This past week I was fortunate enough to get to head out to Oakura to watch the pasta making process at Toret Cucina Italiana our new Italian restaurant here in Taranaki. I was intrigued by Toret as they appeared to embody all I’d learned about what the Mediterranean way of eating should be. So, when the opportunity came up to head out there and see how authentic pasta is made… count me keen.
I must say, that this was one of my favourite 2020 experiences. The team at Toret were so welcoming I left there feeling like I’d just spent the afternoon with good friends.
Their principles revolve around flavourful food, slow food (if you’ve ever made sourdough you know what I mean), connection and quality ingredients. Tuesday is pasta making day and I was intrigued watching the process. Nico, Victor and Kim made Tortelloni filled with Kumara, goat cheese and burnt butter (OMG) and tagliatelle which they use for their ragu. I even learned the somewhat raunchy story of how tortellini came to be (Google it).
Sadly, I wasn’t able to stay for lunch but will be back very soon for a taste!
So, what’s a nutrition coach doing posting about pasta? Well, if you’ve been following me online for some time you’ll know how I feel about all foods being part of a healthy diet. But pasta, pasta making and Mediterranean food, in general, is so much more than that. The Mediterranean way of eating is so much more than what we eat – it’s also about the how and the why and that is what makes it so special (and healthy).
Though I am well aware of the literal translation of diet, I choose to refrain from calling this way of eating the Mediterranean DIET. Reason being, as soon as you slap the word ‘diet’ alongside something it brings with it a hefty list of rules and restrictions and well – that never ends up well.
There is so much pressure on women to look at a certain way and fit in but the Mediterranean way of eating isn’t (and shouldn’t be) about losing weight it’s about enjoying delicious food and good company.
There are so many studies on the Mediterranean way of eating and almost everyone can agree that this way of eating in a traditional sense (not the fabricated diet dogma approaches) is one of the healthiest ways to eat (and live).
So, makes it so healthy?
Naturally, a traditional Mediterranean way of eating revolves around natural foods – home-cooked without packets and that in itself will provide us with a variety of nutrients and other things our bodies benefit from. But there are some other honourable mentions when it comes to this way of eating that makes it a great way of eating to consider for our “most of the time”.
Plant-based: The Mediterranean way of eating is the OG of the plant-based diet. They did it long before it was ‘cool’. But, by plant-based, I’m not talking meat-free. It simply means trying to get as many fresh veggies and fruit, legumes and whole grains as you can within your budget.
Lots of healthy fats: I’m so glad that we’ve moved on from the fat fear. Geez we’d be missing out on this essential macronutrient! The Mediterranean way of eating surely doesn’t avoid it, instead, they enjoy a variety of healthy fats in the forms of olive oils, nuts, seeds, and other quality fats. Fats are good for our bodies, they are good for our brains and they just make everything taste better too. Keep your olive oil with the salt and pepper and consider it a daily condiment.
Local foods: Enjoying foods that are locally grown and raised is not only a more sustainable approach but as Victor, one of the chefs at Toret reminded me, they are also more flavourful. Whenever possible enjoy a variety of local foods, a good place to start being your local farmers market. There’s nothing like saying thank you directly to the person who grew or made your food. Better yet, if you’re able – grow your own? Even if it’s just some fresh herbs in the window.
Quality foods – In general, when we chose locally produced and grown foods high-quality food is a natural side effect. When it comes to eating well and enjoying food - satisfaction matters. It’s the cornerstone of Intuitive Eating. When we feel satisfied, we don’t feel restricted and when we don’t feel restricted we open ourselves up for a healthy balanced way of eating. So when choosing foods to eat – enjoy the best of the best within your means.
Balance and red wine: Can you imagine a Mediterranean feast without dessert? Most days of the week it’s traditional to have a bit of fruit or cheese following a meal but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for sweet delicacies. Dessert should be appreciated and is best enjoyed with good food, friends and family. I love that all foods fit in a traditional Mediterranean way of eating, and it’s so important that our way of eating also reflects the same. And of course, there’s the red wine…
Slow food: Another great thing about the Mediterranean way of eating (and many of the ‘so-called’ blue zones) is that the food produced is produced slowly. Cooking and eating aren’t a rushed affair – sitting at our desk typing away while inhaling whatever lunch we have– it’s about taking the time to create beautiful foods and even more time to sit and enjoy eating them with good company. Think sourdough, homemade pasta and slow-cooked ragu! I can remember meals both in the Mediterranean and with European friends – they were often an event in themselves taking the time to have good conversations over good food – nourishing both body and spirit!
Which brings me to another principle of this way of eating and that’s enjoying food together. Connection, as they say, is the opposite of addiction. When we connect with people we love and appreciate this fills us up in a way that food can’t.
No matter where we are in the world if we appreciate and adopt a few of these principles we can be sure that we will be nourishing ourselves in ways that will make our body and soul feel great. It’s not about rules, it’s not about restriction it’s about bringing back our birthright to produce, enjoy and share good food together.
* Remember, with all dietary suggestions, to take them with a 'grain of salt'. Please consider your lifestyle, budget, preferences and accessibility etc. - and simply do the best you can with what you've got, where you are.
If you want to work with me, or my Empowered Eating coaches to help you feel great AND have balance and freedom around food - get in touch! We'd love to help.