Celebrate Mediterranean Month This May
April 25, 2010
With obesity and other health concerns growing at alarming rates, this is a subject that Oldways tackles on a daily basis with a variety of programs and is one reason why we have designated May as Mediterranean Month.
Scientific studies consistently report that the healthy Mediterranean Diet and its lifestyle practices reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Plus, there is compelling evidence that omega-3s, found in a number of Mediterranean Diet foods, can boost the health and brainpower of both mothers and infants.
But it’s more than just “good for you.” Consumer Reports summed it up well, noting that the Med Diet “isn't really a diet at all but a style of eating that focuses on an abundance of delicious, hearty, and nutritious food. Just looking at the pyramid… may be enough to make you look forward to the next meal.”
It’s hard to believe less than twenty years ago, olive oil was considered an ethnic food. In fact, back in 1993, when Oldways first introduced the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, a leading health organization sniffed, "Americans will never embrace olive oil; they'll just think they need to pour it on French fries!" At that time, foods such as sun-dried tomatoes, marinated olives, Greek yogurt, and pita bread were hard-to-find specialty foods. Today, Americans shop regularly for them, along with Mediterranean ingredients such as olive oil and olives, hummus, couscous, and many others. And, we’ll even point out that from the mid-90s to 2009, U.S. olive oil imports rose more than 137%!
Still, for good health, it is important that even more people “Go Med” and May is the perfect time to introduce and entice shoppers with varied foods of the Mediterranean found throughout the store. And, while shoppers may already know that this is a healthy way of eating, there are practical benefits too:
- Easy-to-prepare. Mediterranean foods, including vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and seafood, lend themselves to simple cooking and taste delicious at room temperature. In addition, consumers can find an increasing number of packaged and prepared Med foods in the supermarket, from a wide selection of hummus and Greek yogurt flavors to marinated olives, grape leaves, and precooked seafood.
- Affordable. Many consumers have the misperception that delicious, fresh foods are expensive. We – and you – can help bust that myth by showcasing meal ideas that cost just dollars a plate. For instance, a dinner of pasta tossed with fresh tomatoes and olive oil costs under $2 per serving.
To help spread these messages on the supermarket level, there are a number of ways to build interest:
- Educate consumers to look for Med Mark, a Mediterranean Diet packaging symbol. A number of companies that sell healthy Mediterranean foods use this easily recognizable label on products that meet the program's requirements.
- Include and explain the Med Diet Pyramid in supermarket newsletters or consumer materials (Please contact Oldways for permission and details on using this).
- Offer samples of Med foods such as olives, cheese or grains.
- Arrange cooking demos.
- Partner with local hospitals to offer heart-healthy store tours.
We’d love to know how you are celebrating Med Month this year. Together we can help consumers find their “Med” way through the supermarket.
There are many downloadable resources available from the Mediterranean Foods Alliance at (http://mediterraneanmark.org/).
Georgia Orcutt is a program manager for Oldways, a non-profit organization whose initiatives include the Mediterranean Foods Alliance, the Whole Grains Council, and the Latino Nutrition Coalition. She has spent several decades as a writer and editor for Yankee Magazine and other publications, and is the author of numerous cookbooks including Cooking USA (Chronicle Books) and How to Feed A Teenage Boy (Ten Speed Press).
As a nutritionist working for a supermarket, you have a unique outlook on how retailers are increasing health awareness at the store level and the kind of questions that shoppers ask. Each month, we'll be featuring a guest column, written by a nutritionist, that communicates this point of view on a variety of topics. And we want to hear from you. If you are a supermarket nutritionist interested in sharing your perspective and insights, we would love to help you share your thoughts! Please contact Allison Bloom at firstname.lastname@example.org.