Category: Maximizing Quality of Life

21 - Mediterranean Cuisine Comes to You

Decades of research demonstrates adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been shown to help decrease risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. It is now a recommended eating pattern by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.  However, Americans have been very slow to adopt this healthful diet. In addition, there is a lack of nutrition education materials to teach about it, especially in a cross-cultural, experiential, cuisine base approach.   

Penn State Extension Registered Dietitians/Educators developed and a new program, Mediterranean Cuisine Comes to You, based on Social Cognitive theory, a study tour in Crete, Greece in 2014, the PREDIMED study and recent research. The objectives: 1. Participants will increase meal planning following the Mediterranean diet meal pattern 2. Participants will increase intake of plant proteins, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, olive oil, whole grains, herbs and spices, and seafood and leaner meats   3. To partner and promote local growers and food producers.  The program consists of four PowerPoint based face-to-face lessons with lesson plans and instructor’s guide; olive oil, cheese, and greens tasting activities, discussion sheets,18 recipes, retrospective and follow-up evaluations,  handouts, marketing and evaluation tools.The target audience is adults interested in Mediterranean cuisine and healthful eating. This new program was offered throughout the state in 2014-2017 to 234 participants during four weekly, two-hour classes. Lessons included Mediterranean lifestyle principles and research, hands-on food preparation, presentations by local growers and food producers, and class activities. Most sites also included a local winery tour and tasting as a part of the final class.There is also a new online course that was completed in November, 2017. The course can be taken upon demand, at the learner’s own pace.

Results and Outcomes: Using a retrospective post evaluation (N=234) and 6 month follow-up (N=63), 69%, (62% follow-up)  are now planning meals with a Mediterranean meal pattern, 67% , (73%)  more plant proteins, 69% (76% ) eat more fruits and vegetables, 65% , (59%) use more olive oil, 57% (68%) more whole grains and  60% (65%) more low fat cheese and yogurt daily, 56% (65%) use more herbs and spices, and 53% (65%) more seafood and low fat meats.


Lynn James

Senior Extension Educator
Penn State Extension
Sunbury, Pennsylvania

Lynn James, MS, RDN LDN provides educational programs to adults, youth, food retailers, community volunteers and organizations on improving nutrition, health, and food safety in Snyder, Union, Northumberland, Lycoming, Montour and Columbia counties, as well as state-wide leadership for nutrition and health program training and curriculum development. A Registered Dietitian, she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Science degree in Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University, and completed a dietetic internship from the Veterans Administration and University Hospitals of Cleveland. Her program focus is community nutrition research and programming in food and culture and family chronic disease prevention, Type 2 Diabetes, and food safety. She has published several articles and a book chapter, and developed several award-winning curricula on child overweight prevention, senior nutrition and wellness, and Mediterranean cuisine and healthful eating patterns.