The Mediterranean diet is more of an eating style than a diet. It incorporates a variety of whole, nutrient-rich foods that provide the nourishment important for promoting heart health, reducing inflammation, stabilizing blood sugar, managing weight, and more. There are no strict rules for the Mediterranean diet, as it is based on the traditional foods and eating style that people eat in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea (including France, Spain, Greece, and Italy). Since many people find themselves unsure of how to get started with the Mediterranean diet, we’ve broken down the basics below. One key to keep in mind is that the less processed and more whole a food is, the more likely it is to fit into the Mediterranean style of eating.
Create a colorful plate. Brightly colored vegetables and fruits provide many of the benefits found in the Mediterranean diet. We also eat with our eyes, so see what you can do to have at least five bright colors as the main part of your meal.
Choose fish more often as your animal protein source. Chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese and yogurt are also excellent sources of lean protein, but most of us don’t consume an optimal amount of omega-3s from our food which is what fish can provide. .
Include plant-based proteins. Lentils and beans are fabulous sources of protein and fiber. Enjoy hummus made from chickpeas or a lentil soup a few times per week.
Prioritize healthy fats. Unsaturated fats from fresh salmon, nuts, and seeds provide nutrients that can support the body’s ability to manage inflammation. In addition, these foods are also a good protein source. Olive oil is a main staple in the Mediterranean diet. Use this to prepare salad dressings, marinades, and to cook with.
Go for whole grain. Whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice provide more nutrients, fiber, and protein compared to simple and refined grains. These can also be prepared easily in a large batch and added to meals throughout the week such as a salad for lunch to bring to work or a way to round out a dinner.
Don’t skimp on flavor. Use fresh herbs, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper for flavor. These simple, fresh, and nutrient-rich ingredients can really pack a pop of flavor and offer anti-inflammatory benefits that often go unrecognized.
Vegetables and Fruits – Aim for half of your plate to be filled with fruits and vegetables
Whole Grains– ¼ of your plate should consists of whole grains
Lean Proteins (animal or plant) – ¼ of your plate should consist of healthy protein
Animal Protein – strive to eat fish or seafood at least twice per week, and include a protein source with all meals and snacks
Healthy fats – add the following as a condiment to meals as or as part of the preparation
Dairy – if tolerable, aim for 2-3 servings per day
Healthy snack options
You can start eating Mediterranean by swapping in foods that better align with this pattern for foods that don’t with your meals each day, and before you know it, it will become a healthy way of life.
Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day (aim for half your body weight in ounces). And while red wine is an acceptable part of the Mediterranean diet (only one glass per day), we recommend considering imbibing less frequently.
The Mediterranean diet offers a no-nonsense way to nourish your body as well as protect your health for the long-term. And best of all, once you know the principles of the Mediterranean diet, you can modify your eating in a way that works for you, and focus on the foods you love.
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