The Best Gift for Father’s Day? Help Dad Live a Long, Healthy Life with the Mediterranean Diet (and These Delicious Recipes)

Written by Amy Riolo, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine

          With Father’s Day just around the corner, most of us are busy planning the perfect present for Dad. The usual gifts of cards, neckties, and watches are nice ideas, but the greatest gift you could give your father is helping him achieve lasting health.

          The best way to show love to your dad on Father’s Day is by making a meaningful contribution to his life. Let your dad know that you love him, and that’s why you want him to live a long, healthy, and happy life. Introducing him to the healthful and delicious dishes from the Mediterranean region is a great way to do just that.

          You’ve likely heard of the Mediterranean diet, which was recently named best overall diet of 2019 and has been shown to help extend your lifespan by roughly a decade. This eating pattern has also been linked to preventing heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers, and diabetes, and reducing inflammation. It may even help lower your risk of dementia by a third.

          The Mediterranean eating pattern centers around seasonal produce, fish and seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy, and small amounts of meat and sweets. Part of what makes this diet so successful is that people in the Mediterranean region consider food to be a friend and ally—a source of pleasure, nutrition, history, medicine, and tradition. When combined with lifestyle choices like communal eating and physical activity, the Mediterranean diet is believed to contribute to remarkable longevity in the region. For example, residents in Sardinia are ten times more likely to live past 100 than people in the United States.

          Father’s Day is the perfect time to help your dad make the lifestyle changes that can give him a longer and more joyful life. Read on for two ways you can celebrate your love for your dad and help him start living a healthier life.

Prepare a delicious Mediterranean-style Father’s Day lunch. Show Dad how much you love him by preparing him a special Father’s Day meal. Offering a lunch that features delicious and healthy Mediterranean-inspired dishes is the perfect way to celebrate with your dad and the rest of your family. Not only is this a great time to enjoy healthy food, it’s also a chance to reap the benefits of communal eating, a long-upheld tradition in Mediterranean communities. Sharing a table and enjoying camaraderie with loved ones provides a sense of comfort, security, and stability. Below you’ll find a tempting lunch menu.

Help him stock a healthy Mediterranean pantry. A well-stocked pantry saves time, money, and stress, and makes it easy to eat more healthy meals. With a full Mediterranean pantry in place, Dad can whip up fresh and delicious dishes in just minutes. For Father’s Day, treat him to a shopping trip and stock his pantry with the basics he’ll need to continue cooking healthy meals. (Please see the attached sidebar for a checklist of essential foods and products you’ll need to stock a ready-to-cook Mediterranean pantry.)

          Ready to start planning an unforgettable Father’s Day feast? Read on for a healthy and delicious menu to share with Dad and the rest of your family.

Moroccan-Style Grilled Tuna (Samak bil chermoula)
Gluten-free

Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1 Tuna Steak | Prep Time: 5 Minutes, Plus 1 Hour Marinating Time
and 5 Minutes Resting Time | Cook Time: 10 Minutes

When we think of Moroccan cuisine, lamb, couscous, and tajines usually come to mind. Bordering both the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, however, Morocco offers a wonderful array of flavors from the sea. On our culinary tours to Morocco, we usually stop in a few of the Moroccan coastal towns such as Casablanca, Essaouira, and Tangier in order to sample the North African seafood delights as well as the breathtaking towns themselves.

This recipe features chermoula sauce, a Moroccan classic that tastes great on both chicken and fish. If you prefer to make this dish in the oven instead of grilling it, simply place the fish in a greased baking dish, top with chermoula, cover with aluminum foil, and bake in a 425°F oven for 20–25 minutes, or until cooked through.

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp unrefined sea salt
1/2 tsp paprika
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 (3 1/2-oz) tuna steaks

In a medium bowl, mix the cilantro, parsley, garlic, salt, paprika, and lemon juice and zest together. Whisk in the olive oil.

Place the fish in a glass baking dish and pour half of the chermoula sauce over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for 1 hour.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill the fish, turning once, until firm (about 6–8 minutes). Transfer to a platter, spread with the remaining chermoula sauce, and let stand for 5 minutes to absorb the flavors.

Choices/Exchanges 
3 Lean Protein, 1 ½ Fat

Calories 220
Calories from fat 110
Total fat 12.0 g
Saturated fat 2.3 g
Trans fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 40 mg
Sodium 180 mg
Potassium 310 mg
Total carbohydrate 3 g
Dietary fiber 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 25 g
Phosphorus 275 mg

Healthy Living Tradition
Marinating seafood, meat, and chicken before grilling it not only flavors it, but is believed to reduce the harmful, potentially cancer-causing substances that can be created by cooking over an open flame.

