Find out why heart healthy olives are a staple in the Mediterranean Diet and how to incorporate them into meals and recipes.
Did you know that olives are considered a fruit?
I have to admit, I did not. I’m not sure what I thought they were – but a fruit certainly wasn’t it. They are part of the stone fruit family, a relative to cherries and peaches.
The salty, briny flavor of olives is a staple in the Mediterranean Diet. They can be found growing all over parts of France, Italy, Greece and Spain. If you are interested in growing your own olives, this is an extremely helpful article from Gardener’s Path.
This nutrient dense fruit boasts plenty of health benefits when part of a well balanced diet.
My husband buying fresh olives at farmer’s market in Nice, France
Hearty Healthy Fat
Olives contain monounsaturated fats, which are considered heart healthy types of fat.
Heart healthy fats can lead to a decrease in cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
According to an article in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, olives are a good source of a specific antioxidant that may help prevent the accumulation of cholesterol in artery walls. Decreased artery cholesterol can lead to improved heart health and less risk of cardiovascular disease.
A study published in 2011 in the Current Pharmaceutical Design journal indicates an association between a specific compound in olives (oleocanthal) that may have anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen.
This is important since chronic inflammation in the body can be linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. More research is needed but the possible correlation between olives and anti-inflammation are exciting!
Raw olives are very bitter. Most olives are cured, which gives them their well known salty flavor. The curing process is similar to fermentation, making heart healthy olives good for your gut too. They are rich in Lactobacillus, a gut friendly bacteria that can help treat or prevent digestive issues.
While a single ingredient isn’t responsible for overall health, it can add to a well balanced, heart healthy diet.
Now that we know what they can do for us health-wise, you might be asking how do you add them to your diet? So let’s get on to the fun part…the recipes!
Heart Healthy Olive Recipes
Greek Salad – a weekly staple at my house. Full of crunchy cucumbers, juicy tomatoes and salty olives, it’s so refreshing.
I’ll be sharing my greek salad recipe on the blog soon. If you are a newsletter member the July Newsletter Edition contained the recipe!
Vegetable and Cheese Platters – Cheese plates are my thing. I love nothing more that popping a few salty olives in between bites of creamy cheese.
A collection of kid friendly lunches that are perfect for those summer months when the kids are home and always hungry.
So now that we’ve almost hit mid-July, I am completely out of ideas on what to serve my kids for lunch.
I was laughing with a friend the other day because we bonded because our biggest issue with the kids being home all day, every day during summer break is feeding them 3 meals a day.
You might be laughing or even rolling your eyes, but it’s so true. Feeding kids (especially fickle little toddlers) 3 solid meals, every single day without loosing your mind is one of my biggest challenges as a stay at home mom.
Breakfast is pretty simple at my house – toast w/ fruit and yogurt or some sort of waffle/pancake. I meal plan our dinners, so those are planned a week at a time. Lunch, however, is typically where I just throw together random items in the fridge.
A few weeks ago, I shared one of my newest lunch saviors…Kid Friendly Mini Cheese Plates. They are still going strong at our house, but I don’t want to overplay my hand so I went looking for more kid friendly lunch ideas for summer.
I’m so excited to test out some of these recipes on my kids. I’m using this summer to get them to try new things and these recipes sound delicious and creative!
Protein rich Greek Yogurt topped with crunchy granola, heart healthy nuts and fresh fruit…now that’s a well balanced meal! Plus it’s a great meal for those dog days of summer when it’s just too hot to eat.
Just 5 simple ingredients bring this fresh and flavorful Pineapple Jalapeño Salsa recipe to a table near you.
If you are anything like me, then you’ll love this Pineapple Jalapeño Salsa recipe because it’s so simple but packs in so much flavor.
I shared this salsa recipe in my Instagram Stories last week and received a few messages asking how make it, that I decided it warranted it’s very own blog post.
The recipe is simple – fresh pineapple, cilantro, red onion, jalapeño and lime juice. But the uses are endless –
On top of chicken or fish
Mixed with canned tun for a easy and flavor packed lunch
Served as a dip with crackers, toasted bread or even sliced veggies like cucumbers or bell peppers
On top of greek yogurt for a sweet and savory treat
Simply eaten right out of the bowl
One of the best parts is that the longer this Pineapple Jalapeño Salsa sits so the flavors can mix together, the better. It’s great on the first day, but even better on the second and third day (if it lasts that long).
