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The Mediterranean Diet

June 25, 2009 | by Gitta Bixenspanner

The basics of healthy eating.

The Jewish General Hospital in Montreal offered a series of six lectures on how to live well with various ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Most doctors addressed the issue of nutrition after the disease was contracted, and the consensus was that the most effective diet for most ailments is the Mediterranean diet. I suggest that we follow this diet while healthy, as prevention before the onset of any serious ailment. As the saying goes "one ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is characterized by high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, high fiber foods, low intakes of saturated fats and a high intake of mono-saturated fats, such as olive oil and nuts. Fish is favored more often than meat because of its high source of omega-3s.

High protein options like lentils, beans and other legumes are also an important part of this diet. 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.

Most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet remain tried-and-true, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods may make a difference in your risk of heart disease. Always consult your health physician before embarking on any new venture, as medicines can interact with certain food groups.

Key components of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Eating generous amount of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Consuming healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil avocadoes in moderation
  • Eating small portions of nuts
  • Drinking red wine, in moderation
  • Consuming very little red meat if at all
  • Eating fish on a regular basis
  • Goat cheese is preferred choice over other cheeses
  • Whole grain bread is eaten without butter or margarines, which contain saturated or trans fats,because these contribute to heart disease.

This pyramid suggests amounts of serving of various food groups. Notice that the first component of this pyramid is exercise. All the doctors concurred that we should not underestimate the importance of daily activity, as it is a tremendous deterrent for any of above mentioned conditions.

The recipe corner

Feta Cheese salad

1 small Romaine lettuce
torn into bite size pieces
6 cherry tomatoes cut up
1 red onion thinly sliced
1 red pepper seeded and chopped
1 cucumber peeled and sliced
1/2 cup black olives,
1/2 lb Feta cheese sliced or cut into chunks


1/4 cup Olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp Oregano or basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Chill all vegetables, olives and cheese. Combine dressing ingredients. When ready to serve, toss all vegetables and olives. Top with cheese and drizzle with dressing.


This dish is a staple at our Shabbos table; we enjoy it as a dip with challah or as a dressing for salads, fish, or pasta dishes. Perfect when served over bean patties, vegetable burgers, mixed vegetables, noodles, hummus, or over any salad.

1/2 cup sesame butter
1/2 cup water
2 tsp Tamari/soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1/2 tsp cumin
1/3 cup lemon juice.

Put all ingredients into a covered container. Shake vigorously until well blended.

Preparation: 10 minutes
Serves 8

Pasta and Mixed greens


Spinach is a highly nutritious leafy green that is extolled for its high iron and calcium content. Due to its pronounced taste, it is best mixed with other greens. Wash all leafy vegetables carefully and check for insect infestation before using.

1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb fresh spinach, cut into strips
3 leaves red Swiss chard, cut into strips
3 leaves bok choy, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup of water.

Sautandeacute; onion and garlic in oil until translucent. Add the spinach, Swiss chard and bok choy. Cook for about 5-8 minutes stirring often. Add cornstarch and water mixture, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Add more water if necessary.

Serve over a bed of wide spelt noodles or your favorite choice of pasta. Feel free to drizzle some hummus over this dish.

Preparation: 30 minutes Serves 4


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