Imagine if every meal included fresh vegetables, nuts and extra-virgin olive oil, lasted two hours and was accented with fine wine. Sound like heaven? Well, heaven is an attainable place in NYC if you follow the Mediterranean Diet.
The word “diet” is actually misleading. The Mediterranean way of eating is not like Weight Watchers, Slim-Fast, Atkins or any diet that has you either counting calories or eating your body weight in meat. It’s about more than losing weight, but instead maintaining a healthy heart and enjoying meals.
According to a recent study by the Mayo Clinic that studied 1.5 million adults, eating the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, incidents of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
According to Stathis Antonakopoulos, owner of STIX Mediterranean Grill, “the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle.” It’s not only about what you eat, but also how you eat it.
Chef Philippe Massoud of ilili, a Lebanese restaurant, said following the Mediterranean diet means “eating a lot of different little dishes to compose a meal,” with ingredients like nuts, yogurt and a variety of vegetables and fruits.
Meat, according to both Antonakopoulos and Massoud, should only be consumed in moderation. When a meat fix is needed it should be grilled with olive oil, herbs or lemon juice.
While ingredients are important, a crucial part of maintaining the Mediterranean Diet is taking time to enjoy your food. It doesn’t mean that “in half an hour you gobble down a wheel of Brie and chug half a bottle of wine,” Massoud said.
As New Yorkers, it seems impossible to revamp a routine to include a two-hour lunch with family and friends every afternoon, but according to Massoud, the first step for New Yorkers would be to simply switch ingredients. Choose strained yogurt over cream cheese, drop the butter for olive oil and swap chips for nuts.
Luckily, New Yorkers can eat the Mediterranean diet in city restaurants.
According to Antonakopoulos, you will probably find five pizza places on the way to a Mediterranean restaurant, but you have a choice to ignore the melted cheese and find a heart-healthy meal.
“You have to pamper yourself and have a bit of joie de vivre and appreciate the life that you have,” Massoud said.
Now that’s a diet to stick to.
Five places to eat the Mediterranean Diet
-- ilili, 236 Fifth Ave., 212-683-2929, ililinyc.com
STIX, 112 E. 23rd St., 212-673-6666, stixny.com
FISHTAG, 222 W. 79th St., 212-362-7470, michaelpsilakis.com/fishtag
Balaboosta, 214 Mulberry St., 212-966-7366, balaboostanyc.com