Nutrition Corner: A get ready for the holiday season diet

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret -

Halloween is behind us, and the holidays are straight ahead. For some, this might bring anxiety about seeing family and friends. Maybe you have put on a few pounds and are nervous to see a certain family member. On the other hand, you may have to attend that once a year office party. We all have different motivators to lose weight.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines provides two researched-based diets, the Mediterranean and the DASH diet. This column will focus on the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean eating plan comes from a group of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The traditional eating patterns have shown to be very heart-friendly. Research which is based on these eating patterns comes especially around the island of Crete and from a time frame around the 1960s. The USDA Dietary Guidelines reports these traditional eating patterns are associated with a low risk of cardiovascular disease. We use the word “patterns” because it is a blend of several countries’ habits and not just one specific diet.

In general terms, the Mediterranean diet consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil, fish and seafood and grains. Often the grains were whole grain. Only small amounts of meats and full-fat milk and milk products are included in this eating pattern. Often wine was included with meals.

Much of the foods eaten by the people of various cultures surrounding the Mediterranean Sea were made in the home. Foods were minimally processed. This helped to reduce the sodium, sugar, refined carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats as well as excess calories.

The type of fat prominent in the Mediterranean eating plan is monounsaturated fat. Nuts, olives, and olive oil are key sources of this type of fat. Red meat and whole milk products have a different fat which is saturated fat. Commercially prepared desserts and crackers have trans fats which act much like saturated fats. Both are more prominent in the American diet.

To sum it up, eat more plant-based foods; fruits vegetables and whole grains, legumes and nuts. Replace butter with healthy fats such as olive oil. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods. Increase seafood and decrease red meats.

Here is a guide to get you started. If you consume 1800 calories, this is what your diet should look like:

2 and ½ cup of vegetables (over one week’s time that would be 1 ½ cup dark green, 5 ½ cup orange /red,1 ½ cup legumes, beans and peas, 5 cups starchy, 4 other)

2 cups fruit

6 oz equivalent of grains (3 from whole grains)

2 cups low fat dairy

6 oz of meats( 15 oz seafood, 23 ounces meats, poultry and egg and 4 ounces of nuts, seeds and soy)

22 grams oils (a little less than 2 tablespoons)

It is important to be active, as well. Most folks in this region walked everywhere and were quite social.

Cod is a common fish eaten in most parts of the Mediterranean. The recipe uses fresh tomatoes, however, if you only have canned, add after the zucchini is tender.

Roasted cod with tomatoes, olives and zucchini

1 cup diced tomatoes

2 large zucchini ( or summer squash) diced

1 onion sliced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic cloves chopped

¼-cup olives diced

¼ cup basil, chopped or 2 tbsp. dried

4 cod fillets (4-6oz each)

1 lime juiced, or ¼ cup lime juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place tomatoes, zucchini, and onion in a large baking dish and season with pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, roast until vegetables are tender or about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, stir in garlic, olive and basil. Place cod fillets on top of vegetables and sprinkle with pepper. Drizzle with lime juice. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes until fish reaches 145 degrees.

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at