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Mama Was Right

David Rocco's Mediterranean diet

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Mama Was Right

David Rocco's Italian roots nourish a tight connection with family, but they also put him in touch with what we now know to be one of the healthiest and most delectable ways of eating. It's called the Mediterranean diet.

David Rocco’s Italian roots nourish a tight connection with family, but they also put him in touch with what we now know to be one of the healthiest and most delectable ways of eating.

It’s called the Mediterranean diet. Since the mid-1990s—when Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University’s School of Public Health first introduced the concept to a North American public—nutritionists, healthy eating advocates, and gourmets have joined to sing its praises.

When it was first introduced, North Americans were still enthralled with low-fat, low-carb, and high-protein—anything, it seemed, but balanced eating. With the Mediterranean diet, we’ve returned to the sound idea that eating a variety of wholesome, fresh, minimally processed foods is a key to good health. Mama was right!

A diet and a lifestyle

“The Mediterranean diet is considered a very heart-healthy diet because of the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, the emphasis on nuts and legumes, and the use of whole grains and healthy oils,” says Marco Di Buono, director of research for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

BC-registered dietician Patricia Chuey agrees, but cautions that the traditional Mediterranean diet is quite different from the plates heaped with pasta and calorie-laden sauces that most North Americans think of as Italian food. “In the traditional diet, the pasta and bread are kept in proportion to the fruits and veggies,” Chuey said, adding, “It’s the simplicity of the diet that makes it healthy.”

Both Di Buono and Chuey point out that the Mediterranean diet also features a lifestyle based on lots of physical activity.

Add an innate understanding of the restorative power of eating and drinking with people you love, of taking the time to enjoy their company as much as the food on the table, and you have the recipe for Italy’s dolce vita. When seen through the prism of David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, it is indeed a very sweet life.

“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”

Rocco is a Toronto-born and -bred, effervescent “non-chef” (his own self-description) whose Italian roots are deeply embedded in the family kitchen where he learned to love and prepare the simple, exquisitely flavourful dishes of his parents and grandparents.

David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, based on the first two seasons of his hugely popular Food Network show, is his first full cookbook. It is for all nonchefs who want to prepare healthy and delicious dishes that are easy on the cook.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has commissioned Rocco to do 12 recipes, one for each month until March for their website (heartandstroke.ca). Some of the recipes are adapted from the new book, released in November 2008.

One notable difference between the book’s recipes and those developed for the Heart and Stroke Foundation website is that Rocco’s inclination to use generous doses of heart-healthy olive oil has been reduced to comply with H&S guidelines.

But, says Rocco in defence of his original recipes, “Olive oil is not a problem, especially when drizzled raw, and it is way better than butter or margarine.

“A healthy diet is also about moderation and how much we eat. As well, if the healthy food we cook does not taste fantastic, it’s no wonder kids and families get tempted with fast food or junk food.”

Here's a taste of Rocco's Mediterranean Diet:

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