What is the Mediterranean diet?
The countries surrounding the Mediterranean follow a specific eating pattern which is traditional. There is no need to live in Spain, Italy, or France to practice this way of eating. Many people around the world are now opting for this diet for its various health benefits. Mediterranean foods are perhaps the healthiest in the world. The Mediterranean diet menu does not involve a strict diet plan but it involves physical exercise and also the enjoyment of eating wholesome food. Here you will get an idea about the healthiest diet in the world – Mediterranean – you are free to make small changes or transform your diet completely.
How to start the Mediterranean Diet menu plan?
The traditional Mediterranean diet meal plan has developed over many years amassing great knowledge of the human body, its needs, and the way it functions. You may look at several Mediterranean diet sample menus but the main idea is to follow the Mediterranean diet basics. The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, developed by Oldways, from the USDA, provides a basic blueprint for the Mediterranean diet meal plan.
Thus, the simple Mediterranean diet must comprise half of your plate full of fruits and vegetables, one-fourth of your plate healthy protein, and another quarter of your plate whole grains. The following points further cover the essential parts of a Mediterranean diet menu:
Fruits and vegetables:
The Mediterranean diet proposes 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Even 3 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Try and add veggies and fruits to your meal any and every way possible; add spinach to your eggs, add avocado and cucumber to sandwiches, have an apple with nut butter for a snack, and not your favorite crackers. In your Mediterranean diet shopping list, choose a variety of colors, and shop in the proper season for optimal nutritious fruits and veggies. Sample list:
- Greens (kale, spinach, collards, arugula)
- Brussels sprouts
Whole foods over processed foods:
The traditional Mediterranean diet menu never includes processed food. Opt for whole foods instead. For instance, choose foods with one to three whole-food ingredients, like oats, couscous, or bulgur. Whole foods include whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits, vegetables, fish, and olive oil. Whole foods form the Mediterranean diet basics.
We all know how Olive oil is the main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. Forget the fatty vegetable oils and butter for good. The Mediterranean diet menu will typically emphasize eating the following:
- more heart-healthy fats
- polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
- Fewer saturated and Trans fats.
Olive oil will amazingly lower your cholesterol levels and improve your heart or cardiovascular health. It is most advisable to opt for the Extra Virgin Olive oil which is easily available in all markets and stores, online or offline.
Feeling hungry for a nice crunchy snack? Go ahead and shamelessly snack on your favorite nuts! Just like olive oil and avocados, nuts are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are the real healthy fats. Nuts are super rich in protein and fiber too. Fat, protein, and fiber are the three essential nutrients needed for you to stay satisfied and full, while also keeping blood sugar levels stable, lowering cholesterol levels, and even reducing bodily inflammation. All nuts have healthy fats but walnuts have the most omega-3s. You may choose to pair the nuts with a fruit or vegetable if you feel too hungry. Chickpeas and fava beans are the most typical nuts in the Mediterranean region. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pine nuts, and Sesame seeds are also traditionally eaten nuts of the Mediterranean diet. So feel free to snack on a quarter-cup of tasty nuts between lunch and dinner. Choose from a large variety of nuts as desired for your daily snacks, salad toppers, and sandwiches!
Whole grains over refined grains:
Try to forget your favorite white rice and pasta. Swap them for whole grains like bulgur, farro, and barley. Whole grains are rich in B vitamins and fiber and are great for checking cholesterol levels and helping in weight loss. Legumes and beans also have similar health benefits as whole grains and hence, are an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. You are free to mix, match, and experiment for quick and easy side dishes, grain-bowl bases, or simple whole-grain stir-fries. Sample list:
- Whole-grain bread
- Wheat berries
- Brown rice
Skip the sugars:
People of the Mediterranean never really ate much sugar. To satisfy a sweet tooth, they would choose dates, figs, and other fresh fruits. Processed cookies, processed crackers, refined flours, and sugars were never a part of the traditional Mediterranean diet menu. So you must leave cookies, creams and ice creams for special occasions. The Mediterranean diet is hence perfect to keep diabetes away or under control by keeping blood sugar levels under check.
Seafood naturally forms the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. Fish becomes the main source of protein. Fishes like sardines, tuna or mackerel, contain high doses of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids reduce inflammation while improving cholesterol levels. Whitefish and shellfish, however, may not be as high in omega-3s but are also good lean protein sources.
The lean meats of chicken and turkey are often welcome in the Mediterranean diet menu.
Eat less of your pork, beef, or lamb meats. Whenever you do, simply combine a small portion with vegetables and whole grains for a balanced meal.
The Mediterranean diet allows unprocessed cheeses like Brie, ricotta, feta, and Parmesan. You can enjoy yogurt too, but choose plain, fermented, and Greek yogurt while avoiding the high-sugar, flavored yogurts. Well, we know how America loves cheese and tends to be a cheese-on-everything society. So instead of sprinkling or dumping cheese on top of almost everything that you eat, try and aim to eat from a variety of flavorful cheeses, but in moderation. Choose something like feta or ricotta cheese instead of the processed American cheeses.
Herbs & Spices:
Red wine is best for the Mediterranean diet menu. For women about 5 ounces per day and men about 10 ounces per day, wonderfully completes the Mediterranean diet.
A Mediterranean style diet is a way of eating where much importance is given to vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and olive oil. They mainly consume fish for the protein instead of red meat or poultry. Red wine is also a part of the meal plan but in reasonable amounts. Poultry and eggs are eaten from time to time but processed foods and red meat are not at all consumed regularly. Here is some classic favorite that must be added to your Mediterranean diet menu:
- Easy Brown Rice Pilaf with Spring Vegetables
- Moroccan Lamb Chops with Tomato-Olive Relish
- Roasted Barramundi with Asparagus Gremolata
- Cantaloupe & Cucumber Salad with Fresh Za’atar
The Mediterranean diet decreases the chance of heart stroke and diseases because of its low cholesterol content. It is also effective against mental disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and hence good for long life. Few types of research claim that this diet also helps in reducing anxiety, depression, type 2 diabetes, and few cancers.