The Mediterranean diet is a diet based mostly in fresh food: lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products such as certain cheeses. There’s also quite a big of fish, tree nuts, poultry and legumes and lots and lots of olives and olive oil. Wine with meals is a part of it, too. What’s missing? Red meat and processed food.
The Mediterranean diet has long been known as heart-friendly. This week a meta-analysis–involving half a million participants–shows that the Mediterranean diet is clearly associated with lowering the risk of high blood pressure, blood sugar and triglycerides and the maintaining of levels of good cholesterol. All of these things contribute to a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, which is increasing in the US.
So, when you’re pregnant will this diet work for you? Might it help reduce the chance of gestational diabetes? Keep weight gain at a reasonable level? Give you the nutrients you need? Help keep your blood pressure down?
Other than the regular wine-drinking– and of course some argue the the odd sip with a meal is just fine during pregnancy– this diet is fantastic for pregnant women. Why? Because it’s real food! The key to a good diet for anyone of any age and under any circumstances is pretty simple: Eat. Real. Food. Americans love processed foods for a bunch of reasons. Some of them are really good reasons… a two-income household, a family of busy homework-doing kids… who is lovingly roasting those capsicums? I know, I know.
But the Greek/Mediterranean diet is amazingly simple compared to say French cuisine or even half the stuff most Americans make for dinner every night. You can put the fish in the broiler with some slivers of garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and ten minutes later, voila! Also, a Greek salad? It’s so easy! Just throw stuff in there.
Here are 6 tips for making this diet work for you:
- Go for the low mercury fish during pregnancy– these tend to be the smaller fish. Scallops are great during pregnancy.
- Always have two kinds of olive oil, one lower quality for cooking and one top quality for salads or dipping.
Get real bread made with real grains (and in a real bakery) and freeze it. Processed bread doesn’t get stale fast like real bread, but it’s full of sugar and other junk.
- Realize that a Greek Salad is a flexible thing: tomatoes, feta, cucumbers, peppers, onions, lettuce, boiled eggs… you’re the one with the cravings, you pick and choose.
- Always have: pine nuts, walnuts, dried or canned beans and brown rice in the cupboard. These things won’t go off easily.
- Greek yogurt with local honey? It’s almost custom made for pregnancy, it’s such a good snack.
- Eat locally, when possible. And always eat the real food version as opposed to the flavored or processed or “fast” version.
I saw the “mother of modern midwifery” Ina May Gaskin last night and she was talking about how important nutrition is in pregnancy. She talked specifically about avoiding white foods (sugars and starches) and processed foods. And she said that if you do eat some carbs, don’t lie down afterwards. Get up and get active and use the energy from those foods. Gaskin pointed out that gestational diabetes and high blood pressure come from stress and a lousy diet. These things can be prevented by eating like the Greeks. Sit down, she told us, and really enjoy some really real food.