Our Mediterranean Quarantine
I’ll admit to not always making the most perfect food and lifestyle choices every day before this crisis hit. But once the immensity of the situation started to sink in emotionally, combined with the fact that we were experiencing actual sickness, we knew there was no time to waste in implementing the absolute most radical self care we knew how to practice. I’m happy to say that we have mostly recovered. There have been a lot of ups and downs with our symptoms, but big improvements over the past few days. Our energy is slowly coming back. I am certain that our fairly quick recovery is due in large part to our adherence to the Mediterranean Diet over the years, and especially the past month. We weren’t just eating survival food, we were eating food that helped us heal.
I wanted to share with you the Guidelines to Eating the Mediterranean Diet with a few new principles we have added into our daily practice as this crisis has brought into sharp focus just what is most important to us, and the many things we, as humans, hunger for (in addition to food).
Guidelines to Eating the Mediterranean Diet
during a Quarantine
1) Reduce processed foods in your diet.
Being stuck at home can be stressful and boring. Both of these are triggers for my sweet tooth. In our quarantine shopping, and every time we sent a request list to a friend to pick up for us, we made intentional choices to not bring junk food into the house during this time. When you’re well, it’s too easy to overdo it on chips or cookies, and then feel crappy afterwards. When you’re sick, you simply can’t afford to eat something that won’t contribute to your healing. Survival food shouldn’t be processed.
Principles 2-7 are an important guide to how to build your meals, and all of the recipes you find on our site will satisfy these.
2) Move towards a plant-based diet with vegetables being the main ingredient at most meals.
The plant based diet is simply the best way to eat for your immune system. We have been loading up on our fruits and vegetables at every meal. This is the survival food we had to continuously stock up on during our quarantine (from friend deliveries).
Plant Based Recipe: Horta (Greens) with Potatoes
3) Eat whole grains every day (can be gluten free).
Whole grains also increase immunity while highly processed grains decreases immunity.
Whole Grain Recipe: Harcha (Moroccan Semolina Biscuits)
4) Make beans, nuts and seeds your major protein source.
While we were sick, we ate lots of almonds, peanut butter and bean dishes. These are all great types of survival food because they last a long time and are filling (and delicious).
Bean Recipe: Eggplant, Lentils and Peppers Cooked In Olive Oil
5) Use meat, chicken, and fish as a “condiment” in soups, casseroles, and stews instead of eating large portions.
We drank a lot of bone broth, both chicken and beef, while we were sick. We also used the beef broth to make rice. We made chicken stew and a bean and beef chili that felt perfect for how we were feeling at the time.
Beef in a Sauce Recipe: Beef Cacciatore
6) Eat the majority of your fat from extra-virgin olive oil.
We have a large supply of really good extra virgin olive from Crete. Olive oil is a potent anti-inflammatory and one of the healthiest fats there is. Healthy fats are a great survival food because they keep you energized and content.
Olive Oil Recipe: Baked Eggplant with Caramelized Onions
7) Enjoy foods high in omega 3-fatty acids (ie: flax oil, walnuts, greens, grass-fed meat, ocean-raised salmon).
Foods high in omega 3-fats are both anti-inflammatories and immune boosters.
Omega 3 Recipe: Sheet Pan Salmon with Asparagus, Lemon and Dill
As for principles 8 & 9: we enjoy dairy and some alcohol when we are well, but avoided both completely while we were sick, as we knew they would not contribute to our healing. Dairy increases our congestion when we are sick and alcohol can suppress the immune system.
8) Focus on naturally low-fat cheeses (feta, goat) and yogurt.
Recipe: Loaded Tzatziki Yogurt Sauce with Fresh Dill, Garlic and Cucumber
9) If alcohol is consumed, drink it at mealtime and in moderation.
10) Eat mostly fruit-based desserts. This is one of my survival food favorites.
Remember how we said we avoided bringing junk food into the house? Well, the only way I could get through this time was by eating a LOT of oranges. I’ve looked forward to eating at least one a day. Last week, we introduced our baby Sophia to oranges (giving her small bits with all the membranes peeled away) She goes out of her mind with delight over the enjoyment of this. Survival food never tasted so good.
11) Move daily with a combination of cardiovascular and weight bearing exercises.
When you have a baby who will only nap in the stroller, and you live in a very hilly area, you have a built-in cardio workout at least a couple times a day. For both of us, these walks have been essential to our emotional well being, both for the exercise factor, and for the chance to be out in nature -to watch spring arrive in the woods and meadows around our house has filled me with hope and reassurance that there are some things we can still count on. If you don’t have a baby who needs walking, you may need to impose this guideline on yourself.
12) Reduce your stress levels by having a daily practice such as mindfulness, yoga, walking in nature, or whatever works for you.
We have used this time to strengthen our spiritual practice, believing that sending out our prayers and energy for our loved ones and for the planet makes a positive difference. It definitely makes a difference in our own hearts.
13) Build a long-lasting community of supportive friends and family.
We are fortunate to already have this in place. We have relied on friends to bring us groceries and medicine during our quarantine, and though we didn’t even see them when they delivered the goods, we felt the love and support that these relationships bring to our lives. We have had phone and video chats with friends and family, and while it’s not as good as seeing people in real life, we are uplifted by the knowing that we’ll be able to see people at some point again, and when we do, we won’t take it for granted. We also know that soon we’ll be able to “pay it forward” and bring groceries and medicine to people in our circle, and in our neighboring community who will need it.
Additional Essential Practices:
Practice gratitude: We have experienced that whatever we put our focus on, grows. So when we feel gratitude, it truly uplifts our moods, and magnifies the good. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we have much to be grateful for.
Slow Down and be in the present moment. So often, when I’m playing with Sophia, I catch myself daydreaming, or worrying. If I allow myself to, I could miss the chance to really connect with her while she plays, really cherish the chance to participate in her learning, to laugh with her, to be creative with her. She is joyfully in the moment, it’s all she knows. My work is to stay there with her. And I know if I need help with this, I can always share an orange with her. (see #10 above)
Rest (a lot). When we were sick, we would take turns napping or resting all day long. One of us would be playing with Sophia and the other would nap. And then we’d switch. Over and over, until we got better. And even now, we are trying to really prioritize resting over anything that’s not essential.
Connect with each other often. Bill and I go about our day largely in our own separate worlds. We seem to be three times busier than we ever were before, and sometimes we forget to look into each other’s eyes and remember that we are in this together. So, we have been practicing connecting throughout the day.
Find Joy in any way you can. I planted some seeds the other day. I’ve never had a vegetable garden before, but I’m feeling called to get my hands in the dirt and connect with the planet. Just yesterday, the first of the seeds sprouted up.
To be certain, this has been a time of going inward- focusing on our health, both physical and emotional. We can take our health for granted, until it becomes threatened, and then, there is suddenly nothing more important. It takes a focus on not only the physical, but also the emotional and spiritual, to stay healthy in this time. Everything is uncharted territory, so we are learning as we go, and we have to be gentle with ourselves and with each other.
We hope that you are all healthy, safe and finding ways to take care of yourselves through food, through the routines that make up your days in this new life we are finding ourselves in. We are here for you and would love to hear what you are doing to care for yourselves during this time.
Check out the Mediterranean Living Youtube Channel for more on the diet and healthy ways of living!