Celebrate International Mediterranean Diet Month in May
Shoppers and Trends
April 28, 2013
Guest Columnist Sara Baer-Sinnott
May is International Mediterranean Diet Month and marks the 20th anniversary of the food and nutrition nonprofit Oldways’ introduction of the Mediterranean Diet here in the U.S. along with the Med Diet Pyramid. Dietitians working in supermarkets as well as in healthcare facilities, schools and more can share the Med spirit by relying on Oldways Nutrition Exchange’s (ONE) newest toolkit and other resources honoring Mediterranean Diet Month.
As background, the traditional Mediterranean Diet came to the U.S. back in January 1993, when Oldways and the Harvard School of Public Health convened the International Conference on the Diets of the Mediterranean in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was there that the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was unveiled, representing visually the traditional foodways of the Mediterranean region.
Back then olive oil was mainly an ethnic product. Not long after the introduction of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, a leading health organization wrote, “Americans will never embrace olive oil; they'll just think they need to pour it on French fries!” How wrong they were! Since its introduction in 1993, consumers, educators, and health professionals have used the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid to understand and implement healthier eating habits.
Even 20 years later, the beauty of the traditional Mediterranean Diet is that, unlike restrictive fad diets, it celebrates cooking and eating simple, wholesome, minimally processed foods as well as being active, enjoying delicious meals with friends and family, and drinking wine in moderation with those meals.
The Mediterranean Diet consistently draws praise. Recently, US News & World Report named the Med Diet the Best Plant-Based Diet as part of its 2013 Best Diets Report and The New England Journal of Medicine published findings from a new clinical study showing the Mediterranean Diet may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by as much as 30%.
The benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and lifestyle have also been validated by The New Dietary Guidelines for Americans as one of the most thoroughly researched models for healthy living. And it doesn’t hurt that celebs like Jennifer Garner, Penelope Cruz, Elizabeth Hurley, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Isla Fisher and Heidi Klum have all been linked to the Med way of eating.
Hundreds of other scientific studies report that the healthy Mediterranean Diet and its lifestyle practices reduce the risk of chronic diseases and, while the Med Diet isn’t a “go on a diet” type diet, it can lead to weight loss and overall wellbeing.
Mediterranean Diet Popularity
Foods like sun-dried tomatoes, pita bread, and Greek yogurt were virtually unknown back in 1993, but Med Diet foods like these are now household favorites. Shoppers can now find affordable Med foods including hummus, olive oil, legumes and whole grains at local supermarkets across the country.
Greek yogurt is a good example. In the U.S., retail dollar sales of Greek yogurt increased more than 50% in 2012, according to a recent story in Drug Store Newsregarding research from the Packaged Facts’ report, “The Yogurt Market and Yogurt Innovation: Greek Yogurt and Beyond.”
Think, too, of categories like dips and spreads with new entrants from edamame hummus to white bean dip in addition to multiple new hummus flavors such as red pepper and roasted garlic. Progressive Grocer reported “the $1.259 billion snack/spread/dip-dairy category posted more than 9 percent year-over-year dollar growth for 2010 and 2011.” (Nielsen)
Through Oldways’ Mediterranean Foods Alliance, a program to educate consumers about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and help consumers find Med products, food companies are increasing the visibility and availability of Mediterranean type products on supermarket shelves and educating consumers about exciting ways to use them.
For International Mediterranean Diet Month in May, there will be celebrations throughout the country among consumers, retailers and restaurants and it is an excellent time to showcase products with coupons, samples and more.
For supermarket dietitians, the ONE International Mediterranean Diet toolkit consists of free downloadable resources, from a tri-fold Mediterranean 101 brochure, tips for eating Med-style at home, Mediterranean Diet shopping list, an article on olive oil types, Med diet tweets and more – all great ways to help generate awareness about this healthy and delicious lifestyle. ONE is proving a very popular resource marking a new milestone of 5,000 downloads since launching in November.
Additionally, each day of May, friends of Oldways – leading scientists, journalists, health professionals, cookbook authors and others – will contribute “A Mediterranean Memory A Day” on the Oldways Table blog to mark the 20th Anniversary. The month will also be filled with giveaways, sampling opportunities and more. As always, consumers will have access to Oldways’ expansive digital resources on the Oldways website, including links to health studies revealing the overwhelming health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, practical cooking tips and a vast collection of delicious and easy to prepare recipes.
To help consumers embrace the Mediterranean way of eating and living, Oldways has published a new book, The Oldways 4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan, recently #6 on Amazon.com’s all time Mediterranean cookbooks bestselling list. The 80-page book is available through Oldways’ website store.
Oldways is planning education programs throughout the year in celebration of the 20thAnniversary of the Mediterranean Diet in the U.S. as well as the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid to help introduce even more consumers to this healthful and delicious gold-standard way of eating and living. For more information, please visit:www.oldwayspt.org.
Sara Baer-Sinnott is president of Oldways (www.oldwayspt.org), a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization, with a mission to guide people to good health through heritage, using practical and positive programs grounded in science and tradition. Simply, we advocate for the healthful pleasures of real food. Oldways is the parent organization for The Whole Grains Council and The Mediterranean Foods Alliance, and is well-known for creating the Whole Grain Stamp and the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.