Fresh Fridays

January 23, 2015
Vol. VII No. 2
In This Issue
January 23, 2015 - the date of this Fresh Friday - is the 22nd anniversary of the introduction of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. On this anniversary, it is interesting and instructive to look back - with the benefit of hindsight - at the intent of the scientists who worked with Oldways to develop the first Mediterranean Diet Pyramid (shown on the left, above - with the current 2009 version on the right). Although this event took place more than two decades ago, the purpose that seemed radical then remains incredibly fresh and spot-on in 2015.  

In today's Fresh Friday, we'd like to take you back in time, to recall just how radical this event seemed in January 1993. Just one year earlier, the USDA had introduced its first Dietary Pyramid, which many experts felt did not reflect the best of nutrition science. Rather than simply complain, Oldways teamed up with the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center at the Harvard School of Public Health to document healthier alternatives grounded in traditional diets. Our plan was to organize a series of conferences titled "Public Health Implications of Traditional Diets," bringing together international experts in diet, nutrition and health -- and then educate the public on the results of our findings.

We'll turn to excerpts from the official account of the first such conference, in January 1993, to continue our story. This account is a much-quoted article titled "Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating" in the 1995 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition's supplement on the Mediterranean Diet written by Walter Willett et al. 

"One purpose of these conferences is to develop a series of food guide pyramids that reflect the diversity of worldwide dietary traditions that have historically been associated with good health. These cultural models for healthy eating will be presented graphically as pyramids in a manner similar to that used by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its 1992 food guide pyramid.

A principal objective of this initiative is to foster discussions among international scientists and government officials with expertise in public health, nutrition, agriculture, and the environment about culturally based dietary patterns likely to promote good health as suggested by current clinical and epidemiological research. The graphic representation of these models as pyramids may be revised in response to new data from ongoing and future research."

Mediterranean Diet: 1960s Characteristics
"The Mediterranean diet of the early 1960s can be described by the following characteristics: an abundance of plant foods (fruit, vegetables, breads, other forms of cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds); minimally processed, seasonally fresh, and locally grown foods; fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert, with sweets containing concentrated sugars or honey consumed a few times per week; olive oil as the principal source of fat; dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt) consumed daily in low to moderate amounts; fish and poultry consumed in low to moderate amounts; zero to four eggs consumed weekly; red meat consumed in low amounts; and wine consumed in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals.  

As much as can be determined, this diet was low in saturated fat (less than or equal to 7-8% of energy), with total fat ranging from 25-35% of energy from one area to another. Data also indicate that work in the field or kitchen resulted in a lifestyle that included regular physical activity and was associated with far less obesity than was observed in the United States."

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
"The Mediterranean diet pyramid is designed to convey a general sense of the relative proportions and frequency of servings of foods and food groups that contribute to this overall dietary pattern, modified in light of contemporary research. The pyramid is meant to provide an overall impression of healthy food choices rather than to define recommended weights of certain foods or proportions of energy obtained from them.  Where the pyramid does indicate relative frequencies, they are intentionally nonspecific because good health has been associated with considerable variation within the overall pattern. is designed as a dietary guide for the general adult population and may need to be modified to meet the needs of children, pregnant women and other special population groups."

"The Mediterranean diet constitutes a centuries-old tradition that contributes to excellent health, provides a sense of pleasure and well-being, and forms a vital part of the world's collective cultural heritage. For Mediterranean people, the pyramid describes a traditional diet that can be readily preserved and revitalized within a modern lifestyle. For Americans, Northern and Eastern Europeans and others who wish to improve their diets, the pyramid describes a dietary pattern that is attractive for its famous palatability as well as for its health benefits, and one that can be adopted in its entirety or in conjunction with meals inspired by other healthful dietary traditions from cultures throughout the world."

To celebrate the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid's 22nd anniversary, try one of the dishes we served at the 1993 Conference on the Diets of the Mediterranean -- or check out the Fresh Friday bookstore, or Oldways 4-week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe.
This dish was served at Oldways' first Mediterranean Diet Conference Gala Dinner, held at the JFK Library, looking out over Boston Harbor. In her classic cookbook, The Splendid Table, radio host and award-winning cookbook author Lynne Rossetto Kasper writes, "there are almost as many different renditions of Brodetto as there are fisherman," but "all agree that tomato, olive oil, and wine are constants."

Recipe adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table. Content and photo courtesy of Oldways.
This salad from Paula Wolfert's award winning book, Couscous and other Good Food from Morocco was served at the final lunch at Oldways' first Mediterranean Diet Conference. Paula helped us design the menu, and was fluttering around as the buffet was assembled.  She needn't have worried. The lunch was a huge hit!

Recipe adapted from Paula Wolfert. Content and photo courtesy of Oldways.
The first lunch at Oldways' first Mediterranean Diet Conference was a Greek lunch, prepared by Diane Kochilas, an American-Greek cookbook author and teacher. This recipe celebrates the marriage of greens and olive oil, for as Greek doctor and nutrition scientist Antonia Trichopoulou always says, "olive oil makes the vegetables go down!"

Recipe adapted from Diane Kochilas. Content and photo courtesy of Oldways.

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be. 

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        





Let the old ways be your guide to good health and well-being.       



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This month-long promotional campaign, created in 2009 by Oldways and the Mediterranean Foods Alliance, generates awareness of the delicious foods and amazing health benefits associated with the Mediterranean Diet and its vibrant lifestyle through media, supermarkets, health professionals and social networking.

For more information, visit Med Diet Month.

by Nancy Harmon Jenkins 
Spanning the Mediterranean from Spain to France, Italy, and Greece, with side trips to Lebanon, Cyprus, and North Africa, this revised and updated edition of Nancy Harmon Jenkins' acclaimed cookbook offers ninety-two mouthwatering new dishes plus the latest information about the nutritional benefits of one of the world's healthiest cuisines.

by Elizabeth David
Long acknowledged as the inspiration for such modern masters as Julia Child and Claudia Roden, A Book of Mediterranean Food is Elizabeth David's passionate mixture of recipes, culinary lore, and frank talk.

by Paula Wolfert 
This revised edition of Mediterranean Cooking celebrates the sensuous pleasures and "Big Taste" of cooking in the various styles of the countries surrounding the world's largest inland sea. In more than 150 authentic recipes (75 of them brand new), Wolfert reveals the aromas, flavors, and textures of this bountiful area, which includes coastal France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, and other neighboring countries.