Explore the Mediterranean diet with Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos
Image Credit: Pan Macmillan Australia
Published in 2013, The Mediterranean Diet is written Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos, an Accredited Practising Dietitian, Academic and Researcher. Coming from a Greek background herself, Dr Itsiopoulos has experienced the traditional Greek diet first-hand, and has spent many years researching the Mediterranean way of eating.
The book is a great introduction to the diet for those who are new to the Mediterranean diet, and it is also useful for those who have some knowledge of the diet and are looking for some healthy, traditional Greek recipes.
The book is 224 pages long and is divided into two sections:
Part 1: The Mediterranean Diet
Part 2: Traditional Greek Mediterranean Recipes
Part one provides information on the Mediterranean diet, and the health benefits. It cites various studies that have shown how the diet can be beneficial in preventing chronic disease and achieving healthy ageing.
There is also information on the nutritional benefits of the staples of the diet, such as olive oil, olives, tomatoes, legumes, nuts, vegetables, wine, fermented milk products, and mountain tea.
Towards the end of the section on pages 50-52, there are three weekly meal planners: the Traditional Menu, Weight Loss Menu, and Healthy Menu for Chronic Disease Prevention.
Leafy greens, such as spinach are included in many of the recipes in the book
Part two contains 80 recipes, and most of them are very simple and require basic ingredients that can be found at the supermarket. Each recipe also has a table showing the nutritional composition per serve.
In the traditional Greek diet, tomatoes are consumed daily
Is the book suitable for vegetarians? Yes. Plant foods are an important part of the Mediterranean diet and while there are quite a few meat dishes, there's a whole chapter dedicated to vegetarian dishes. In this chapter, there are 18 recipes including:
Vegetable Bake with Okra (p. 120)
Stuffed Eggplants (p. 117)
Spinach and Rice Casserole (p. 113)
Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice (p. 122)
The Soups and Salads chapter also contains many vegetarian options, such as:
Beetroot, Green Runner Bean, Walnuts and Goat's Milk Feta Salad (p. 101)
Cypriot Potato Salad (p.96)
Lentil Soup (p. 90)
Rocket, Pear, Parmesan and Pine Nut Salad (p. 102)
For vegans, the options are more limited, as many recipes contain eggs, cheese and honey.
Grape vine leaves - perfect for the Vegetarian Stuffed Vine Leaves (Dolmathakia) on page 80
Is the book suitable for coeliacs or people with a gluten intolerance?
Yes. There are plenty of recipes that don't require flour or other gluten-containing ingredients. For the recipes that do require flour, some state that you can use either plain or gluten-free flour. For recipes that call for pasta, gluten-free pasta could be substituted.
I did notice, however, that there are a couple of recipes that require filo pastry and a couple that require regular flour (such as the Village-Style Crusty Bread on page 63).
Are the recipes in the book expensive to make?
Most of the recipes use cheap items, such as vegetables, beans and dairy products. Some of the more expensive items included in the recipes include walnuts, pine nuts and almond meal, however the majority of items required for the recipes are cheap, pantry staples and fresh meat and vegetables.
The cost of the diet is addressed on pages 45-48, and includes tips on making it more affordable. There is also a cost-comparison on page 48, which shows that a sample Mediterranean Meal for 6 people costs $3.42 per serve, and a typical 'Australian' meal costs $7.35 per serve.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Mediterranean diet, especially those who like having the diet information and recipes combined in one book. For those who enjoy the recipes and are looking for more variety, I'd also recommend Dr Itsiopoulos' companion book, The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook.