June 15, 2021

A different approach to healthy eating: May is National Mediterranean Diet Month

National Mediterranean Diet Month is the perfect time to try a different approach to healthy eating. The Mediterranean diet is recommended as a healthy eating plan by the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is ranked as 2021′s Best Overall Diet by U.S. News and World Report for the fourth consecutive year.

This plan is not a strict calorie-counting regimen, but a way of eating that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, legumes, fish and healthy fats. If you’d like your family to enjoy the healthful benefits of Mediterranean meals, these easy tips can get you started.

Dish Up The Dairy

Low-fat dairy is a flavorful part of meals and snacks on the Mediterranean diet, due to its versatility and variety. Strong-flavored cheeses like feta or Parmesan in small portions can add flavor to your plate. Enjoy plain, fermented or Greek yogurt, as well as low-fat milk, ricotta and mozzarella cheese.

Dairy foods provide essential nutrients, including 8 grams of protein per serving. It’s important to pair protein with other foods at meals and snacks to keep you fuller for longer — and adding dairy will do just that.

Color Your Plate With Fruits and Veggies

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables at meals and snacks, which calls for a little creativity. Add spinach and mushrooms to a feta cheese omelet, blend fresh fruit with Greek yogurt, milk and ice for a quick smoothie, or enjoy an apple with mozzarella cheese instead of crackers.

Dairy complements fruits and vegetables and can be a great way to sneak in extra servings, along with the additional nutrients that dairy provides.

Fill Up On Fiber

Fiber found in whole grains and legumes provides many health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and blood sugar. If you are growing tired of the same high-fiber bread, swap it out for brown rice, bulgur, pinto beans or chickpeas.

Ancient grains, such as quinoa, amaranth, millet, farro and spelt each have different tastes and textures and can be an ingredient in many recipes. If these foods are new to you, try a different variety each month as part of family meal planning.

For more information on the Mediterranean diet, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

Dessert Nachos

Bake cinnamon tortilla chips until crispy, then top with yogurt topping and berries. This easy recipe boasts fiber, protein and antioxidants with just a few ingredients. Recipe adapted from eatingwell.com.

Servings: 6

Ingredients

3 (8 inch) whole wheat flour tortillas

1 tablespoon butter, melted

2 teaspoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt, plain

3/4 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cups fresh raspberries, blackberries and/or strawberries

2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

1 tablespoon grated dark chocolate

Procedure

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, dessert topping, vanilla, cinnamon. Cover and chill while preparing tortillas.

Lightly brush both sides of each tortilla with melted butter. In a small bowl, stir together sugar and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over tortillas. Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges; arrange on two ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until crisp. Cool completely.

To serve, divide tortilla wedges among six dessert plates. Top with berries and yogurt mixture. Sprinkle with almonds and grated chocolate.

Monica Nyman

Monica Nyman is a senior educator and registered dietitian with St Louis District Dairy Council. For more information on the health benefits of dairy, visit www.stldairycouncil.org.