Make a Mediterranean Splash!

by Sharon Palmer, RD

It seems like everyone’s talking about the Mediterranean Diet—and with good cause, it’s a way of eating that’s been linked with lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, certain types of cancer, obesity, and more. And best of all this eating style adapted by the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea is delicious—it’s a pattern that’s based on healthy fats, whole plant foods, whole grains, and moderate red wine with meals. What’s not to like about that!

So, how do you Med up your diet? Get started by including more vegetables in your diet and making olive oil your first choice of fats. Saute fresh seasonal vegetables in garlic and olive oil, combine moderate amounts of lean animal protein like fish and chicken with vegetables, and toss delicious salads every day. And don’t forget that tomato products—canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce—are a favorite ingredient in the Mediterranean pantry. Pour earthy, ruby-colored tomato products into a number of Mediterranean dishes, including pasta, pizza, ratatouille, beans, soup, and fish.

Try one of my family’s favorite Mediterranean recipes—handed down from a dear, Mediterranean friend—for a simple, delicious meal your whole family will love.

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken with Pita

This simple recipe is perfect for a family barbecue or summer party. Let your guests fill up their pita bread with toppings as desired for a fun-filled, interactive feast!

4 chicken breasts, skinned, boned
1 small can tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 green pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
8 whole wheat pita halves
2 cup chopped romaine lettuce
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese, low-fat
1 cucumber, peeled, sliced
½ red onion, sliced
1/2 cup greek olives
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1/2 cup plain yogurt, non-fat

1. Mix together tomato paste, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, green pepper, and onion. Pour over chicken breasts and marinate at least two hours or overnight.

2. Remove chicken breast from marinade and discard marinade; grill chicken on both sides until it is cooked through.

3. Slice grilled chicken into 1-inch chunks. Fill pita half with chicken, chopped romaine lettuce, crumbled feta cheese, sliced cucumber, sliced red onion, greek olives, and grape tomatoes as desired. Drizzle with yogurt. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

Sharon Palmer, RD

Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert