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3 food rules you should steal from the world’s healthiest diet

By Carolyn Malcoun, February 18, 2010 - 11:47am

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My husband and I spent 10 days in Italy this past fall. And even though I felt like we were constantly eating and drinking, neither of us gained any weight and we both felt great. That’s because we were living the Mediterranean lifestyle to its fullest extent—we were doing plenty of walking, we were eating a variety of healthy, whole foods and delicious Mediterranean meals—in reasonable portions, of course—and we weren’t stressed out!

Since the Mediterranean diet is good for your heart, we decided to weave some of those principles into our everyday lives at home—particularly since we’re always looking for ways to lower Dan’s blood pressure. And we found that the easiest way to do that was to eat more like the Mediterraneans do. Click here to find out which 9 Mediterranean foods you should be eating.

Here’s what we’ve done:

1. Stock your pantry and cook at home. We do our best to cook more and use whole, unprocessed ingredients so we can control portion sizes, salt and calories. We make sure our pantry and freezer are stocked with Mediterranean-inspired staples like canned tomatoes, olives, whole-wheat pasta and frozen vegetables. We love Italian food, so a bowl of pasta for dinner is a no-brainer. One of our standbys is Penne with Vodka Sauce & Capicola.

2. Get most of your protein from beans and fish. We don’t eat a whole lot of meat to begin with so getting most of our protein from beans, nuts and other plants is easy for us. By displacing meat, we’ll lower our saturated-fat intake while adding healthful nutrients, like fiber and antioxidant-rich flavonols. If you eat meat every day right now, try making a vegetarian dinner, like Multi-Bean Chili, once or twice a week. Or make the focus of the meal whole grains and vegetables and think of meat as a flavoring; like the diced capicola or pancetta in the recipe above. We also try to eat more fish, particularly tuna and salmon because they are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. I usually keep canned salmon on hand, which makes preparing Easy Salmon Cakes a snap (and leftovers are great for lunch!)

3. Make olive oil your staple fat. We’ve started to use heart-healthy olive oil as well as other plant-based oils like canola and walnut oil instead of saturated-fat-laden, LDL cholesterol-raising butter, lard or shortening—even in baking. When we have friends over for dinner, we make Citrus Ginger Cake with Spiced Orange Compote, which uses olive oil, for a special dessert.

What food “rules” do you follow to stay healthy? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Carolyn Malcoun, Health Blog, Food & health news, Nutrition

Carolyn Malcoun
A graduate of New England Culinary Institute and University of Wisconsin with a degree in journalism, Carolyn pairs her long-standing love for food with writing as EatingWell's senior food editor. Carolyn’s culinary interest is rooted in her childhood; she grew up making thousands of Christmas cookies every year with her mom and picking leaves off bunches of parsley to make tabbouleh with her dad. Away from the kitchen, Carolyn enjoys seeking out rare craft beers and exploring the outdoors with her husband, 2-year-old daughter and dog.

Carolyn asks: What food “rules” do you follow to stay healthy?

Tell us what you think:

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