It’s that time of year when you’re no doubt thinking about your beach body. Across the country, girls and guys are analysing every bump and reading every magazine that promises tricks for healthy eating to lose weight for your holidays. Bikinis are being tried on, trunks dug out of the bottom of the drawer and stomachs are being sucked in.
With all this effort, why should we undo it on holiday by eating unhealthily – especially if you’re heading to the Mediterranean, well-known for its delicious and healthy cuisine? If you’re willing to look beyond egg and chips when dining in Italy, Spain, Greece or anywhere else in the Med, you may be in for a pleasant surprise.
You often hear of the Mediterranean diet and how healthy it is. But what is it exactly? Mediterranean food is eaten over a huge area, both in countries in the Med itself and those nearby. It’s also not just a diet but more of a lifestyle.
The daily diet generally consists of a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, beans, fish and lean meat. Olives feature greatly, both as appetisers and also in cooking. Olive oil is also used extensively and extra virgin olive oil is especially good for you in terms of providing healthy fats and is used when roasting vegetables, grilling fish or on salads. The great thing about food in the Mediterranean is that it’s all the stuff you probably already like – amazing Greek cheeses, Spanish meats, Italian pasta and a drop of red wine.
The key to enjoying Mediterranean cuisine is about eating all of this lovely food in proportion and this is illustrated in the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. This shows what sorts of food should ideally be eaten daily, weekly and monthly to maintain good health. Underlying it is the idea of moderation: in terms of the likes of meat and wine, which can be eaten and drunk regularly but not to excess. It’s not a strict diet based on points or eliminating anything in particular, more a philosophy that promotes a healthy you. Start on holiday and you might just bring some of the philosophy home with you!
As an added bonus, eating out when in the Med is also not expensive. In its recent Holiday Costs Barometer survey, the Post Office looked at the cost of eating out in popular holiday destinations around the world and a number of Mediterranean destinations were among the most affordable. Although just west of the Med itself, but with a similar climate and cuisine, Albufeira in the Algarve, Portugal came out top of the pile, where a three-course meal for two with a bottle of wine will set you back an average of just £20.56.
Other Mediterranean destinations that scored well were Majorca at £22.43 and the Costa Blanca in Spain at £24.21. If the idea of Greece appeals to you then Corfu weighed in at just £25.70. These all compare well when you consider that in Blackpool the total came to £37.50 and in Bournemouth it was more than double some of those destinations at £49.65.
Don’t forget that one of the real benefits of the Mediterranean diet is not actually the food itself but the way in which eating is such a social experience. When you’re on holiday, you’ve got no excuse not to take your time, relax and enjoy the company of your loved ones or new friends while eating some tasty and healthy cuisine. You’ll never want a quick egg and chips again!
Images by A Culinary Photo Journal, ulfbodin, Edoardo Tacconi/Edward Fonel used under creative commons licence