Viva La Mediterranean Diet

Victoria Shanta Retelny, RD, LDN
Victoria is a nationally-recognized registered, licensed dietitian, writer, media spokesperson, speaker, corporate wellness coach, and nutrition therapist. You can visit her on her website or say hello to her on Twitter @vsrnutrition.

I am a food-loving dietitian, author, and mother of two young children with a nutrition & culinary communications practice in Chicago.  My recent book, The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods, offers a whole host of powerful reasons why the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for children and adults for health, disease prevention and longevity.  With plant foods like whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables being the cornerstone of the Mediterranean way of eating, it provides a rich and vibrant culinary landscape for delicious meals every day.  In my travels through Italy and Spain, I certainly got exposure with plates drizzled with olive oil loaded with grilled vegetables, whole grain pastas, lentil and berry salads and the proverbial glass of red wine to wash it all down.  It was not only a feast for the eyes, but healthy fuel for the body and soul.  

One of my favorite family Mediterranean-style dishes – which is a twist on the Italian classic Caprese salad, is Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Lentil Salad (featured in chapter 19 of my book).  Eat this as a side dish paired with grilled fish or enjoy it as a main dish over a bed of mesclun greens.     

Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Lentil Salad
A refreshing Mediterranean-style salad is a delicious quick and easy lunch or dinner. Add your favorite veggies, beans, or herbs.  Add a dash of curry powder for a unique twist and delicious flavor.

½ cup lentils, washed and drained
2 cups water or low-sodium broth
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
5 basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup fresh part-skim mozzarella cheese
½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
Pinch of salt and pepper
Mixed greens (optional)

Add lentils and water (or broth) to medium saucepan, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and lentils are softened (about 20 minutes). If lentils are not soft, add more liquid (2 — 3 tablespoons) and cook a bit longer.

In saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.

Toss garlic with lentils; add basil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold or warm on a bed of mixed greens.

Yield: 2 servings of 1 ½ cups each

Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 30 minutes

Each serving has: 281 calories, 11 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 139 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrates, 15 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 17 g protein, 21 percent DV iron

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