Our guide to tiers 4 to 7 of the Mediterranean style healthy diet pyramid will help change your eating habits forever!
The second tier of our Mediterranean diet pyramid looks at how important dairy produce, fish, poultry and eggs are for a healthy diet and how you can improve the quality of the foods you buy.
These foods are not necessarily bad for you - but you do need to control the amount you eat.
Everyone needs some dairy in a balanced, healthy diet. The calcium it contains helps protect against brittle bones which, especially in later life, can be a real problem for those who avoid dairy products because of their fear of fat.
It's the way you get the dairy produce that matters.
Need to spread your bread? Try an olive oil based spread, easily found these days in supermarkets - or, even better, try taking the time to make your own. It takes minutes, has no additives, and lasts for ages.
Our additive free, healthy, home made olive oil spread.
Avoid spreads which contain damaging hydrogenated fats. Using a full fat butter is healthier than anything containing hydrogenated fats. You just need to remember to use it very sparingly, not every day, and in baking try using olive oil as a substitute. It's much healthier.
Enjoy your cheese - we love our locally produced Italian cheeses - but again, use it sparingly. Grate hard cheese (like parmesan) into your pasta by all means, but remember - a little goes a long way.
Use lower fat cheeses, yoghurts and skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. They contain the same amount of calcium as the full fat versions - and lower fat does not mean lower flavour.
One of our favourites is Mozarella, cheese made from the milk of the buffalo, which is used widely in Italy in salads and pizza. And it's possible to get a lower-fat version of Mozarella too.
Mozarella cheese in an Italian Caprese salad - tasty and healthy.
Mediterranean regions have thousands of miles of coastline and are therefore rich in fish. There's nothing quite like fresh seafood. It tastes just great - but all too often in other countries the flavour is buried in batter, congealed in crumbs or flooded by fryer fat.
Take a tip from the people of the Mediterranean regions. Their balanced, healthy diet contains a good portion of fresh, often oily fish, and it's known that the Omega 3 oils the fish contains protects against heart disease.
Shellfish contain high quality protein and are also low in saturated fats, although for anyone with a high cholesterol level they need to be eaten in moderation - shellfish have one of the highest cholesterol levels of any food. Again, a couple of times a week at most is the key.
So - go to a fish market or your local fish shop. Then grill it, bake it, steam it, cook it in a pizza oven if you have one, and let the texture and taste speak for themselves.
The chicken is the most widespread domesticated animal in the world for very good reason.
It's a low fat meat and a great source of protein, as is turkey - in fact, turkey is lower in fat even than chicken. But again, it's the way it's prepared which is the key.
Don't cover it in crumbs and throw it in the fryer. Dry roast it, grill it, allow its own juices to permeate the meat. Take off the skin before you eat it, because that's where most of the fat is.
Grilled chicken and vegetables - a popular healthy Italian meal.
And although it tastes great just like that, it also adds body and a lovely flavour to a casserole or a curry.
Top Tip : It may be more expensive but it's worth avoiding cheap poultry from factory-farmed birds. Its protein levels are lower, it's injected with water and growth chemicals and the meat tastes bland.
Go for free range birds - corn fed is best.
Eggs have had a bad press in recent years. When my dad was diagnosed with heart disease forty years ago he was told he should stop eating eggs - they were thought to be harmful to people with high cholesterol levels.
In later life, he was told that not eating eggs had actually damaged his health and contributed to his osteoporosis.
There's nothing like the taste of freshly laid, home grown eggs!
It's now known that eating several eggs a week is fine as part of a balanced, healthy diet. They're a complete food in one little package, full of all the nutrients and vitamins a body needs - and if you can buy those with increased Omega 3, so much the better.
Again, prepare them wisely. Remember - they don't have to be fried. Think about imaginative omelettes or frittatas using some of your daily veggies, or use them to make pasta - they give a wonderful, creamy taste not found in shop-bought pastas. Or how about a simple scrambled egg with a scraping of a lovely hard cheese?
It's not as crazy an idea as it may sound - we do it! And yes, you're right, we have a lot of land we can use. But keeping back yard chickens is becoming more and more popular and is entirely possible for most people even in urban areas.
Mike and our "girls" - they will follow anywhere for a bit of lettuce!
Chickens are easy to keep, great fun to watch and produce wonderful fresh eggs every day. What a great way to feed not only your own family but your friends and neighbours as well!
To find out more, go here to find a link to our site about how to hatch and raise chickens. We look forward to your company there!
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