T Nation

The Secret About the Mediterranean Diet


We're often confronted with the superior Mediterranean diet.

I have to travel to that area, mostly Greece but a couple of times Spain, Portugal, not Italy though) regularly and I'll let you in on a little secret.

This is how the standard Greek diet looks like.

No breakfast. Or a couple of sweet cookies at work.

No meal at 12 o'clock either.

Around 15.00 they start to get a bit peckish and perhaps they'll eat a light meal like a small piza or something.

Finally, around 18.00 but it might be as late as 20.00 or even 22.00 they get their first full meal. Which consist mainly of porc and french fries.

You heard that right, porc and french fries.

This is my experience after about a dozen visits to that area. So it's not a one time thing.

But what about the fish? Don't they eat a lot of fish?
Nope, fish is considered food for the poor. Fish is cheap but frequently not even available at restaurants.

And I'm sure the switch to french fries is rather recent (last couple of decades probably). But this is what the average mediterranean guy eats.

The panic on the face of the waiter when you correct him on his "french fries of course..." is simply priceless. But also sad in some way. Again, frequently they're simply not able to serve anything else but french fries and have to resort to white bread.

So now I'm wondering, all these pictures of really old but still active people over there. Perhaps they're not that really that old, but just look old?

Just thought I'ld share this with you. Spent a full 6 days in Greece last week and I managed to get a total of 3 meals on 3 days but only 2 on the others.

I had to threaten the staff in 1 hotel to get breakfast. The other hotel was more compliant but the third was simply unable to provide any breakfast at all.

Convinced one customer to get me something to eat around 14.00 but the others simply woudln't budge.

I'm at the mercy of my collegues over there and I warned them I wouldn't return to help them out if they didn't feed me at least 3 times a day. This was their final warning.

The e-mail to HQ is sent.

I'm wondering. I'm sure a few people on this list have to travel sometimes for business or whatever. What do you eat when you're on the road?


I don't have to go on the road so often but I generally make my own MRP bars. Ingredients vary based on how many carbs/fats I want etc. I usually allow for about 4 of them per day I'm away but I'll try my hardest to find a proper meal instead if I can. I don't particularly like living off of MRPs but, as you say, colleagues can be a little less than understanding when it comes to our food requirements.


Dang, I logged on to see if the Joe DeFranco presentation at the SWIS conference was up only to see this.

Let me say, wreckless, it's good that you realize that the Mediterranean diet actually is in fact the diet of the Greeks.

But that pretty much is the only thing that was even remotely accurate in your post.

just out of curiosity, are you English-er, I meant of course, British?


Were all your visits to cities? The food that is described in the Med diet is that consumed by the farmers and 'peasant' class. They grow and catch their own food (fish, fruit, whole grains, veggies, olive oil), unlike their 'smarter' urban counterparts who 'luckily' can afford to eat wonderful processed timesaving food to match their busy city lives.


Nope, I'm Belgian.

Like I said, I've visted Greece quite a few times. Athens, Patras, Volos, Thesaloniki.

But you think I'm just making this up or what?


MRP bars sound great!

Can you give me the recipe?


Yeah,thats why half of them greeks are sticks. No muscle,just skin and bones. But,hey.I guess thats that new fad....right?


no no wreckless, I don't think you are making stuff up.

I think that Daz pretty much hit it on the head.

I have been to all the cities you've mentioned except for Volos. Your business is around the port cities, huh? all good, for me Patras is a city like no other on this planet.

But anyways, the sky will not fall if you do not get lunch at 12:00. especially if your business hours are from 9 to 2, as are most morning business hours in land of light. I do not know your situation, but if what I just wrote is news to you... then it's good you emailed your HQ.

In terms of pork and french fries, you say, "The panic on the face of the waiter when you correct him on his 'french fries of course...' is simply priceless. But also sad in some way."
Let me tell you what's sad... you went into a souvlaki joint looking for the Mediterranean diet. souvlaki places = McDonalds. I can't imagine anyone going to McDonalds in high hopes of getting a superior nutritional value. You may say that you went to a 'taverna'. same thing, mon ami.

If people are not buying fish, then how do you explain the existence of a fish market on every other block in the cities you mentioned? And since when has fresh fish become cheap?!? I have to pay freakin' 7 euros ( the same price for a cut of steak) for non-farm raised fish. And even if I buy a farm raised fish, it is healthier than the scandalous American version of fish farms. The Greek fish farms are in the sea where the water inside the farm is the same as the sea- none of that aquarium style stuff.

It must suck to be the grim reaper, seeing those Greeks smoke like chimneys (yet many roll their own cigarettes which I suppose cuts down on a lot of the more lethal chemicals that commercial cigarette comapnies add) and even having some wine for breakfast and still having the highest life expectancy in Europe- living to their late 80s and 90s having it as nothing to walk several miles to top of the mount just to see the sun set. So in that sense, those who look old, are not all show and no go...

