Get Down-To-Earth with the Mediterranean Diet!

Jen Haugen, RD, LD
As a nutrition expert and dietitian for over 10 years, I have spent a good portion of that time in the clinical setting where I saw the many outcomes of an unhealthy lifestyle.  As I transitioned almost 4 years ago into the role of supermarket dietitian, I was eager to promote health and wellness after my experiences as a clinical dietitian.  I work with customers in the aisles offering small changes to make a lasting impact on health, including spending a lot of time in the produce aisle, teaching how to choose, store and prepare vegetables and fruits with the goal of half of their plates being filled with fruits and vegetables at each meal.  But my true calling and passion really involves teaching kids (including mine) and families the value of good health, through gardening and cooking classes.  From the very moment I became a mother, I wanted to create memories with my children about food, to mirror my own memories as a child growing up around gardening and cooking.   I do this with the hope that these memories and values will carry them far into the future of making healthier choices.  Say hello on Twitter @jenhaugen or visit my blog for garden and recipe ideas to help you grow a healthier family.

With the celebration of National Mediterranean Diet Month in May, it is the perfect time to plant a garden as a family!  Not only will gardening enhance your physical activity – which is at the base of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid – but it will also allow you to focus on the next step of the pyramid, by enhancing your intake of fruits and vegetables.  On my blog “The Down-To-Earth Dietitian”, I match my life experiences in the garden with my nutrition expertise to offer ideas that create the connection of fresh food to good health.   To inspire you to get out to the garden, here are two plants you can easily grow and reap many health rewards as part of a Mediterranean diet:

Spinach is packed with vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium; 1-½ cups of spinach is a top source of folate which can reduce homocysteine levels that contribute to heart disease.  Spinach grows very easily and quickly actually preferring cooler temperatures which is perfect for spring and fall.  As soon as you see the leaves, you can start harvesting whether you prefer them to be baby-like or a little more fully grown.  Whether you plant a few seeds in a pot and keep it on your windowsill or grow it in your garden – you will have spinach leaves ready for harvest in just a matter of a couple of weeks.

Strawberries are usually the first fresh fruit of the growing season – I know my kids look for the first ones in the patch and they don’t even make it into the kitchen!  In one cup of strawberries, you receive 140% of your daily vitamin C needs along with a tremendous source of antioxidants that work to reduce excess inflammation in the body.  Planting strawberry plants is as easy as digging a small hole and spacing each plant one foot apart.  But you can also plant strawberries in a planter that allows you to leave them on your doorstep.

This recipe showcases your fresh produce, where the kids can snip the spinach and harvest the berries.  It also incorporates a tasty way to use salmon – a strong source of omega-3 fatty acids that contribute to heart health.  I recommend salmon or other fatty fish like mackerel, tuna and sardines twice weekly.   

Salmon Berry Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Serves 2 as a main dish portion or 4 as a side dish portion.



⅓ cup olive oil
⅓ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon salt

2 (5 oz) salmon fillets
4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1 cup blueberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
¼ cup toasted pecan pieces

For the vinaigrette, mix all ingredients in a small bowl until well-blended. 

Refrigerate ½ of the vinaigrette to use as salad dressing.  Place salmon in large re-sealable plastic bag or dish.  Add remaining vinaigrette and toss to coat well.

Refrigerate 30 minutes.  Remove salmon from marinade and discard marinade.  

Grill or broil salmon over medium-high heat 5 minutes per side or until salmon flakes in center.  

Divide spinach, berries and pecans among 2 plates.  Arrange salmon fillet over salad.  

Whisk reserved vinaigrette.  Drizzle over salads.  

Add a Comment