Loretta’s Mediterranean Foodie Blog  – Day #29

Contributed by: Loretta Ann Stevens, MHC Board of Directors

Mental health and physical wellness are two sides of the same coin, so eating a healthy diet to help have a healthy mind is a no-brainer. 🙂 What better time than Mental Health Awareness Month to adopt eating habits such as the Mediterranean diet, that has been established to benefit your body and mind?

As a young girl growing up, my mom and I would hang out in her kitchen while she prepared authentic Lebanese dishes for the week. She would cook a larger meal on Sunday by adding a few complementary dishes. We would gather as a family with my grandparents and some relatives and everyone, to this day, raves about her cooking.

My mom learned how to cook Mediterranean food from the older women at our church since her mother was very ill growing up. Every month she would meet with these women at the church kitchen where she would learn how to cook Mediterranean recipes in preparation for upcoming church events. The Lebanese recipes usually included grape leaves, meat pies, spinach pies, baked kibbee, tabouli salad, and baklava for dessert. These healthy dishes are considered ideal comfort food for the soul if you are Mediterranean or enjoy this kind of food.

What I remember most fondly, and enjoyed whole-heartedly over the years, was the experiences of gathering with my mom in the kitchen where I also learned how to make her recipes. She is still a better cook than me, but I guess I do alright. As I grew older, I was fortunate enough to cook with the church ladies along with my mom and cousin, where we would look forward to enjoying each other’s company, laugh, and connect with the food we were making that would soon be shared with others. We also made baskets and delivered them to the nursing homes during the holidays. One recipe that people always loved, that is also one of my favorites, is the tabouli salad. Here are the ingredients and my mom’s famous recipe in my family that I will share with you:

Tobouli Salad: (Parsely, tomato, and cracked wheat salad)

    1 cup of wheat (burghul) fine (wash and cover wheat with hot water and soak 10 min)
    4 bunches of parsley (chop very fine)
    1 cup of mint leaves, fresh or 1 T of dried (optional)
    1 bunch of scallions chopped
    5 tomatoes diced
    ⅓ cup of olive oil
    Juice of 3 lemons
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Mix all together and serve over Romaine Leaves and enjoy.

While we navigate the uncertain waters of our New Normal, the disruption to our daily habits has created the perfect opportunity to create new ones. It’s also more important than ever to take care of our mental health during these unprecedented times by establishing self care with how we prepare our daily meals using healthy recipes that include Mediterranean food.

While the exact definitions of following more of a Mediterranean diet, the general principle is to eat a more plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes/nuts, and healthy oils (e.g., olive) while reducing your consumption of unhealthy, highly-processed foods containing lots of added sugar.

Findings pointing to the benefits of a Mediterranean diet on mood, especially later in life, have been found in numerous studies and included at American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting. In addition to its mental health benefits, the Mediterranean diet is already well associated with a reduced cancer risk.

Taking steps towards feeling better inside and out will help you lead a more rich, productive life.

If you enjoyed today’s blog, please consider making a donation to Loretta’s #31DaysofWellness fundraiser at https://mhconn.networkforgood.com/projects/100813-loretta-stevens-s-fundraiser for #FundraiserFriday!

Loretta Ann Stevens is the Founder & CEO at Competitive Edge Branding and The Senior Executive Women’s Network and lives in Vernon, CT