To me the only reason Greeks are able to get away with that is becuase of their diet- which is not poisoned like the typical American diet.


Your description is typical of what I would think a tourist would say. Even one that has frequented Greece as much as yourself.

I lived in Greece for over a year, and got quite the chuckle at your post.

Lets just say that your description is not the Greece I knew. Perhaps the pork and fries in the evening, but...oh I could go on forever.

Thanks for the laugh!


my sentiments exactly


Highest life expectancy in Europe? It's higher than the US for sure (46th place at 77.43) compared to Greece at 78.94 in 2004.

But Andorra, San Marino, Switzerland, Sweden, Iceland, Guernsey, Italy, Gibraltar, France, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Spain, Norway, Jersey and the Faroe islands are all better off than Greece in the statistics (not including the non-european countries). All of these are not countries per se but it's still not true.

Comment on the topic of the discussion: I've been to Greece several times, and you can get a very healthy diet if you just work for it and leave the mainstream tourist areas.


Well having pent ALOT of time in Greece myself I think I can safely disagree with almost everything you said - sorry mate.

When I've been there I've always thought how natural, tasty and fresh the food is. I remember sitting in a taverna and seeing this Greek kid tucking into an avocado, mozarella and tomato salad drenched in olive oil with a plate of taramaslata on the side and thinking how refreshing it was that it wasn't a burger and chips.


Interesting comments by the original poster.

I am an Australian from Greek decent (parents both Greek) and have travelled to Greece on numerous occasions. What you describe sounds more like a night out on the booze - late night souvlaki with chips!

Every hotel I have stayed at has a HUGE continental breakfast. An not just the hotels in Athens - try islands including Crete, mainland, Patra, Thessaloniki, etc. Go to a taverna and you cop dips, followed immediately by a big bowl of salad (with olive oil, feta, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers). Meet? Pick something they can char-grill and voila they will have it, beef, chicken (winner), fish (mega winner), souvlaki on skewers, souztoukakia, etc.

You must be looking in the wrong places. Get out of the 'upper class' places and ask where the locals go. I have eaten in restaraunts in Athens which are just as expensive as 3 Michelin star restaraunts in London and have the same crap (ie 'knob' of butter to make a damn steak...!). Avoid these.

It is actually really easy to find the good places/tavernas. Look and ye shall find...


Well, bringing back a fresh fish from the local market and preparing it in my hotel room, I somehow get the impression that this would be frowned upon. :wink:

Like I said, I'm at the mercy of my collegues and clients there and this is the food I'm getting. Or, often, not getting.

Skipping lunch won't kill me, I'm sure.
But skipping first breakfast, then lunch and having my first decent meal around 20.00, well that sort of pisses me off. I'm a bit peculiar that way. Especially when it happens a couple of days over the week.

Looking back at my post, it may give the impression I'm bashing Greece and the Greeks somehow. I didn't mean to. I'm just very unlucky and frustrated the minute someone else has some say over what I eat.

Last year my brother had a big bbq in his garden. Since it's only half an hour drive from where I workout, I went there immediatly after my training. To my disappointment my genius brother had the bright idea of having a bbq without meat. Actuaaly without any other sources of protein either. So that was fun.

We regularly have meetings at HQ, which is a 4 hour drive from where I live. These morons never fail to be surprised when we turn up around noon, all hungry and looking for food.
"Hi guys, welcome"
me: "yeah yeah yeah, where's the food?"
"Food? Are you hungry already? Again?"

I'm just saying, the minute somebody else has any say on what I'm eating, I'm fucked.

So now I'm taking food with me where ever I go.

Which tends to embarass people because everybody somehow has the impression they're a hospitable people.


The Med Diet is legit and almost for sure decrease rates of most debilitating disease and increase max life span. However, this would be an interesting q: what are their T-levels like? Is it really worth it to live an extra six years with lower T - that's the question...


I read the outline for this diet, and all I can say is that for the most part it will make you one scrawny bastard. The protein intake seems quite low. Eggs ONCE a week?!?!?! Meat once a MONTH?!?! Are you kidding me?! I'd die on the thing!


meat is god's gift to mankind.


I meant "avg" life span not max!


I know one couple who started the diet and lost 10 pounds in one week....most of it being water and muscle.


Here here! Where in the hell did this guy stay!? I was born in Greece and have spent a lot of time there. There is food everywhere at all times of the day! Huge breakfasts, huge lunches, Huge dinners, huge snacks, Huge everything! FOD FOOD FODD! i had to beg them to stop feeding me!