I heard someone the other day say, “if your grandma didn’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t for good health”. And whilst nutrition is often over-simplified, I had a think about my grandmother and what her thoughts on nutrition, diet and lifestyle. Besides a few old wive’s tales – she’s got a pretty good idea and focuses on wholefoods. So maybe instead of a 20-something fitness Instagrammer we should be asking the older generation about their ideas on nutrition.
Just an FYI – my family is from a Mediterranean background and the Mediterranean diet is proven to be highly beneficial for heart health, longevity and mental wellbeing too.
(1) Eat less red meat
My grandma has always said that too much red meat isn’t good for you – well before the WHO came out with its recommendations for cancer risk. She’s always said that small amounts of red meat at a time and only a few times a week. Instead of meat, she would rather have fish, seafood, some poultry or legumes and beans which are really popular in Greece (which is where she’s from). Although it is a little hard to get a Greek to give up their lamb!
(2) Eat more fish
Eating fish and seafood in Greece is very common because of the availability of fresh seafood from the coast and islands. My grandmother is always opting for fresh fish and seafood when going out for lunch and at home too. Using fresh Aussie seafood in the diet is important not only for protein but also the healthy omega-3 fats and iodine too. A higher intake of fish is typical of the Mediterranean diet and is linked to reduced heart-related conditions.
(3) Drink water (and coffee)
Whilst water is the main beverage of choice for my grandmother, she does love her coffee too – just like her fellow countrypeople. However, she’ll rarely drink alcohol, fruit juice or soft drinks as she’s always maintained that they’re not the best drink of choice. Water is the first choice when it comes to drink for best health – for optimal hydration and for your metabolism.
(4) Eat vegetables with every meal
No meal is a meal at my grandmother’s house without a side salad, some chopped up cucumber and tomatoes or a side of steamed greens. The Greeks are pretty resourceful getting their green leafy veg from wherever they can. Greens are sourced from gardens or shrubs and boiling them briefly then covered in olive oil and lemon juice – the dish is called “horta“ (translates to grass). A diet rich in vegetables, such as the Mediterranean diet, is associated with longer life expectancy.
(5) Fruit is nature’s treat
Sweets are occasional for my grandmother, and always homemade when she does have them. However, she sees fruit as nature’s sweet treat. Fruit is a key element to the Mediterranean diet providing hydration, fibre and lots of vitamins and minerals needed for good nutrition.
(6) Olive oil (and herbs) belong on everything
Olive oil is always generously poured onto every salad, vegetable or dish in my grandmother’s home. Safe to say – I’ve adopted the same practice. And whilst oils are very high in kilojoules, the healthy fats found in olive oil are immensely beneficial for heart health as proven in the Mediterranean diet pattern. Along with olive oil, Greeks love to sprinkle everything with oregano, dill, parsley or mint for extra flavour. These not only add flavour without the calories but also add lots of potent anti-oxidants to the meal too.
(7) Walk wherever and often
Amazingly, my grandmother is over 70 years old and goes for a walk two times a day for up to 2 km each time AND does physical work during the day too! Keeping herself active has always been her priority and continues to be as she ages. Keeping active in a meaningful and enjoyable way is important for weight management, bone health and maintaining muscle too. Meaningful physical activity is also a key element of the Blue Zone diet which is a pattern of lifestyle followed by the places in the world that have a high life expectancy.