Flourish with Food: The Med Approach to Poultry, Eggs, Cheese and Yogurt 

The last 2 months of Flourish with Food focused on the Mediterranean Diet (Med approach). Again, it’s important to remember…. it’s an overall healthy way of eating inspired by the common eating patterns of people living in the Mediterranean region.  

Easy guidance, in pyramid form, on the region’s foods and how often they’re eaten is available at Oldways. The pyramid’s base includes vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and healthy fats - core foods encouraged to be eaten daily.

This month, Flourish with Food will focus on the Poultry, Eggs, Cheese and Dairy Yogurt grouping.  People living in the region eat foods from this grouping daily to weekly in moderate portions. There is a lot of leeway between daily and weekly when thinking of how often.  Per your preference for!  Moderation will take personal reflection on how much.

Let’s begin with getting some culture via dairy yogurt. Yogurt’s nutritional pluses include healthy gut bacteria (probiotic), high quality protein and calcium. Another plus: yogurt cultures help digest lactose (milk’s natural sugar), allowing those with lactose intolerance to often enjoy yogurt.  The brake on healthfulness comes on with the amount of added sugar, sweet mix-ins (calories and sugar) and saturated fat. 

Yogurts, without mix-ins, can contain from zero to 3 tsp of added sugar (1 tsp = 4 grams sugar) in a 5 or 6 oz container. Plain yogurt and those sweetened with stevia or monk fruit extract are a best bite.  If plain dairy yogurt is not appealing, add fresh fruit or choose those with less than 9 grams added sugar (2 tsp). Chobani, Dannon, Fage and Siggi’s offer a few sugar-free or less sugar (1 tsp or less) flavored yogurts.

Greek yogurts generally have twice the amount of protein, especially important for older adults.  Heart healthy nonfat and low-fat yogurts have less saturated fat. Covering dairy-free yogurts is for another month.

The American Heart Association supports up to 2 eggs a day for most older adults, given egg’s nutritional benefits (especially protein), low cost and convenience. Since most protein is in the egg white, substituting 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg boosts the protein in cooked eggs.

Cheeses common to the region include feta, parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, ricotta and chevre (goat cheese). They are generally eaten in small amounts. Because of their stronger flavor, these cheeses are often a flavorful ingredient in a mixed dish.

When eating hard cheeses, such as cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella or provolone, 1 -2 oz would be considered a low-to-moderate amount. “Lite” or low/reduced-fat forms are often available, easing the concern for the higher saturated fat content. Cottage cheese (1/2 cup) is an inexpensive rich source of protein.

Poultry is a most versatile alternative to red meats as a main entrée or as an ingredient in a mixed dish.  A moderate amount is viewed as 3-4 ounces (boneless) cooked.  One cooked chicken thigh (without bone and skin) is typically 3 ounces. Think of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. Tasty chicken-based sausages are available in the market.  Not much else needs to be said about chicken except it’s a great source of high-quality protein.

Orzo with Feta, Olives, Tomatoes and Dill (4 servings)

From Oldways

- 4 ounces orzo, preferably whole grain (~ 2/3 cup)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, to lightly coat orzo
- ½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved"
- ½ cup sliced kalamata olives
- 1/3 cup feta cheese
- 1-1/2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
- Salt and pepper, to taste

1.) Bring large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil.  Add orzo and cook until al dente.
2.) Drain quickly in a colander in the sink and immediately cool by letting water flow over it.  Set aside until completely cool and drained.
3.) Transfer to a large bowl.  Add olive oil to coat but not drench pasta. Add tomatoes, olives and feta. Salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well.  Serve immediately.

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.