It seems as though the media popularizes new fad diets before you can even get to the grocery store to follow the last celebrity endorsed eating plan. Names like Paleo diet, gluten-free diet, and wheat belly are thrown around and mixed up almost constantly. What many people forget, however, is that the word “diet” does not always mean restriction; it is simply a way of eating. The eating plan that is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the Mediterranean diet, and is followed by people all over the world because of its many health benefits. Make no mistake, the Mediterranean diet is definitely not restricting. With a focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood, while still allowing all your favorites in moderation, what’s not to love?
The Mediterranean diet is a the typical way of eating in many countries that border the Mediterranean Sea including Libya, Morocco, Israel, Lebanon, Greece, Monaco, and several others. Unlike Americans, those who follow the Mediterranean diet tend to have up to six small meals throughout the day. The meals are primarily composed of plant-based foods, whole grains, legumes, oils, and nuts. Red meat is limited and butter is generally replaced with healthy fats such as olives, avocado and olive oil. Another focus of the Mediterranean diet is the use of spices and herbs to flavor food rather than salt. All of these factors make this a diet that promotes a healthy lifestyle and reduces heart disease risk.
Following the Mediterranean diet is easy and delicious but takes planning! Here are some key items to pick up on your next trip to the grocery or in your college’s dining halls:
- Olive oil: This healthy butter alternative can be used to cook vegetables and fish. Olive oil is also great mixed with vinegar as a salad dressing!
- Fish: Naturally high protein and low fat, fish is a main component of the Mediterranean diet. Fish is also high in important omega-3s, which aid a healthy metabolism.
- Nuts: Although high in fat, nuts contain healthy fats, are high in protein and may help lower cholesterol.
- Fruits and vegetables: These fresh foods are full of vitamins and make for the perfect snack food.
- Whole grains: Bread and unrefined cereals are a large part of the Mediterranean diet. Whole grains are heart healthy because they are loaded with fiber, and when fresh-baked, have little to no trans fat. Try dipping whole grain bread into olive oil!
- Cheese and yogurt: Although dairy is consumed in moderation, calcium and vitamin D are typically obtained through Greek yogurt and feta cheese.
If hummus, bruschetta, pesto, pitas, olives, and herbs are already staples of your diet, you’re on the right track to true Mediterranean eating. With the Mediterranean eating plan, it’s easy to ditch the dieting and eat fresh, heart-healthy food.
Photo Credit: FBM