come to our Master Gardener’s Herb Symposium, Saturday September 10th to learn more about how to spice up your meals with herbs! Call the Extension office for details.
7. Eat seafood at least three times per week. Include fatty fish, such as mackerel and salmon. Avoid fried fish. Eat white-meat poultry, such as turkey and chicken, or white pork at least twice per week.
The Med Way also recommends moderate physical activity at least 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes per day.
For more information on Med instead of Meds, you may visit http://medinsteadofmeds.com/. There are also tons of simple, delicious recipes listed on the site. Dr. Carolyn Dunn will be having a webinar on this topic September 9th at 12pm EST. To register, please visit https://esmmweighless.com/newsletter-webinars/. The webinar will also be recorded if you are unable to attend.
Sydney Johnson is an Area Family & Consumer Sciences extension agent, with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. She can be reached by calling the Sampson County Center at 910-592-7161 or by e-mail: Sydney_Johnson@ncsu.edu.