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We all know that – deep down – diets only “work” if you stay on them indefinitely, which tends to be near impossible as most diets are fairly restrictive.
But what about the Mediterranean diet? Does it fit into the fad diet category or is it just guilty by association? In other words, does it get overlooked as a healthy approach to eating just because it has the word “diet” behind it?
According to nutrition experts, the Mediterranean diet is NOT considered a fad diet as there are many health benefits offered by this particular eating plan. So, if you are looking for a long-term eating style that is healthy and non-restrictive this so-called “diet” might be for you.
Read on to learn more…
The Mediterranean Diet reflects a way of eating that is traditional in the countries that surround the Mediterranean. But you don’t need to travel any further than your local supermarket to discover its delicious flavors and fresh foods. It’s easy to bring the remarkable health benefits and affordable Mediterranean style of eating to your kitchen cupboards, refrigerator, table and plate every day. Embracing the Mediterranean lifestyle is about making some simple but profound changes in the way you eat today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life.
So let’s break down the Mediterranean food pyramid to shed some light on the basics of this plan for healthy living.
STARTING WITH THE RIGHT FOUNDATION
Starting at the base, the Mediterranean food pyramid recommends something a bit different than others. Yes, the exercise is present (it’s suggested to be active for 30 min a day), but what about the part that says “enjoy meals with others.”
Why is this?
It’s an “eating less” secret weapon! Notice that while visiting a Mediterranean country eating isn’t rushed. Eat and run? Never! Eating a meal is an event and should be considered a time to engage with friends and family.
Additionally, the extra time allows for our brains to register that our stomachs are full! Eating in a hurry disables your body’s ability to do this effectively. Though we may not always have 2-3 hours to eat, there are other ways to come up with slowing down, so get creative and do what works best.
WHAT TO EAT WHEN LIVING THE MEDITERRANEAN LIFESTYLE
FRUITS, VEGETABLES, WHOLE GRAINS, NUTS & SEEDS
To eat Mediterranean style, a good amount of your plate should consist of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
NOTHING processed. There is no way around it.
Now with respect to what types of fruits and vegetables to eat, do what the Greeks do and eat what’s in season. It’s going to be cheaper because it’s in abundance and packed with flavor.
You’ll also notice a big jug of olive oil nestled nicely behind the carrots. This is where Greeks and other people following the Mediterranean eating plan get most of their fats. Olive oil is the most abundant oil and is used for pan frying and drizzling over pasta and veggies. It can also be used in place of salad dressings (try adding a squeeze of lemon juice for extra flavor).
Eating fish is a critical component of the Mediterranean diet, so be sure to start incorporating it into your diet if you don’t already.
There are all kinds of fish out there, so find what you like and start there. Whether it’s salmon or halibut – follow your taste buds to discover your favorites. Try sauteing, baking or grilling with fresh herbs and spices. You can eat crustaceans or shellfish as well. Bonus!
DAIRY & POULTRY
The poultry, eggs and dairy category looks drastically different than its American counterpart. Poultry is the next most commonly eaten type of meat after fish. Eggs are eaten occasionally, mainly for breakfast, but not on a daily basis.
The Mediterranean’s go lighter on the dairy and what is consumed is cultured for easier digestion. Fresh cheeses like Feta and Ricotta are preferred over aged cheeses which are higher in fats. Yogurt is another dairy option and can be used for sauces, like Tzatziki.
It might be different to see meat and sweets mixed together on the same level of the pyramid. But according to this eating plan, consuming red meat and sweets should happen about 2-3 times a month.
WE GET TO DRINK WINE?
Lastly, an indulgent favorite for many, wine! Known for being a source of antioxidants, wine consumption (in moderation, of course) is emphasized in the Mediterranean diet. However, wine can certainly be left out for individual health reasons or personal preference.
When it comes to liquids, it is also recommended that you drink a minimum of 6 glasses of water daily.
MEDITERRANEAN FOOD PYRAMID ROUND UP
You can see that the Mediterranean way of eating is heavy in:
- fresh produce
- olive oil
And low in:
- red meats
The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes satisfaction over deprivation and shows that it’s actually possible to eat healthy food that tastes great. While other food fashions may come and go, Mediterranean cuisine, by its very nature, will always have a place at the table and is a great guideline for healthy fare.
8 SIMPLE STEPS FOR EATING MEDITERRANEAN STYLE
- Eat lots of vegetables
- Change the way you think about meat – smaller amounts and less often
- Enjoy some dairy products – think Greek yogurt and small amounts of cheese
- Eat seafood regularly
- Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week – build meals around beans, whole grains and vegetables
- Use healthy fats – extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, olives and avocados
- Switch to whole grains – the fiber will keep you fuller for longer
- For dessert, eat fresh fruit
And for those of you looking for additional tools to help you on your weight loss or weight maintenance journey, check out PhysIQ by LifeVantage.