The Mediterranean Diet Plan

Make The Lifestyle Change This Summer

Heart-Healthy Living

The Diet for Heart Patients

Earlier this month during a taping of HeartTalk presented by Capital Cardiology Associates, Dr. James O’Brien mentioned the Mediterranean diet. He said it was a diet that he strongly recommend for patients with heart disease. Now, being a health and fitness enthusiast and a 40-year old man with a family history of diabetes and heart disease, I am always open to ways to improve my heart health.

The Mediterranean Diet

Eating Fresh

Dr. O’Brien proclaimed that the benefits of the Mediterranean diet as a push away from using animals as a protein source, introducing more fruits and vegetables in meals, while also cutting out butter in favor of using oils cooking. It seemed simple which made me skeptical. I know that in dieting nothing good is easy. When I got back to office I started my research and was surprised to learn that the Mediterranean diet was endorsed by the American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic.

And this before that I discovered that you could have a glass or two of wine with dinner on the Mediterranean diet! We’ll get into why wine is good for you a little later in the article.

The following weekend I was looking for a book on this diet at Barnes & Noble in Colonie Center. A title caught my eye, “The Mediterranean Diet Plan,” written by Susan Zogheib. After reading the book’s introduction I quickly skimmed through the background of the diet and stopped at the diet plans. I smiled. I thought to myself, “I could totally do this!” I skipped ahead to the recipes. At that moment I knew I had found my diet plan! The book has four, four-week diet plans complete with recipes for every meal that are structured on the level of comfort you have with making the switch. One month of meals AND recipes, I couldn’t wait!

I read the book while sitting by the pool that Sunday afternoon and informed my girlfriend that we were going to be starting a new diet on Monday. “Oh really,” she asked. “What is so good about this diet?” I told her about the salads, fresh fruit and vegetable dishes, and her favorite part, how we would be replacing steak night with chicken and much more fish. “This is the perfect diet for summer!”

Recently, I had the chance to speak with the author of “The Mediterranean Diet Plan,” Susan Zogheib, a registered dietician about her diet plan. Susan will be joining me for an upcoming episode of HeartTalk presented by Capital Cardiology Associates this month (Sunday, June 24th). I wanted to share the highlights of conversation before YOU grocery shop this week so that you can discover the join of healthy eating this summer.

Discover The Health Benefits

What Makes The Summer The Best Time To Make The Switch

Whole Grain Bread

“I think the Paleo, Atkins, there are so many diets out there that really deprive people of the absolute nutrients that they need,” says Zogheib. “The Mediterranean diet has a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and not necessarily a lot of beef because beef is more fatty, so it incorporates fish and poultry.”

Honey Garlic Chicken

A majority of the meal planning for the Mediterranean diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables. A sample days meal menu consists of: a pumpkin-gingerbread smoothie for breakfast, Macaroni with Milk (Macoroni oil-Hali) for lunch, and Trout with Wilted Greens for dinner. Your suggested snacks during the day: Mango-Pear Smoothie, cashews and raisins, low-fat ricotta cheese with peaches, hummus, and seed and nut snack bars.

Tell me the last time you ever ate like that.

While reading the weekly meal plans I could close my eyes and picture enjoying the tastes of these dishes while soaking in the awesome summer weather on the patio with my girlfriend, with a glass of my favorite California red wine. “The diet also recommends four ounces of red wine in the evening with your meal. Red wine contains flavonoid which helps reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. That’s my favorite part,” shared Susan.

The wine part, that’s my favorite too.

This is why I recommend that if you are looking to change your diet or just something new this summer, pick up a copy of the book and try a dish. If you do, I’d love to hear which one you made and how it was received!

Mirassou Wine Bottle

Why Is This Diet Right For Heart Patients?

