Dimitra Papamichou’s latest book features healthy desserts. Photo: Courtesy of Dimitra Papamichou
MELBOURNE – Dimitra Papamichou is an expatriate who has been living in Australia for the last few years and is engaged in research on the Mediterranean diet. She is a PhD candidate at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), a public research university in Melbourne, and will soon be launching a study for patients with type 2 diabetes. Papamichou has her own show which airs on SBS radio based in Sydney and has published a number of books on nutrition and weight loss, which can be found online: https://bit.ly/3od1mcI.
TNH: Diets are usually associated with eating small amounts of bland food. Is this really the only way to lose weight?
Dimitra Papamichou: To be precise not only is this not the way but just the opposite! I believe that the surest way to lose weight and maintain the weight loss is with a diet that we will love and be able to make it a way of life which means that our diet should be very tasty and satisfying. It is possible to lose weight with a monotonous and very low calorie diet but it is not sustainable and [most people] will give up on it very soon.
TNH: What should a healthy diet contain and how can it become a way of life?
DP: There are many models of healthy eating but what has been studied most of all is the Mediterranean diet. And here it is good to clarify that when we say Mediterranean diet we do not mean moussaka and souvlaki! The Mediterranean diet is a mainly vegetarian diet characterized by the consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. This is its basis. There is very little meat. It definitely has fish (2-3 times a week), moderate consumption of dairy, eggs, and poultry, and minimal red meat (at most once a week). Making the Mediterranean diet a way of life is very simple since it is a diet very rich in taste and aromas. Of course, it is good to think outside our boxes and to be open to new ideas and recipes made with very healthy ingredients that do not lag behind in taste at all!
TNH: You have published books on nutrition. In fact, in the latest, which was released recently, you suggest sweets are a “gift” for the body. But is that possible?
DP: Of course, it is! These are sweet nutrient bombs that the more often we eat the healthier we become.
Made without sugar, “bad” fats, additives or preservatives, these sweets have a low glycemic index, are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and are made exclusively with ingredients from nature! These are basically combinations of fruits and nuts with oats, cocoa, or in some cases a little dark chocolate added. These sweets fill us up and do not create dependence and desire for more sweets.
TNH: Is it important to count calories when we want to lose weight?
DP: It goes without saying that in order to lose weight we must be in a caloric deficit.
No one disputes that. But it is one thing to eat a croissant with chocolate and another to eat a full meal.
The calories may be the same but in one case our appetite will increase while in the other we will be full for an hour.
There are also foods that the body can digest quickly and easily resulting in it absorbing all the calories and foods that the body finds difficult to process resulting in some calories not even being absorbed.
On the contrary, the more processed a food is (e.g. croissants, cookies, white bread, etc.) the more bioavailable its calories are. In simple words, the body does not find it difficult to process them and absorbs them all.
That is why it is very important not to consume foods that are just low in calories but those that are not processed. It will help us to have incredible energy, it will strengthen our immune system, and it will make us feel much better psychologically
TNH: Will you share with us one or two dessert recipes that we can enjoy without regrets?
DP: Yes, of course. I will share two very simple and very tasty desserts! Let me say that in the last e-book I have written there are 45 recipes for very healthy sweets that we can eat every day if we want.
[Note: Measurements in the recipes have been converted to U.S. standard.]
Mug Cake “Brain Boost”
3 tablespoons oats
2 teaspoons tahini
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons almond milk (or preferred milk)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup dates
1/4 cup blueberries
1 ounce dark chocolate
Soak the dates in boiling water for 10 minutes. Then drain the water and mash them with a fork. If necessary, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. Place the mashed dates, the tahini and vanilla extract in a large mug suitable for the microwave and mix. Add the oats, milk, and cinnamon and mix well. Finally, add the dark chocolate and blueberries to the mixture. Add blueberries on top and bake in the microwave for 70 seconds.
That’s it! Our super healthy mug cake is ready!
If preferred, use a small ovenproof baking dish instead of the mug and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes.
The recipe is nistisimo, lactose free, and vegan.
Chocolate Ice Cream
Servings: 2 (160 g about 1 cup / serving)
2 very ripe frozen bananas, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 dates soaked for 10 minutes in boiling water, cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon almond milk (or preferred milk)
Place the bananas with the almond milk in the food processor or blender and pulse until creamy. It will not become creamy immediately but continue to process and after a while the texture is transformed. Do not forget to stop the food processor or blender every 30 seconds or so to scrape down the sides and not overheat the food processor.
Add the rest of the ingredients, pulse until fully combined, and the ice cream is ready.
Serve immediately or put it in the freezer, if you want a firmer texture.
Made with pure ingredients, full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it is literally a gift for the body!
Without sugar and saturated fat it is so healthy that we can eat it every day.
Consider that one serving gives us 7 grams of fiber (more than one apple)
The recipe is nistisimo, sugar free, gluten free, lactose free, and vegan.
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