Grilled Italian Vegetables
Gluten-free, Vegan

Serves: 8 | Serving Size: 1 Cup | Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 20 Minutes

Grilled vegetables are used in a multitude of ways in Italian kitchens. From antipastos to pastas and accompaniments for second courses, you’ll find them everywhere. This dish works very well for buffets.

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
2 large red bell peppers
1 small, firm eggplant (about 7 oz), cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
4 small zucchini, trimmed and cut in half

Preheat broiler or grill. Combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, black pepper, and basil in a small bowl. Set aside.

Place whole red peppers over an open flame on a gas grill, or broil under the broiler, until blackened and blistered, about 5–10 minutes.

Place in paper lunch bags and seal shut to enclose steam. After 10 minutes, carefully open the bags (escaping steam can cause burns), remove peppers, peel off the skin, and cut into slices.

Place eggplant and zucchini on a large baking tray and season with remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Broil or grill until golden and tender on both sides, about 5–10 minutes.

When cooked, transfer to a bowl and stir in peppers, pour dressing over, and mix. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Choices/Exchanges 
2 Nonstarchy Vegetable, 1 Fat

Calories 100
Calories from fat 60
Total fat 7.0 g
Saturated fat 1.0 g
Trans fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 120 mg
Potassium 300 mg
Total carbohydrate 8 g
Dietary fiber 2 g
Sugars 5 g
Protein 1 g
Phosphorus 40 mg

Healthy Living Tradition
Leftover grilled vegetables can be used in the Mini Vegetable Frittate recipe (p. 310), stirred into sauces, added to stews, or puréed into a soup.

MangoMiSu (Mango Tiramisu)
Vegetarian

Serves: 8 | Serving Size: ½ Cup |
Prep Time: 5 Minutes, Plus at Least 6 Hours Chilling Time | Cook Time: None

The rich, indulgent flavors of traditional tiramisu are reserved for special occasions in Italy. This version combines yogurt, mango, and cooling cardamom for a light, uplifting treat that is perfect for a healthy indulgence any time of year. Keep in mind that the MangoMiSu needs to set for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight. Peaches and pineapple also work well in this recipe.

12 BelVita breakfast biscuits, golden oat
16 oz fresh mango cubes, or frozen and thawed, divided
2 Tbsp light agave nectar
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups fat-free organic vanilla yogurt, divided
1/2 cup strawberries
8 fresh mint sprigs

Line the bottom of an 8-inch wide bowl with 4–6 biscuits, making an even layer. (You may need to break a few to get them to fit.)

Purée 8 oz mango cubes by placing them in a food processor and processing until liquid. Using a spatula, remove from food processor. Add agave nectar, cardamom, and vanilla to mango purée.

Pour or spoon half of the mango purée over the biscuits. Spoon 1 cup of yogurt over mango purée evenly. Scatter remaining mango cubes over the yogurt, reserving 1 Tbsp for garnish. Sprinkle the strawberries over the mangoes, and top the fruit with remaining 6–8 biscuits.

Pour remaining half of mango purée over the biscuits. Top with remaining yogurt, and smooth out to cover surface. Scatter remaining 1 Tbsp mango cubes over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight or until set.

Serve 1/2-cup portions in small dessert cups. (Alternative plating idea: To plate as 8 individual servings rather than using a large bowl, simply layer 1/8 of each ingredient in a glass dessert dish or wine glass.) Garnish each serving with a mint sprig.

Choices/Exchanges 
2 Carbohydrate, ½ Fat

Calories 170
Calories from fat 30
Total fat 3.5 g
Saturated fat 0.3 g
Trans fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 110 mg
Potassium 230 mg
Total carbohydrate 31 g
Dietary fiber 2 g
Sugars 19 g
Protein 4 g
Phosphorus 85 mg

          Getting healthy and staying that way means adopting a lifestyle that allows you to enjoy more nutritious homecooked meals and share them with the ones you love. There’s no better time than Father’s Day to help your dad make a commitment to eat fresh and delicious foods that will keep him healthy and well for years to come.

Starting a Mediterranean Pantry
Excerpted from The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd Edition: A Flavorful, Heart-Healthy Approach to Cooking 
(American Diabetes Association, May 2019, ISBN: 978-1-580-40702-1, $22.95)

          A well-stocked pantry saves time, money, and stress when you’re ready to cook. And most importantly, it encourages you to eat healthfully. This essential checklist contains all the ingredients you’ll need to prepare delicious and nutritious Mediterranean-inspired meals.

