Updated: Jan 22
The Mediterranean Diet: The Ultimate Healthy Eating Plan
Are you looking for a delicious and healthy eating plan for the New Year? Well the Mediterranean Diet might be right for you. This diet blends the basics of healthy eating with the traditional flavors and cooking methods of the Mediterranean.
Why the Mediterranean Diet?
Interest in this diet began in the 1960s when it was discovered that coronary heart disease and cancer caused fewer deaths in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea – such as Greece and Italy – compared to Northern countries such as the UK and USA. Subsequent studies determined that followers of this diet were healthy and had reduced risk factors in developing chronic health issues such as cardiovascular heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer's.
Leading health organizations - such as the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and the US Dietary Guidelines – all recommend the Mediterranean Diet as one of healthiest plans to follow to promote your best health, lose weight and prevent disease.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
People who live around the Mediterranean Sea have traditionally followed a diet that is high in fiber and low in saturated fats – that is also rich in plant-based foods which include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. They also consume moderate amounts of fish and seafood, poultry, dairy, eggs and red wine – and the main dietary fat they use to cook with and use in their food preparation is extra virgin olive oil. (Note that red meat is only eaten on rare occasions)
Other important elements of this healthy diet and lifestyle choice are sharing your meals with family and friends. Sitting down and eating together with no distracting TV or devices…while enjoying a small glass of red wine with your evening meal. And then getting a good night’s sleep!!
Daily physical activity is also another important element…so do a yoga class, go for a walk, take the stairs, play a game of tennis.
Eating the Mediterranean Diet way
Interested in trying the Mediterranean diet? These tips will help to get started:
Eat more fruits and vegetables: Aim for 7 to 10 servings a day of fruit and vegetables.
Select whole grains: Opt for healthier whole-grain and high fiber breads, cereals and pastas. Experiment with other whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, couscous, bulgur and buckwheat.
Choose healthy fats: Use olive oil when cooking. Instead of using butter or margarine on bread, try dipping it in flavored olive oil.
Eat more seafood: Eat fish 2-3 times a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are great choices. Grilled fish is delicious.
Enjoy some dairy: Eat low-fat Greek or plain yogurt. Small amounts of cheese are allowed – try feta, Swiss and cottage cheese and you can use grated parmesan on your meals.
Spice it up: Herbs and spices boost flavor and will reduce the need for salt.
What about wine?
The Mediterranean diet does allow red wine in moderation. Although consuming red wine has recently been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease in some studies, it's by no means risk free. The US Dietary Guidelines caution against beginning to drink or drinking more often on the basis of possible health benefits. So one small glass of red wine per day is allowed, preferably with your evening meal.
It’s Also about the Lifestyle
Following the Mediterranean Diet is not all there is to this plan. In addition to eating healthy foods it is important to improve your lifestyle.
*Stay active every day and make sure you exercise regularly.
* Avoid smoking.
* Get outside into nature and enjoy the fresh air.
*Reduce the stress and worry in your life. Take care of yourself and do a yoga or meditation class - and try and spend some time alone everyday being quiet without distractions where you can just breathe.
*Actively participate in your community. Get to know your neighbors. Do some volunteer work. And be invested and engaged in the world and in the people around you.