Spicy Tip – leave the seeds in your jalapeño if you like extra spice.
A review of Rachel Hollis’ new cookbook, Real Life Dinners, and Grilled Mushroom Kabob recipe review.
Disclosure – I received a free copy of the cookbook mentioned in this post. However, I was not compensated for my time or review and all options expressed are completely my own.
Let’s talk about real life dinner time for a moment.
Since I work from home, there are many nights when I have enough time to pre-marinade some chicken or spend a good 20 minutes chopping vegetables for a side dish.
But, this is real life, so there are also many other nights when it’s 5:45pm, the kids are hungry and I’m standing in front of the fridge trying to figure out what I can make for dinner that will be ready in the next 15 minutes.
That’s where Rachel Hollis‘ new cookbook – Real Life Dinners comes in handy. Rachel Hollis is a busy, working, mother of four that also creates dinners that don’t take hours to prepare and uses wholesome ingredients.
I really like the Real Life Dinners cookbook. It covers a range of all kind of simple, quick and family friendly dinners that we all love.
Breakfast for dinner – she’s got you covered.
Do you want a recipe you can throw in a crock pot and have ready for you after work – check.
How about it’s the middle of summer and the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven – there’s a whole section dedicated to recipes you can throw on the grill.
She even has recipes in the book that she can make one handed because she was busy holding a newborn baby!
I also really liked that the pictures of the recipes in the book were completely relatable. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate stunning photography but when it comes to “real life” dinner recipes I just want to see an accurate picture of what the dish that I make will end up looking like. Real Life Dinners does just that – great looking food photos without all the fancy platting.
Mushrooms are a favorite in my house and I was immediately drawn to the Grilled Mushroom Kabobs with Balsamic Marinade recipe.
The ingredients are simple and things you may already have on hand – mushrooms, red onion, balsamic vinegar, mustard, olive oil, and dried herbs.
All marinated together and tossed on a skewer for easy grilling.
We made the Grilled Mushroom Kabob recipe last week (swith skirt steak) while we were enjoying the NBA finals (Warriors baby!) and they were devoured! PS – The balsamic glaze drizzle at the end is not to be missed.
The best part was that they were super simple to make, didn’t take a lot of fancy ingredients and were delicious. A complete win in my book!
If you are looking for a collection of great tasting, family friendly dinners that don’t take a lot of time or fancy ingredients, then Real Life Dinners is for you!
These mini Kid Friendly Cheese Plates are an easy way to prepare a healthy lunch for all kids, even picky eaters!
I am going to be honest and admit that preparing lunch for my kids is my least favorite part of my day.
Often times it’s because I’m not sure what the heck to make them for lunch. Neither one of them really loves sandwiches, so it’s often just scouring through the fridge for ingredients to put on a plate that resemble a balanced meal.
It wasn’t until I was out for dinner and ordered myself a cheese & charcuterie board for my meal that it dawned on me that a mini cheese plate would be the perfect fall back lunch for my kids.
Think about it…a few bites of a variety of different foods is what kids typically end up eating anyway. This way there is only a few bites of anything to begin with, so less waste when they don’t finish their sandwich or fruit cup, etc.
This handy Kid Friendly Cheese Plate Guide helps ensure you have a balanced meal –
We’ve had so much more success this past week (our first week of summer vacation) with lunch time thanks to mini cheese plates!
What are some of your go to kid friendly lunch ideas? Share below cause this mama needs some new ideas.
These Spicy Grilled Shrimp Kebobs are a simple, healthy addition to any meal. Simple ingredients and quick grilling make them perfect for weeknight or weekend cooking.
Confession time – I used to hate cooking shrimp because I was too lazy to have to individually turn them over in the pan.
Then I discovered that if you put them on a wooden stick life is so much simpler! No more individually turning each little shrimpy, just flip the whole kebob over and call it a day.
These Spicy Grilled Shrimp Kebobs are so full of flavor and pack a bit of a spicy kick. The key is to let them marinade for awhile before grilling them up to allow the flavors to soak into the fish.
Shrimp can also make a wonderful addition to any meal and lifestyle because they are quite healthy.
I used frozen, raw shrimp with the tails still on because I find that they hold up better. Simply defrost the shrimp before use (in the fridge or in a pinch under cold, running water) and then let them sit in the marinade for 30 minutes to up to 4 hours. Once they are all skewered up, they only take about 2 minutes on each side to grill to perfection.
They make the perfect meal when served with this Cauliflower Rice Tabbouleh. The simple flavors of the tabbouleh help cut back the spice a bit and it’s really a filling meal when served together.
An overview and deeper look into the health benefits and key guidelines for starting a mediterranean diet and lifestyle.
I recently shared that the focus of this blog was shifting slightly to be more Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle focused. Many reached out to express their interest and inquire more about what that means.
This post is dedicated to explaining the health benefits and Mediterranean Diet Guidelines.
What is The Mediterranean Diet
In short, it’s a heart healthy diet based on the typical recipes and cooking styles of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea (including France, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain).
My first trip to Italy involved a beautiful afternoon in Cinque Terre
The Mediterranean Diet has been the focus of many research studies over the last 2 decades for it’s reported association with decreased risk for heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Key Characteristics of The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is a healthy eating pattern and lifestyle that focuses on –
Eating primary plant based foods – fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts
Focusing on fresh and local food instead of pre-packaged, heavily processed foods
Eating fish at least 2 times a week
Moderate intake of dairy
Limiting red meat consumption
Focusing on heart healthy fats instead of saturated fats and trans fats (ie olive oil in place of butter)
Using fresh herbs and spices to flavor foods in place of salt
Limiting refined grains and added sugars
Red Wine in moderations
Enjoying meals with family and friends
Being active and getting plenty of exercise
A beautiful farmer’s market that was open even day during a trip to Nice, France
Health Benefits of Going Mediterranean
I love that the Mediterranean Diet focuses on a whole lifestyle and healthy way of eating across your lifespan instead of a quick fix, restrictive type diet.
Since we don’t eat specific foods simply based on their nutritional benefits, it’s important to focus on your way of eating as a whole. The foods work together to create a balanced, healthy way of eating and living.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “about half of all American adults have one or more preventable, diet-related chronic diseases” (including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity).
Research, like this article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has shown that following a Mediterranean Based Diet can lead to a reduced risk of heart disease and cardiovascular mortality.
Further studies also show that the focus on hearty healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil and nuts may lead to a reduced risk of breast cancer, however, more research is needed.
Walking everywhere is a great way to increase daily physical activity. We walked about 4-6 miles a day in Italy, France and Greece
A lifestyle and diet that focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, heart healthy fats, limiting added sugars and getting plenty of daily activity can also lead to a decreased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
How to Begin a Mediterranean Inspired Lifestyle
So now the fun part – making small changes to begin a mediterranean inspired lifestyle in your own home.
Below are my simple tips for going Mediterranean –
Slowly increase your fruit and vegetable intake each day
Add fresh fruits and vegetable to each meal
Consider using fresh fruit as a dessert in place of cakes or pies
Try going vegetarian one day each week to incorporate more vegetables into your meals
Enjoy fish at least two times a week
Fatty fish like mackerel, trout, sardines and salmon are rich sources of Omega 3 fatty acids and staples in the mediterranean style diet
Try replacing a poultry or pasta dish each week with a new fish centered recipe
Focus on Heart Healthy Fats like olives, nuts, seeds, and olive oil
Cook with olive or avocado oil in place of butter
Add nuts and seeds to salads, pastas and meals for increased protein and heart healthy fats
For example, try pistachios in place of breadcrumbs on baked chicken or walnut baked cod one night for dinner (it’s delicious)
Use fresh herbs and spices for flavor
The Mediterranean style diet includes recipes that are full of flavor thanks to herbs like dill, oregano, parsley and basil.
Try making a vinaigrette with fresh herbs for salads
Marinade chicken or steak in a hearty healthy, herb based marinade like olive oil, thyme, and rosemary.