Items to Stock in Your Pantry
The following items are categorized by where they are found in grocery stores.

Baking
Active dry yeast
Agave nectar
Almond extract
Baking powder
Baking soda
Cocoa powder, unsweetened
Cornmeal
Cornstarch
Flour, all-purpose, unbleached; barley; bread;
chickpea; semolina; spelt; whole-wheat;
whole-wheat pastry
Polenta
Salt, kosher
Sea salt, unrefined
Sugar, natural
Vanilla extract

Beans and Legumes
I prefer using dried beans and legumes, but if you are not used to using them, or might need them to be ready to use in a pinch, I recommend keeping canned varieties on hand as well.

Black beans, canned, reduced-sodium
Cannellini beans, canned, reduced-sodium
Chickpeas, canned, low-sodium
Lentils (brown), canned
or dried, no-salt-added

Herbes de Provence (Dried)
Basil
Lavender
Marjoram
Oregano
Rosemary
Sage
Tarragon
Thyme

Italian Specialty
Anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil
Artichoke hearts, canned
Bread crumbs, plain
Capers, packed in water
Espresso coffee
Ladyfingers
Olives, green, black, Kalamata, Niçoise,
and Gaeta
Roasted red peppers, jar
Tomato paste
Tomato purée
Tomatoes, canned, low-sodium
(diced and fire-roasted)
Tuna, canned, packed in water

Miscellaneous
Dijon mustard
Garlic
Granola, low-fat, almond
Honey

Nuts and Dried Fruit
Almonds, blanched
Chestnuts, jar, whole,
roasted or steamed
Dates
Pine nuts
Pistachios, shelled
Raisins
Walnuts

Oils and Vinegars
Corn or vegetable oil, expeller-pressed
Nonstick cooking spray
Olive oil, extra-virgin
Vinegar, apple cider, balsamic, white, distilled

Pasta and Grains
Bulgur wheat
Couscous
Orzo
Quinoa
Rice, arborio, basmati, medium-grain, wild
Whole-wheat pasta, spaghetti, penne rigate

Spices and Seeds
Allspice
Anise seeds
Caraway seeds
Cayenne pepper
Chili powder
Cinnamon and cinnamon sticks
Cloves, whole and ground
Coriander, ground
Crushed red pepper
Cumin
Fennel seeds
Flaxseeds
Ginger, ground
Green cardamom, ground and pods
Juniper berries
Mint
Nutmeg
Paprika
Peppercorns
Saffron
Seafood seasoning
Sesame seeds
Sumac
Turmeric
Za’atar

Stocks
I prefer making homemade stocks and freezing them for future use. However, it’s also good to keep a few boxes on hand in a pinch.

Chicken stock, reduced-sodium
Vegetable stock, reduced-sodium

Items for the Fridge
(Use local and organic if possible)

Carrots
Celery
Cheese, Parmesan, Romano, mozzarella,
feta, and goat
Eggs

Fresh Seasonal Produce
Herbs, fresh
Lemons
Lettuces, assorted
Milk, skim
Onions
Potatoes
Shallots
Sweet potatoes
Yogurt, plain, fat-free

Items for the Freezer
While I prefer fresh food whenever possible, a well-stocked freezer can help when you are short on time. In terms of nutrition, frozen items (without high-fat ingredients or excess sodium) are often a better option than takeout and delivery items, which can sabotage a healthy lifestyle plan.

Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
Fish fillets
Phyllo dough
Vegetables, frozen

About the Author: 

Amy Riolo is the author of The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd Edition: A Flavorful, Heart-Healthy Approach to Cooking (American Diabetes Association, May 2019, ISBN: 978-1-580-40702-1, $22.95). She is an award-winning, best-selling author, chef, television personality, and educator.

A graduate of Cornell University, Amy is considered a culinary thought leader who enjoys changing the way we think about food and the people who create it. Amy is a food historian, culinary anthropologist, and Mediterranean Diet advocate who makes frequent appearances on numerous television and radio programs both in the United States and abroad, including FOX TV, ABC, CBS, NBC, the Hallmark Channel, Nile TV, the Travel Channel, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and Abu Dhabi Television.

For more information about Amy, please visit www.amyriolo.com.

About the Book:
The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, 2nd Edition: A Flavorful, Heart-Healthy Approach to Cooking (American Diabetes Association, May 2019, ISBN: 978-1-580-40702-1, $22.95) will be available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers.