Happy Mediterranean Diet Month!

Did you know that May is Mediterranean Diet Month? The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating reflective of traditions in the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, in countries like Spain, France, Italy, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Malta, Tunisia, Turkey, Algeria, Albania, Greece, Israel, Croatia, Libya, and Lebanon.. But, what most people don’t know is that you don’t need to travel around the world to get these heart healthy benefits. It’s remarkably easy to incorporate these types of foods into you and your family’s every day diet!

Embracing the Med Diet is all about making simple but profound changes in the way you eat today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life. Here are 8 simple steps for good health:

1.       Eat lots of vegetables

2.       Change the way you think about meat

3.       Always eat breakfast

4.       Eat seafood twice a week

5.       Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week

6.       Use good fats

7.       Enjoy some dairy products

8.       For dessert, eat fresh fruit

The Mediterranean Diet also been shown to help:

          Achieve weight loss and weight management goals

          Lower your risk of heart disease and hypertension

          Fight cancers and chronic diseases

          Reduce asthma

          Avoid diabetes

          Resist depression

          Nurture healthier babies

Did you know that the Med Diet has its own food guide pyramid? Here are some tips at following the guide from the bottom (proven to be the most important) all the way up to the top….

          Look for ways to be more active

          Cooking and enjoying time with family and friends contribute to good health

          Every day, eat mostly whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and peanuts, and healthy fats such as those found in olive oil

          At least twice a week, eat fish and seafood, the best sources of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s

          Yogurt, cheese, poultry, and eggs are central to the Mediterranean Diet, in rational portion sizes

          Red meat and sweets, at the top of the pyramid, are “sometimes” foods to eat less often.

The Med Diet has specific nutrition “powerhouses” that play a significant role in the health benefits it provides to people all over the world…

          Avocados– high in fiber and packed with monounsaturated fat and vitamin E

          Fish– great sources of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and mackerel

          Tomatoes– vitamin C and lycopene, which is a great antioxidant

          Yogurt– a protein powerhouse containing calcium to strengthen your bones

          Beans– a great sources of protein and fiber

          Nuts, peanuts, and seeds– protein, fiber, AND heart-healthy fats

          Wine– contains powerful antioxidants from the grape skins and the seeds have been shown to reduce the risk of most diseases of aging

          Whole grains– these “good” carbs are packed with nutrients, fiber, and protein


The Plant-Based Mediterranean Wallet

The Mediterranean Wallet

Americans constantly correlate a healthy lifestyle to expensive foods. This is not always the case. Yes, fresh foods, like produce for example, are normally higher in price compared to canned foods, or foods with a longer shelf-life.

Studies have shown that adopting the Mediterranean Diet helps reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks, amongst other chronic health disparities. The lifestyle stresses the importance of plant-based meals. One major ingredient in the diet is olive oil. The introduction of olive oil into the diet has been determined, to aid in feeling fuller long or the feeling of satiety.

Studies have also shown that an increase in plant-based meals can lead to a decrease in food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to nutritional foods for at least some days or some meals for members of a household.

Researchers conducted a study to emphasize the use of simple, plant-based recipes and olive oil, following a Mediterranean diet pattern. A number of participants commented on how inexpensive a Mediterranean-style diet was.  So, the study approached a local food bank about designing their study using food pantry items for the program’s recipes.

Most people, who attempt at putting together a nutritionally balanced menu for their family or household, spend the bulk of their budget on meats, poultry, and seafood. These items, specifically lower-fat versions, tend to be the most expensive items someone will see on their grocery store receipt. Low socioeconomic status families will normally purchase these items first, leaving little left in the budget for healthier fruits and vegetables.

The researcher on the study explained that if the focus of the shopper could be changed to eliminate foods that are not needed to improve health from the shopping list, a healthy diet can be more economical.  Certain foods that could be crossed off that grocery store list include meats, snacks, desserts, and carbonated beverages/sodas.

The first 6 weeks of the study consisted of cooking classes where instructors prepared quick and easy plant-based recipes that incorporated ingredients like olive oil, whole grain pasta, brown rice and fruits and vegetables. The participant’s progress was tracked for 6 months after the conclusion of the cooking program.

One particular benefit for those attending the 6 week cooking class was that they were provided with groceries that contained most of the ingredients discussed by the class facilitators. The chosen ingredients provided to the participants would allow them to make 3 of the discussed recipes for their family members.

Once the classes were over, the researchers collected grocery receipts throughout the remainder of the study. Analysis of these receipts showed a significant decrease in overall purchases of meats, carbonated beverages, desserts and snacks. This was particularly interesting to the research team as they never offered instruction to the participants to avoid buying these items.

The further review of the grocery receipts showed that each household enjoyed an increase in the total number of different fruits and vegetables consumed each month. Participants cut their food spending in more than half, saving nearly $40 per week. The study also found that the reliance on food pantries decreased as well, indicating a decrease in food insecurity.

The research team also found that the cooking program had unexpected health benefits as well. Almost one-half of the participants presented loss in weight. This was not an objective in the study but, raised a few eyebrows. The study also showed an overall decrease in BMI of the participants.

Overall, this study shows that a plant-based diet, similar to the Mediterranean Diet, not only contributes to an overall improvement in health and diet. The study also highlights how a plant-based diet can contribute to decreasing food insecurity in America.

Plant-Based Med Diet Can Be Easy On the Wallet

6-week Cooking Program on Plant-Based Recipes

plantbased diet

food inse

med dietmed diet cooking class

Chew Your Soda

Eating Your Words… Literally!

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the world has now seen it all! Edible advertising has entered the already corrupt world of beverage marketing. The Coca-Cola soda brand, Fanta, has recently released a new print advertisement tactic geared towards your taste buds, literally. The soda company has launched, what it claims to be as the first edible print advertisement. The advertisement begins its print with whimsical fonts spelling out alluring and persuading phrases. Then the advertisement invites consumers to physically tear out the page and EAT it. Yes, I said EAT THE PAGE. They do this is consumers can “taste” the flavors for themselves. This type of advertising is really taking amplified reality to a whole different level.

I personally, cannot believe that I have lived to see the day that this is actually happening. I mean, it’s bad enough that there is an epidemic of childhood obesity. So, as a multimillion dollar soda company, I see that Coca-Cola/Fanta is really taking the initiative at combating this problem… By creating an even more open avenue for children at becoming exposed to increased sugar sweetened beverages. Yes why of course- that WOULD make sense (insert sarcasm here).

“Consuming added sugars has been tied to an increased risk for heart disease among adolescents and cholesterol problems”, according to the CDC. More than one-third of American children and adolescents are currently obese. And these numbers are directly related to the over consumption of sugary beverages… like soda! So, instead of creating more avenues of sugar sweetened beverage exposure, especially to child populations, big beverage companies like these should be advocating the opposite. I’ll admit, the marketing tool, itself, is a good idea. But NOT when there are national government agencies attempting to tackle a problem like this. It’s like a slap in the face to America and its youth’s future.

CDC: Kids consume too much sugar

Fanta commercial

The world’s first edible print advertisement


Dr. Dean Ornish and WVU

The WVU Dean Ornish Program


–        The Ornish Program is a lifestyle modification program that enables participants to reverse many of the symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

–        It enables people to avoid invasive procedures like bypass surgery

–        It requires participants to change their lifestyle to eliminate & modify self-destructive behaviors that often result in CAD

–        The program has 4 components: a low-fat, vegetarian nutrition plan; exercise; relaxation; and group support

–        Participants undergo a 12-week, intensive Program that teaches them to eat properly, exercise safely, identify & control stress, and deal with feelings like loneliness or isolation that may affect their health and well-being

–        The Ornish Program is conducted by highly trained health care and behavior modification professionals, with the consent and support of each participant’s primary care physician or cardiac specialist

–        Participants’ physicians receive regular progress updates on their patients

–        The Ornish Program requires commitment, discipline, and willingness for each participant to assume responsibility for his or her own health

The Spectrum program focuses on educating the participant on the benefits of incorporating exercise, stress management, social connectedness, and nutrition into their daily life. This program was developed as a result of the success of the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease. The program includes baseline testing of a lipid panel profile, fasting blood sugar, blood pressure, height, weight, body composition, BMI calculation, update risk appraisal, and follow-up results. This program is designed for those who may qualify for the Dr. Dean Ornish Reversal Program or who may not have coverage for the Reversal program through their insurance.

Spectrum program qualifications:

–        Family hx of CAD or HTN

–        Personal hx of cancer

–        BMI greater than 25

–        Metabolic Syndrome, but not meeting requirements for Ornish reversal

The Spectrum program is less rigorous than the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease. For example, the dietary portion of the advantage program allows you to have fish and chicken while fat can constitute up to 15% of food intake per day. The heart disease reversal program limits fat to 10% of food intake and is completely vegetarian.

Participants meet weekly for training, which also includes physical activity and relaxation training. In addition to weekly training, participants receive:

–        Full lipid profile, blood pressure screening, body fat composition and BMI, both before training and at 12 weeks

–        Everyday Cooking cookbook

–        CD-ROM on stress management

Identifying Ornish-Friendly Foods:

–         Foods allowed are grains, vegetables, fruits, non-fat milk products, legumes, egg whites, and small amounts of sugars and alcohol, if desired

–        Foods that are not allowed include an fats or oils, any animal products other than egg whites and non-fat milk products, seeds, nuts, and avocados

–        If this seems restrictive to you, it is. Once people start making exceptions, they tend to make a lot of exceptions and lose the benefits of the diet. Also, Ornish Program research has shown that only with strict adherence is heart disease reversal likely to occur.

The Ornish Program Grocery List:

–        Cereals

  • Oatmeal, Oat bran, Shredded oats, Cinnamon Oat Crunch, All-Bran, Bran Flakes, Product 19, Fiber One, Wheatena, Shredded Wheat, Chex, Cheerios, Grapenuts, Raisin Bran, Whole Grain Cornmeal, Hominy, Polenta, Brown Rice, Brown Basmati Rice, Barley, Bulgar Wheat, Kasha, Wheat Germ, Quinoa, Millet

–        Breads

  • 100% Whole Wheat Bread
  • Whole Wheat Pits
  • Nature’s Own, Sara Lee, Corn Tortillas, Whole Wheat Tortilla
  • Ezekiel Whole Wheat Bread
  • Kroger’s Crusty Multi-Grain, Vienna, Seedless Rye
  • Whole Wheat English Muffins (Thomas, Sara Lee, Kroger)
  • Bagels (Thomas Whole Wheat, Sara Lee Honey)
  • Honey Whole Wheat (Daily Knead)

–        Full Fat Soy Products  (over 3 grams of fat per serving)

  • Regular Soy Milk (Silk Plain, Vanilla)
  • Soy Nuts (Genisoy, Dr. Soy)
  • Edamame (Green soybeans)
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh

–        Other Proteins (3 grams of fat or less per serving)

  • Burgers- Boca, Morningstar Veggie Burger, Soy Crumbles
  • Beans- Dried, Canned, Frozen, Refried Beans
  • Egg Beaters, Kroger Break-Free, Better’n’Egg, Egg Whites
  • Soy Cheese (Veggie Slices and Veggies Shreds)
  • Better’n’Peanut Butter- regular and low-sodium

–        Fat-Free Dairy

  • Skim milk, Ultra Skim, Fat-Free Plus
  • Fat-Free Cream Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Ricotta Cheese, Sour Cream
  • Fat-Free Yogurt, Fat-Free Sliced Cheese

–        Prepared Foods

  • Fat-Free Tomato Sauce- Health Choice (Chunky Veg. Primavera), Ragu
  • Veg. Broth- Swanson’s, College Inn, Kroger Brand
  • Soups- Health Valley, Fantastic, Progresso, Healthy Choice (Country’s Veg., Garden Veg.)
  • Salsa- Old El Paso, Pace Picante Sauce
  • Salad Dressing- Kraft Fat-Free (1000 Island, Catalina, Zesty Italian), Weight Watchers (Italian), Ken (Fat-Free Sun Dried Tomato), Maple Grove, Walden Farm (Fat-Free Balsamic Vin.)
  • Fat-Free Mayo, Fat-Free Miracle Whip
  • Fat-Free I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spread (tub), Promise Fat-Free Margarine (tub)

–        Snacks

  • Fat-Free Baked Tortilla Chips, Basked Tostitos, Baked Lays (Original), Guiltless Gourmet Fat-Free Tortilla Chips, Fat-Free Pretzels (Gold Rod, Utz), Rice Cakes (Hain, Quaker), Fat-Free Popcorn, Fat-Free Cookies (Archway Oatmeal), Angel Food Cake, Fat-Free Pudding Mix (Jello-brand), Fat-Free Muffin Mix (Krusteaz, Hodgson Mill)

–        Beverages

  • Herbal tea, Grain coffee (Cafix, Dacopa, Teccino, Roma, Postum, Revival Roasted Soy Coffee
  • Caffeine-free Diet Sodas- Diet Rite

The WVU Ornish Team:

–        Dave Harshbarger, MS- Program Director

–        Ed Horvat, MA, BCC

–        Kimberly Williams, PhD

–        Liz Quintana, RD, CDE

–        Heidi Lewis, BSN, CCRN, RNC

For more information call: 304-293-2520