A little lemon and fresh herbs go a long way to season things like chicken, fish and pasta
Try New Recipes
Branching out to try new recipes are a great way to discover new ingredients and flavors. My Pinterest page is full of Mediterranean Recipes for inspiration.
Try a new grilled vegetable and smokey eggplant dip for an appetizer in place of cheese and crackers, never had homemade tazaziki sauce – give it a whirl.
Make Food Something to Enjoy
Throw a mediterranean inspired dinner party and invite friends over to enjoy all the flavors and food
Don’t concentrate on calories, just enjoy food and sharing it with family and friends
Make daily physical activity part of your lifestyle – take an evening walk, try a new fitness class, sign up for a fitness related event, start a challenge with friends
Find something you love to do and make it feel less like a chore and more like a fun hobby
We stayed at an Air B&B in Italy summer where the host made us this delicious bruschetta from tomatoes and herbs from their garden
I’m so excited to share this journey with you! I encourage you to contact me if you are thinking about going Mediterranean in your lifestyle!
Here are some amazing Mediterranean-Inspired recipes to get you started…
This Cauliflower Rice Tabbouleh recipe is a light and refreshing version of traditional tabbouleh and swaps bulgur with cauliflower rice while still providing that same fresh herb and lemon flavor.
Tabbouleh is a middle eastern dish that is traditionally made with fresh, chopped herbs like parsley & mint, bulgur, tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil.
It’s so simple and refreshing. It makes a great side dish and the fresh herbs add so much flavor without being too complicated or overpowering.
I recently saw a version of tabbouleh online and it used cauliflower rice in place of bulgur and I couldn’t wait to try it. After playing around with the recipe a bit, this super simple and delicious Cauliflower Rice Tabbouleh recipe was created.
In this recipe, I used raw cauliflower rice. I like the raw cauliflower rice because it adds a bit of crunch and doesn’t get soggy. This makes it a dish you can make quickly since no cooking is required and holds up well in the fridge for a few days.
You could make your own cauliflower rice (cut up a head of cauliflower into florets and pulse in a food processor until chopped into “rice” size pieces) or buy it pre-made at a store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Some stores carry frozen cauliflower rice but I prefer the refrigerator version because I find the frozen version tends to get mushy when defrosted.
This Cauliflower Rice Tabbouleh pairs great with grilled fish or chicken. I like making a big batch on Sundays and using it as a side dish for lunch during the week. Since it can be made in advance, it also makes a great dinner party side dish. The longer you let the flavors meld together, the more flavorful the dish becomes.
I started this blog about 3 years ago as a way to share my knowledge and excitement about nutrition while I transitioned from a working dietitian to a stay at home mom once my daughter (and consequently then my son) was born.
Nutrition and wellness is a passion of mine and I absolutely love this community and blogging.
That being said, I’ve recently felt overwhelmed and a bit uninspired when it comes to creating content, social media and just the general vibe of all things related to “the domestic dietitian”.
After some soul searching and re-focusing, I discovered that it was becoming hard for me to maintain the generalized “healthy living” focus of this blog. It is such a big field and I felt like I didn’t really have a focus or area of expertise that I could concentrate on.
The field of nutrition is so broad and there are so many avenues to take. When I first started this blog, I simply wanted to share healthy recipes and nutrition tips for anyone that was interested.
As I’ve grown as a person and as a parent, I’ve noticed that the nutrition in my personal lifestyle has changed but the blog has somewhat remained the same.
If you were to run into me on the street or ask me for advice on how to lead a healthier lifestyle, I would ultimately lean towards encouraging you to follow a Mediterranean style diet.
I’ve been captivated my the Mediterranean style of living for some time now and it’s primarily the way we eat at my house. I love the health benefits associated with the basics of the mediterranean diet but also the social aspect of meals and culture I’ve witnessed first hand while spending time in France, Italy and Greece.
The Mediterranean Style of Living
So I’m excited to announce that The Domestic Dietitian will be leaning towards Mediterranean recipes, nutrition tips and lifestyle content. As with anything, it won’t be 100% all-mediterranean all-the-time but that is the new focus.
I’ll be sharing more about the basics of mediterranean style eating in a future post, so stay tuned!
I hope you’ll continue on this journey with me and I cannot thank you enough for being a part of The Domestic Dietitian’s growth and journey!