Are you tired of fad diets, whether it's the whole 30 or the keto diet, which leave you craving for a range of "forbidden" foods? If yes, you will want to learn more about the Mediterranean diet — a way of eating that has been touted for its numerous health benefits and delicious flavors.
It is a diet popular among the countries neighboring the Mediterranean Sea. It incorporates mainly fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fatty acids, contained, for instance, in olive oil.
But how do you get started on the Mediterranean diet? Read on, as this article will explore this popular dietary regimen in more detail. It will provide tips on incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your daily life.
- The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating incorporated by countries neighboring the Mediterranean Sea.
- The Mediterranean diet is popular for its numerous health benefits and delicious recipes.
- The Mediterranean diet is very sustainable. It makes it easy to incorporate the Mediterranean way of eating.
What Are the Main Foods in a Mediterranean Diet?
Foods on the Mediterranean diet are mainly based on traditional eating habits. These habits are borrowed from countries bordering the sea, including Greece, Spain, