Eat Mediterranean, eliminate medication

By Bill Colvard - bcolvard@MtAiryNews.com
Quinoa Pinto Bean Burger, Quinoa Strawberry Salad and Avocado Salad were the main course of a May 21 lunch at Surry Extension that explored the Mediterranean Diet as a way to reduce medications. - Submitted photos | Surry Couny Extension
Banana Nut Med Muffins inject some sweetness into a Mediterranean eating plan. - Submitted photos | Surry Couny Extension
Rosemary Chili Almonds are spicy and fragrant. Munch them judiciously as a snack or add to a salad for some crunch. - Submitted photos | Surry Couny Extension
Quinoa Strawberry Salad was a favorite of both Dana Workman and Allie Pratt. - - Submitted photos | Surry Couny Extension

“Med instead of Meds,” the catchy-named program intended to use the Mediterranean diet as a way of reducing the need for medication, got a tryout at Surry County Extension on Monday, May 21.

“It’s a new direction we’re taking to help people live better, healthier lives,” said Carmen Long, area agent, family and consumer sciences. “Research showed that the low-fat eating recommended for a long time was not very successful. We looked at other options that people would enjoy and decided to focus on the Mediterranean diet.”

The Mediterranean diet is not a diet in the sense that it is a prescribed eating plan designed to produce certain results, weight loss, lower blood sugar, and the like. It is the way people who live near the Mediterranean Sea have traditionally eaten, and has been shown to reduce blood sugar, blood pressure and weight.

The plan’s focus on eating healthy fats rather than trying to eliminate fats makes for flavorful food that tastes really good, according to Long. Agreement on that subject varied among guests who attended the Extension lunch.

“For special occasions, I could see it. I would try it for a luncheon or a club-type atmosphere,” said Dana Workman, “but every night, I don’t think we would do that. I’m from the Midwest, my husband as well. Our children are grown and gone, and we eat meat almost every night. We’re probably going to keep it that way, but I wanted to see what it was like.”

Allie Pratt said, “My family is European. My grandmother is Croatian, and we try to eat that way, but it’s not always successful. We try to find foods on the Mediterranean diet, and then cook them and make them taste good. The food was full of nutrients and tasted good. A little bit filled me up. I noticed I had lots of energy for the rest of the day. There was no three o’clock crash. It’s low-calorie but it’s filling.”

Pratt added that she wouldn’t call it a diet as you’re not limited. It’s whole, nutritious food. “And the 30 minutes a day of recommended physical activity is pretty do-able.”

Long recommended the website MedInsteadOfMeds.com as a good starting point for anyone interested in learning about the Mediterranean diet and the science behind it. The recipes she prepared for the Med Instead Of Meds lunch came from the site, and some of them are included below.

The Mediterranean diet’s focus on healthy fats relies heavily on olive oil, preferably extra-virgin. Chicken and fish are favored meats. Lots of fruits and vegetables are important. Greek yogurt is good.

Red wine can be a part of the Mediterranean diet if one is so inclined, said Long. Up to five ounces a day for women and men over 65, and up to 10 ounces for younger men are okay.

“People thing eating Mediterranean is about big piles of pasta,” said Long, “but it’s not that. Whole-grain pasta makes you feel more full and it picks up more sauce. The pasta dishes incorporate lots of vegetables.”

Long said she has a curriculum to further explain the Mediterranean diet in a series of multiple classes. But decisions haven’t been made yet as to scheduling. The Med Instead Of Meds website is designed to be self-guided, but she said it’s nice to learn in a group setting and get the reactions of other people.

At the recent lunch, folks reached different conclusions as to whether the Mediterranean diet might help reduce their need for medication.

“I don’t take a lot of medicine,” said Workman, “so I don’t feel as motivated as someone who does. I’m blessed in that.”

“To start taking care of myself and be proactive is important,” said Pratt. “Being a young person (she’s 26), you need to invest in yourself. A lot of people think healthy eating is expensive, and it can be, but I’d rather spend some money now than give it to the doctor later.

For more information, go to http://medinsteadofmeds.com/ If you are interested in upcoming classes concerning the Mediterranean diet, contact Carmen Long at 336-401-8025 or carmen_long@ncsu.edu.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

The taco seasoning you buy in the pouches at the grocery store can be high in salt and low in flavor. Make a batch of this seasoning and keep it in your freezer. You can use it for tacos, bean burgers, beans and rice, and whatever else you want to give Mexican flavor. It calls for paprika, and the type you use is up to you; smoked, hot, or regular.

Serves 16 | Serving Size: 1 tablespoon | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Total Time: 5 minutes

⅓ cup chili powder

3 tbsp. paprika (you may want to use ½ smoked and ½ hot)

3 tbsp. ground cumin

1 tbsp. Mexican oregano (regular oregano will work as well)

1 tbsp. ground black pepper

1 tsp. cayenne (more if you want it really hot)

Combine all ingredients and store in a plastic container.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Serving Size: 1 tablespoon. Vegetables: 0 cups. Fruits: 0 cups. Calories: 16 calories. Carbohydrates: 3 grams. Fiber: 2 grams. Protein: 1 gram. Fat: 1 gram. Sodium: 90 mg.

Banana Nut Med Muffins

Most muffins are just a step away from cake with lots of added sugar. Not these med muffins. These muffins have no added sugar and super healthy fats from nuts. Use muffin papers and spray them with non-stick spray for the best product. You can experiment with using pears in the place of the apples and vary the type of nuts you use.

Serves 12 | Serving Size: 1 muffin | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 20-25 minutes | Total Time: 45 minutes

2 overripe bananas

1 -½ cup chopped apples

1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds)

2 eggs

1 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)

1 tsp. cinnamon (you can use Chinese 5 spice for a different flavor)

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 12 muffin tins with muffin papers, spray with non-stick cooking spray. Mash bananas with a fork in a medium bowl. Add apples, nuts, and eggs to the bananas, mix well. In another bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon the muffin mixture into muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Place on a wire rack for cooling.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Serving Size: 1 muffin. Vegetables: 0 cups. Fruits: ¼ cup. Calories: 130 calories. Carbohydrates: 13 grams. Fiber: 2 grams. Protein: 4 grams. Fat: 8 grams. Sodium: 294 mg.

Strawberry Mint Water

Great for warm summer days, alongside a meal, or on a special occasion. Serve in a clear pitcher during a gathering with friends and family to show the vibrant colors of the fruit-infused water. Helpful tip: The longer you let this beverage chill in the fridge, the more flavor it will have.

Serves 8 | Serving Size: 1 cup (8 ounces) | Prep time: 5 minutes | Chill time: 30 minutes or more | Total time: 35 minutes or more.

1 cup strawberries, halved

4 sprigs mint

1 cup ice

Water

Add halved strawberries to a 2-quart drinking pitcher. Slightly twist mint sprigs to release flavor and then add to drinking pitcher. Top with ice and then add water. For more flavor, chill for 30 minutes or more before serving.

Nutrition Information per Serving: (Based on consumption of strawberries and mint) Serving Size: 1 cup (8 ounces). Vegetables: 0 cups. Fruits: ¼ cup. Calories: 6 calories. Carbohydrates: 1 gram. Fiber: 0 grams. Protein: 0 grams. Fat: 0 grams. Sodium: 10 mg

Quinoa Strawberry Salad

Quinoa is a popular whole grain thanks to its quick cooking time, high protein content, and nutty taste. The quinoa really soaks up the dressing in this recipe. Wait to dress the salad until right before serving.

Serves 4 | Serving Size: 1 cup | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 35 minutes

Salad:

½ cup dry quinoa

2 cups baby spinach leaves, chiffonade

⅔ cup sliced strawberries

2 tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted

1 handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Dressing:

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Place quinoa in medium saucepan along with 1¾ cups water. Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked. Remove lid and cook until all water is evaporated. Remove from heat. Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a bowl or jar. Place the quinoa, spinach, strawberries, toasted almonds, and basil in bowl and combine. Add and toss in dressing just prior to serving.

Nutrition Information per Serving: (Based on ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper) Serving Size: 1 cup. Vegetables: ½ cup. Fruits: ¼ cup. Calories: 182 calories. Carbohydrates: 18 grams. Fiber: 3 grams. Protein: 5 grams. Fat: 10 grams. Sodium: 33 mg.

Quinoa Pinto Bean Burger

No need to buy veggie burgers when you can make these at home with great ingredients. You can use the seasonings suggested or experiment with others based on your favorite flavors. These are great made ahead and cooked to order. They can be served in a bun like a traditional burger, crumbled in a pita, or on top of a salad.

Serves 8-10 | Serving Size: 1 patty | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cool Time: 1 hour | Cook Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

2 (16-ounce) cans pinto beans

1 tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. ground coriander

¼ tsp. cayenne

1 carrot, peeled and grated

½ cup minced onion

1 egg

1 tsp. salt (use a little less if using Homemade Taco Seasoning)

½ tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 tbsp. whole-wheat flour

½ cup whole-wheat bread crumbs

1 cup quinoa, cooked (you can use any type of quinoa)

2-3 tbsp. canola or other vegetable oil

Drain and rinse the canned beans. Cook the canned beans in water over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Drain well. Place ½ of the beans in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the spices and pulse again to combine. Add the carrot, onion, and egg and process until mixed, the mixture will not be smooth. Place the bean mixture in a large bowl and add salt, pepper, flour, bread crumbs, quinoa, and remaining beans. Combine. Form into patties (form 8-10 depending on how large you want the burgers). Refrigerate the burgers for at least an hour. Can be overnight. Cook the burgers in a large skillet with vegetable oil over medium-high heat, approximately 3-4 minutes per side.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Serving Size: 1 patty. Vegetables: ¼ cup. Fruits: 0 cups. Calories: 141 calories. Carbohydrates: 19 grams. Fiber: 4 grams. Protein: 5 grams. Fat: 5 grams. Sodium: 382 mg.

Avocado Salad

This is a colorful and tasty salad that is especially good during summer months. It is easy to prepare and only has a few, simple ingredients. For variation, add chopped onions, black beans, and/or red pepper according to taste preference.

Serves 4 | Serving Size: 1 cup | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cool Time: 10-20 minutes | Total Time: 25-35 minutes

1 ear corn on the cob, husk and silk removed

2 ripe avocados, peeled and chopped into small pieces

1 large tomato, chopped into small pieces

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (adjust to taste)

1 tsp. salt (adjust to taste)

½ tsp. black pepper (adjust to taste)

Paprika

Cook the corn on the cob in the microwave for 2 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes. Cut the corn off of the cob and collect the kernels in a bowl. Mix the corn kernels, avocado, and tomato in a big bowl and toss with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for 10-20 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve cold.

Nutrition Information per Serving: (Based on 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper) Serving Size: 1 cup. Vegetables: 1 cup. Fruits: 0 cups. Calories: 138 calories. Carbohydrates: 12 grams. Fiber: 6 grams. Protein: 3 grams. Fat: 10 grams. Sodium: 592 mg.

Rosemary Chili Almonds

This is an easy way to add extra flavor to your daily snack. Change it up by choosing a different type of nut or herb combination. Tip: Make a large batch with your favorite nuts and herbs for a great grab-and-go snack throughout the week.

Serves 8 | Serving Size: ¼ cup | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 20 minutes

1 tbsp. olive oil

½ pound (approximately 2 cups) almonds

3 (3-inch) sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves removed (can use 1 tablespoon dried if you don’t have fresh)

3 tsp. crushed chili flakes

½ tsp. salt

Use a large skillet over medium heat. Heat the oil and add the almonds. Stir to coat the almonds. Add the rosemary leaves, crushed chili flakes, and salt. Toss to coat the almonds. Cook over medium heat stirring almost constantly for 15 minutes. Do not allow the almonds to get too brown.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Serving Size: ¼ cup. Vegetables: 0 cups. Fruits: 0 cups. Calories: 250 calories. Carbohydrates: 7 grams. Fiber: 4 grams | Protein: 8 grams | Fat: 23 grams | Sodium: 230 mg.

Quinoa Pinto Bean Burger, Quinoa Strawberry Salad and Avocado Salad were the main course of a May 21 lunch at Surry Extension that explored the Mediterranean Diet as a way to reduce medications.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_Med-1.jpgQuinoa Pinto Bean Burger, Quinoa Strawberry Salad and Avocado Salad were the main course of a May 21 lunch at Surry Extension that explored the Mediterranean Diet as a way to reduce medications. Submitted photos | Surry Couny Extension

Banana Nut Med Muffins inject some sweetness into a Mediterranean eating plan.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_Med-5.jpgBanana Nut Med Muffins inject some sweetness into a Mediterranean eating plan. Submitted photos | Surry Couny Extension

Rosemary Chili Almonds are spicy and fragrant. Munch them judiciously as a snack or add to a salad for some crunch.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_Med-8.jpgRosemary Chili Almonds are spicy and fragrant. Munch them judiciously as a snack or add to a salad for some crunch. Submitted photos | Surry Couny Extension

Quinoa Strawberry Salad was a favorite of both Dana Workman and Allie Pratt.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_Med-9.jpgQuinoa Strawberry Salad was a favorite of both Dana Workman and Allie Pratt. Submitted photos | Surry Couny Extension

By Bill Colvard

bcolvard@MtAiryNews.com

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.