Getting healthy with the Durango diet

Summer is here in all its glory. Gardens are being planted and, for many of us, summer renews our love of this area.

As you plant your garden, I encourage you to plant an extra row for those who either don’t have a garden or are financially stressed at this time and could benefit from the gift of produce.

This all fits together into what I think of as the Durango diet (aka Mediterranean diet). It is a lifestyle along with a quality of eating. Yes, you are what you eat, but attitude and coping skills can also have significant impact on disease prevention. Try it for just three months.

This diet is all about enjoying life with a recommended eating style. Research continues to tell us that laughing with friends and family, savoring nourishing food and treating your body with exercise will lead to a long healthy life.

Following a lifestyle pattern such as this is linked to a lower risk for heart disease, obesity, cancer and early death:

Start by slowing down. Take 20 minutes to sit down and enjoy a meal. Savor your food, have a glass of red wine at dinner and laugh with friends and family. Enjoy life.

More fruits and vegetables. Being mindful of this goes a long way. Whatever you are currently doing, do more. Buy a rainbow of colors and try something new on each visit.

Cooking. Use more herbs and spices rather than salt. Check out Mediterranean diet recipes on line, the bookstore or the library.

Heathy fats. Try the extra light virgin olive oil – it has many uses and a small amount goes a long way. Just as nuts and seeds are a great addition, the portion of no more than a handful is still important.

More whole grains. When you purchase any grain item, is whole grain the first ingredient (such as whole wheat)? Sometimes, the multigrain breads are deceiving with enriched flour as the first ingredient. Things such as corn tortilla or whole-grain tortilla and breads are going to have more nutrients, lower cost and less processing costs.

Vary your protein. Meat is typically the most expensive part of your grocery bill, so remove it from “center stage.” Anything more than a quarter pound of meat twice a day is unnecessary and a waste. How about trying some kind of fish once a week? Everyone has something that they can tolerate (canned tuna, a few shrimp on the salad, a surprise at the restaurant). The biggest challenge is finding a good recipe and not overcooking it (making it dry).

Mindful eating and portions. Be aware of your hunger level and how much food you’re putting on your plate. Are you eating from hunger, frustration, boredom or anxiety?

Play. This is important for stress reduction – just 30 minutes a day. This may include vigorous activity such as running, biking or swimming, or more moderate leisure activities such as gardening, playing with the dog or walking the river trail.

Alcohol. A serving of alcohol once a day has been found to be beneficial. Alcohol of choice would be five ounces of wine for women and up to twice that for men. or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.