8 easy tips to a more vibrant you!

I recently spent almost three weeks traveling through Israel. One of my main pursuits: Eating.

The variety and abundant availability of fresh, local foods – in every single town and village – was astounding. Food is prepared simply, with seasonal ingredients. Because Israel imports very little food, Israelis truly eat seasonal, local foods as a rule and a necessity. Food is reasonably priced, meaning healthy, fresh food is affordable for everyone. And street food – or fast food – can be healthy, real food, such as a freshly blended watermelon juice or a small bag of nuts or olives from the stands found in every street market. And perhaps most importantly, there is a spirit of hospitality that pervades the country, where people meet and gather over meals, spending time together and connecting with each other as they nourish their bodies.

As a registered dietitian and nutritionist, it became abundantly clear why the Mediterranean lifestyle has always been touted as a plan for good health and longevity. Good food – food that tastes good and is good for you – is the standard, not the exception, and is shared with family and friends. In fact, research shows that people who follow a Mediterranean lifestyle reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

In Northwest Washington, we have an environment in which we can follow this lifestyle. We have access to a variety of fresh, local foods and farmers who raise animals in healthy environments to provide us with good quality milk, eggs and meat. We have an abundant supply of heart healthy fish. And we have access to parks and recreation year-round.

Following are eight tips to apply the Mediterranean lifestyle to your own life.

1. Move your body.

People in Israel, and in the rest of the Mediterranean, walk everywhere. They take the stairs. Activity is a natural part of their daily life. Even if you don’t like to “exercise,” fi nd activities – dancing, jumping on a trampoline, gardening – that you enjoy and do a little bit every day.

2. Eat a diet rich in plant-based foods.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and legumes, and whole grains – these should be your diet staples. And please don’t relegate them just to dinner. In Israel, breakfast usually includes eggs and a vegetable salad.

3. Use healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados and nuts.

Fat is good for your body – it keeps you satisfied and full longer, fuels your metabolism, stabilizes blood sugar and is an essential part of many other body processes. Mono- and polyunsaturated fats help lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and can help reduce inflammation. Like all things good, moderation is best. Don’t go crazy.

4. Cook with lots of herbs and spices.

Adding flavorful fresh herbs and spices to your dishes gives a big fl avor punch – and adds powerful antioxidants to your foods, which can help prevent chronic diseases and slow the aging process. For example, a pinch of ground cloves contains more antioxidants than a serving of blueberries!

5. Limit red meat to a few times a month, and eat fish weekly.

Eating red meat is okay occasionally. Just try to limit your portion size to four to six ounces – about the size of a deck of cards – and choose meats from locally and humanely raised animals. Meat from pasture-raised animals is better for our bodies, including having higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

6. Include small portions of cheese or yogurt, along with a serving of fish, poultry or eggs each day.

In Israel, local white cheeses (such as feta or goat cheese) and yogurt are included as a side dish in almost every meal and are great sources of calcium and protein. When you’re eating cheese, just try to limit your portion size to one ounce – about the size of a pair of dice. It’s easy to get carried away!

7. Drink red wine, in moderation.

Research suggests drinking red wine with your meals can help keep your heart and arteries healthy. But don’t go overboard – doctors recommend no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women. And drinking wine with friends has added health benefits, which brings us to …

8. Enjoy meals with the people you love.

Research on blue zones – those communities with the highest percentage of centenarians, or people living more than 100 years – shows they make their loved ones a priority, take an active part in community life and live their passions.

Lisa Dixon is a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist and co-owner of NourishRDs, a nutrition communications and counseling company.

"As a registered dietitian and nutritionist, it became abundantly clear why the Mediterranean lifestyle has always been touted as a plan for good health and longevity. "