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© Jo Harding / Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc Extra olive oil can be used to dry and soak salads, cooked vegetables and this dip in hummus, Dudash said.

The Mediterranean cuisine has been a staple food that has been recommended by experts since its inception in the 1990's, but it still holds its own with new developed food systems. And if you move to a plant-based diet and a balanced diet, you may be following a Mediterranean diet already without realizing it.

"Recommended as one of the healthiest foods in the world," says nutritionist Michelle Dudash, author of "The Low-Carb Mediterranean Cookbook: Quick and Easy High-Protein, Low-Sugar, Healthy-Fat Recipes for Lifelong Health."
Healthy nutritionist and cookbook author Michelle Dudash recommends a Mediterranean diet that focuses on plant-based ingredients. © Jo Harding / Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc Nutritionist and cookbook author Michelle Dudash recommends Mediterranean vegetarian-based foods.

"And it's not a set of rules that covers everything and anything," Dudash said. "It doesn't have to be all day; it doesn't have to be every week."

It’s not even food in the sense of word weight. It is a way of life for people living in countries around the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition to combining food with local ingredients, food takes a broader approach, based on a lifestyle that emphasizes and enjoys eating with family and friends and waking up and walking all day. Walking and talking with your friend instead of not running anywhere on the treadmill? That's the Mediterranean way.
It is easy to add plant-based proteins and fiber to the diet by replacing the nuts with breadcrumb, as in this cod diet. © Jo Harding / Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc It is easy to add plant protein and fiber to the diet by replacing bread crumbs with nuts, as in this cod dish.

Many Mediterranean foods focus on plant-based ingredients, including fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and grains, and seafood as the main source of animal-based protein.

“Although meat and milk may be part of the Mediterranean diet, it is largely based on vegetables,” says Dudash, who first saw this recipe with his Lebanese grandparents when he was a child.

As an adult, he traveled throughout the Mediterranean, to countries such as Italy, France, Croatia and Monaco, expanding his reach and strengthening his love for Mediterranean life.

Complete and low-carbohydrate ingredients recommended in the Mediterranean diet lend naturally to high-carb foods. By combining this with a large amount of starchy foods such as white bread and rice, red meat, and sugary foods, you can begin to change your diet.

If you are trying to reduce your carbohydrate intake, include plenty of vegetables, fiber and good fats in your diet. Even if you eat a few refined foods, it is easier than you might think to make your life Mediterranean.

Here are some great Dudash tips for changing ingredients and daily cooking habits that you can incorporate into your routine using traditional play ingredients, as well as recipes you can try in Dudash's new book.
Use extra-virgin olive oil for everything
If there is one change to make your diet Mediterranean, then virgin olive oil is your way to go. "Use it freely! I can't tell you how many times I've been to friends' houses, and they have a small bottle of olive oil that they use only in salads," Dudash said.

Extra-virgin olive oil contains saturated fats - a type that can lead to high cholesterol - and high monounsaturated fats - a type that can help lower cholesterol. Polyphenols give extra-virgin olive oil its signature green-gold color and can help fight a host of diseases.

Olive oil labeled "pure" or "light" does not have the same benefits as the extra-virgin type. "That's not a healthy option, and the name has nothing to do with calories. You get the whole process," Dudash said.

He recommends accessing pure olive oil wherever you can use butter or canola oil in the recipe, not just as a finishing oil or dressing salad. In Mediterranean cuisine, he noted, "Olive oil is an essential oil used for cooking on the table, from roasted seafood to dips in salads and cooked vegetables - even to wrap cake dough!"
Hummus is not just a snack

Hummus has a lot to do. The delicious spread is made with high-fiber ingredients such as peas and tahini. It is also suitable for children and goes well with other vegetables. But Dudash thinks you need to think beyond meal time when considering hummus. "You dip your carrots in it, but you take full advantage of it? Probably not."

Wherever you are accustomed to turn to mayo, try hummus or tahini in its place. Dudash wraps the hummus in his tuna salad and uses tahini on Caesar's dress to create a shiny, glittering texture. He even uses hummus as the basis for immersion of seven Greek-inspired layers which is a refreshing change of frozen bean and guac options.

Recipe: Greek 7-Layer Hummus Dip

Dudash also notes that "hummus in Middle Eastern countries is not frozen without a refrigerator, it is given warmly." With this in mind, combine hummus into sauces and sauces in one pan to add moisture and flavor, as well as to absorb some protein. He prefers to add it to brown ground turkey to cover the lettuce.
Swap nuts and seeds for bread

An easy way to get more plant-based protein and fiber in your diet is to replace bread crumbs with nuts or seeds. “It’s a great way to add extra vegetable protein to crusts, breadings or salads, and give them more texture and depth of flavor,” Dudash said.

He mixes chopped nuts with ground turkey as a filling for the peppers and hides almond flour on his Day.

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