They invented the Olympics, philosophy and their statues do not spare an ounce of fat. We travel to the land of olive trees to discover some of their healthy habits.
With all these precedents one can draw a fairly close picture of the Greeks, beyond their honourable past as inventors of the Olympics and geometry. Perhaps it is due to its Mediterranean situation or to its relaxed, familiar and vitalist lifestyle, or to the fact that Pythagoras was a vegetarian, but the truth is that today’s Greeks know all the secrets of food to strengthen health.
These are the 9 eating habits that will shape your body in the style of the ancient Greeks.
1. Always start your meal with a salad
Surely you have never eaten the typical Greek salad called ‘Kalamata’, although Greeks have hundreds of delicious recipes of raw vegetables. And it is likely that you do not know, but so loving are the salad that in ancient times was often served as a dessert. An essential food that cannot be missing in any Greek table.
The main purpose of eating salad is to stimulate the appetite before the main meal. Starting with the vegetables is satiating and prevents you from eating too much later on. Also, the chef includes in his work some homemade dressing recipes that combine olive oil, vinegar, spices, lemon juice and honey.
2. Make cooking a true experience
We live in an eternal Olympiad from which we will never be victorious: hurry, prepared food, snacks to cheat the stomach between meetings in order to spare the feeling of hunger. Well, the Greeks, always so familiar, include a healthy habit that they call ‘Agape’, that is, learning that cooking is relaxing and a true art. Agape is a joyful and harmonious state of mind, free from chaos. In Greek culture cooking is a highly celebrated and respected spiritual experience, which connects us with ourselves, with others and with nature. The secret? Take the kitchen as a game and not as an obligation, accompany the preparation of a stew with music and even dance and sing while doing it.
3. Disconnect from the world during the meal
What’s the point of spending an hour cooking something you’ll eat in two minutes? The Greeks take the ‘Agape’ also to the table and avoid any distraction that prevents them from savouring good company and, above all, the dishes. It is not respectful to answer the telephone and watch television while eating, particularly in the company of others.
Cooking with spices is one of Greek secrets to taste the dishes in a simple and low-calorie way. This kind of thing breaks the harmony, prevents energy from flowing and this time is necessary to enjoy food that will nourish you and heal your body and your soul. In addition, eating slowly makes us feel satiated before.
4. Green is the new black
In Ancient Greece they used vegetables as medical purposes and still today Greeks consume green leaf plants for their antioxidant properties, vitamins and minerals. Even Greek children are taught to identify these plants and it is not uncommon for part of their leisure to make family outings where they play to collect them. Leafy vegetables always fit a meal.
Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world.
5. Eat according to the season
The resin or mastic is one of the most precious ingredients of Greek cuisine, which is accompanied by a less curious story: the resin comes from a tree that can only grow in this Mediterranean country and when someone has planted it in another place, it dies. It also happens to many different types of plans around the world, that they cannot grow properly in some specific seasons of the year.
The best advice, according to the chef is to bring a recipe book to cook seasonal products. Not only to eat healthier, when buying in the local market you will also save money.
6. Less is more, also on the plate
Forget processed foods and apply simplicity. This is the formula: a pinch of salt, a splash of oil and cumin. This return to essence will have a triple beneficial effect on our bills, health and waistline. In Greek cuisine the ingredients are used simply and moderately, and they never overlap other ingredients. The goal is to achieve proportion, that is, harmony of taste.
7. The key ingredient
A delicious trick to dress the dishes: sprinkle feta cheese on a plate of stewed vegetables, as it will add flavour and is a much healthier option than a slice of pizza, and it will also be a geometric option.
8. Mash them!
Although with Turkish origins, tzatziki based on yogurt and cucumber is one of the best-known Greek sauces. And Greeks love puree, an invention that emerged in order to avoid using forks: It was the solution to eat before the forks and spoons and it is an excellent way to add more vegetables to stews. For example, ‘dolmades’, grape leaves stuffed with rice or quinoa, can be combined with a tzatziki sauce and cumin, an herb that the ancients believed was anti-cancer.
Plato believed that food should have simple flavours, even sweets. This means that you do not have to use processed cakes, cookies or ice cream with an infinite list of ingredients. The dessert is only a band-aid at the end of the meal, like a yogurt with honey, fresh fruit or, if we want something more complex, baklava. This last dessert, also of Turkish origin, is made with a paste of walnuts dipped in syrup and there are many varieties. Although something more caloric, if it is homemade and we eat it in moderation, the baklava can be a tasty option to put an end to a meal, or to taste in the middle of the afternoon.
There are ways to travel without moving from home, doing it with the palate is one of them. And if we also get the toga feel great by adding Greek ideas to our menus, much better.