Hy-Vee Dietitian: Make Each Day Mediterranean

May is Mediterranean Diet Month! The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine — among other components that characterize the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This diet is more than most diets; it represents a lifestyle approach to healthy eating. The Mediterranean Diet features fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains, as well as other ingredients (such as olive oil and wine) that have been shown to promote good health (for example, lower rates of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer's disease).

Following the diet is easy and filled with healthy foods that taste great. Just follow a few easy tips such as these:

1. Choose healthy fats like those found in olive oil, nuts, peanuts, avocados and fish.
- High in fiber and filled with healthy monounsaturated fat and vitamin E, avocados are available all year. Add them to salads, use in dips or simply eat out of the shell with a spoon.
- Packed with protein, fiber and heart-healthy fat, a handful of nuts makes a good snack. Consider adding a small amount of sesame or sunflower seeds to salads.
2. Base most meals around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, herbs and spices.
- A great source of protein and fiber, swap beans for meat to make one or two meatless meals per week. If you use canned beans, rinse them well to remove some of the sodium.
- Packed with nutrients, fiber and protein, whole grains contain "good" carbs and are an important choice for healthy eating. Learn to cook popular Mediterranean whole grains such as barley, brown rice, bulgur, whole wheat couscous and farro for salads and side dishes.
3. Choose lean protein sources like fish, poultry and beans more often than red meat.
- Eat fish, which contain healthy fats, twice a week. Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are great sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Enjoy yogurt and small portions of cheese daily.
- A protein powerhouse, yogurt contains calcium to protect and strengthen bones and also has beneficial bacteria that are important for digestive health. Look for Greek yogurt, which delivers twice the protein of regular yogurt, plus a rich, tangy taste.
5. Drink wine in moderation (up to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women).
- Wine contains powerful antioxidants that come from grape skins and seeds and has been shown to reduce the risk of most diseases of aging. If you're not a wine drinker, have a glass of 100% grape juice.

Here are a few recipes that highlight these Mediterranean "All-Star" foods:

Grilled Salmon Kabobs with Herb Vinaigrette

Serves 6

All you need:

Marinade
1/2 cup Grand Selections extra virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Hy-Vee Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Hy-Vee Select 100% pure maple syrup
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ pounds salmon fillets, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 red onion, 1 inch dice
1 red bell pepper, 1 inch dice
1 green bell pepper, 1 inch dice

6 10" metal or wooden skewers (soak wooden skewers for at least one hour if using)

All you do:
1. Combine marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Place salmon and vegetables in a 13x9 baking dish. Pour marinade over; wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Thread the salmon onto skewers. Grill, covered, over medium heat or broil 4 inches from the heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
4. Serve with quinoa or whole wheat couscous, if desired.

Avo-Caprese Salad

Serves 6

All you need:
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup mozzarella pearls
1 avocado, cubed
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Grand Selections extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

All you do:
Lightly toss all ingredients in a large bowl.
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