How many times have you heard a doctor specifically name a diet that fights heart disease and helps you lose weight? By name? We’re always told to eat healthy, maybe you are given a list of foods to add or avoid but from that point it’s on you to bring the meal plan together. Not with the Mediterranean diet. “This diet is for anyone but specifically for those with high blood pressure,” says Susan. “This is a low sodium, low fat, low cholesterol diet. It’s also ideal for those that are at risk for developing cardiovascular disease. It’s also great for weight loss or management, so if you are looking to shed a few pounds this is a great diet to embrace.”

You start each day with a heart healthy breakfast. Your vegetable intake is increased. You find yourself making trips to the farmers market to get a better variety of fresh fruits and veggies. You stop eating processed food. And that’s a big one. Let’s talk about bread for example. Besides price and taste, what is the difference between white and whole grain bread?

Susan answered, “White bread is so refined that the nutrients are stripped down, again it’s a simple carbohydrate where when a diabetic eats something, there blood sugar will rise and you get a boost of energy. This is the difference between a whole grain and a white-refined bread, once you consume that bread your blood sugar will rise for a little while and you’ll feel energized but the whole grain has better effect on your blood sugar, sustaining that energy over a longer period of time, avoiding the ‘crash and burn’ some feel when eating white bread. Keep in mind that in white bread all of the nutrients have been processed out of the food.” The other difference, you can literally, “Taste the difference when you eat one over the other.”

This diet also works for every type of eater who wants variety in their meals. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had Pistachio-Crusted Sole much less would I know how to make it. But in the “Mediterranean Diet Plan,” everything I need to know is on page 175 along with substitution tips in case I can’t find pistachios or want to try pecans or cashews instead. I also can see the health breakdown too. “The Mediterranean diet incorporates as lot of nuts, like walnuts, pistachios, and cashews which have a lot of fiber,” adds Zogheib. “Also tuna fish, king mackerel, salmon, all have omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. There’s are whole grains, bananas, and one of the best oils to bake with — canola and olive oils. You can replace fatty butter with these oils when baking.”

Putting The Focus Back On Food

In her book, Susan highlights one of the major problems with dinner time today: quality time. Does everyone else remember when dinner time was family time? When we would all sit down together, share our day, talk, laugh, and leave when the meal was done? Susan and I shared our childhood dinning experiences when we discussed her call for embracing the the Mediterranean lifestyle — incorporating exercise, relaxation, and family meals back into our daily routines. This book is looking for someone who is looking to make a lifestyle choice. The way that you eat, sitting down with your families at the dinner table. No more meals on the go, no more meals with the TV. I wanted to bring back the importance of food in our households,” noted Susan.

She recommends eating outdoors, using our lunch hour to incorporate a half-hour walk with a friend, turning off electronics at meals, and stepping outside for walk after meals. I have to tell you, I felt like I was 12 when we put the “no electronics” rule back into play at my home. Dessert used to be my thing after dinner, now it’s taking a walk around the neighborhood with my son or girlfriend.

Meal planning also causes you to look at your calendar and consider everyones schedule. Grocery shopping can again become part of the family routine with everyone contributing to the meal. You’ll also notice a change in your weekly food budget. Susan pointed out that she had, “Given a presentation on the cost of buying food and cooking meals at home saved $1,200 a year versus eating out. Eating out on average costs people about $2,000 a year. Yes, there are some up front costs when buying the spices or equipment you may need but the second time you go to use them, you are saving instead of spending.”

In my food shopping we save about $40 a week even though we eat seafood twice a week. A fillet of salmon or swordfish that feeds two is about the same price of the cut of steak that I would grill for myself. Preparing snacks on Sunday night also means no more trips to the office vending machine for that late-day snack. “I joked around with a couple of colleagues last week in my presentation,” Susan mentioned. “I said, ‘You know, we’re paying for diabetes, we’re paying for high blood pressure. Why not invest your money and diet in food sources that are good for you body?'”

To hear my full conversation with Susan Zogheib listen to HeartTalk presented by Capital Cardiology Associates on Sunday, June 24th at 2PM on NewsRadio WGY or the iHeartRadio app.

Written by: Michael Arce, Host of HeartTalk presented by Capital Cardiology Associates

Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

HeartTalk presented by Capital Cardiology Associates