Monday, May 16, 2011

May is National Mediterranean Diet Month

The graphic to the left is the cover of the new Welcome to the Mediterranean Diet brochure prepared by Oldways and The Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA).  The information ties the pyramid to eight simple steps for healthier eating. Click the link above to get your own copy.

Barbara Ruhs, MS, RD, LDN is our guest blogger and Bashas' in-house dietitian. She provides grocery shoppers with the necessary tools and resources to improve health and manage a food budget.

Barbara graciously agreed to answer some questions about the Mediterranean Diet.

1. What makes the Mediterranean Diet unique?
In 1993 when The Mediterranean Diet was introduced by Oldways and the Harvard School of Public Health, it was unique from other pyramids and eating plans as it introduced the idea of “healthy fats” and also made the dietary recommendation that some alcohol in moderation had health benefits.  This was somewhat radical information back then.

In addition, the concept of “traditional diets” being the basis of a healthy diet was quite foreign (literally) to Americans. What exactly is a traditional American diet? Thanks to Oldways (literally, Old-Ways!), The Mediterranean Diet, emphasized the benefits of a “back to basics” approach – eating  WHOLE foods as well as setting a context (with family and friends) as a “method” as to how to maximize the benefits of eating a healthy diet. 

As a dietitian, I love the entire concept of the “Med” diet approach to educating consumers on how to choose a healthy diet. It’s practical and focuses on what to eat vs. what NOT to eat.

2. Is Bashas' only available in Arizona?
Yes, Bashas’ Family of Stores is a locally owned and operated grocery chain since 1932. Bashas’ Family of Stores is special in many ways as a retail grocer. The chain operates 4 different formats (store types). Bashas’ is the mainstream grocery chain. Food City is their Hispanic format featuring many exotic fruits & vegetables (nopales, agave, and nearly 30 different varieties of chili peppers). AJ’s Fine Foods is the upper-scale, gourmet format that offers locally-made chocolates, craft beers, gourmet cheese, a sushi bar, a gourmet deli destination with Panini’s, pizzas and more, as well as a gourmet produce section featuring unique items like baby portabellas and maitake mushrooms, a vast array of specialty produce items (dragonfruit, gooseberries) and more. Finally, Bashas’ is truly unique from any other retailer as they operate several reservation stores, “Dine” (there is an accent on the “e”)…pronounced “dee-nay.” This is a Navajo term that translates to “The People.” Dine stores are fully staffed with Native American residents living on the reservation(s) and 10% of all profits go directly back to a reservation scholarship fun. Bashas’ is truly a great company to work for!

3. How are the colored tags on foods useful to someone on the Internet?
The colorful nutrition tags are most useful to shopper in the stores as they are unavoidable reminders to shoppers of products unique nutritional qualities. It helps shoppers to find better nutritional values – a shopper can compare products for price & quality and now they can evaluate based on nutritional content too.

Online, the tags can serve as an educational tool to help any person learn how to shop for healthier options. The nutrition qualifications for the tags are in compliance with the FDA’s nutrition labeling standards. In addition, many of the tags have additional nutrition requirements. Making the criteria a bit stricter for products was a great opportunity for me as a dietitian to apply my skills from a variety of different career experiences. My background in public health, academics, athletics and private-practice allowed me to view this project as a possible solution to help a broad audience improve personal health.

4. Can someone in Florida easily follow the Mediterranean Diet?
Absolutely! Finding olive oil, avocados, beans, leafy greens, seafood, nuts and whole grains is as simple as visiting your local grocery store. You don’t need to travel to Italy to enjoy pizza nor do you need to be surrounded by the Mediterranean sea to enjoy traditional Greek favorites like tzaziki (yogurt dip with dill),  hummus (mashed chickpeas with tahini/sesame paste), or delectable kalamata olives. Feed your imagination!

To learn more about the Mediterranean Diet, visit the following links:
Bashas' Corporate Website

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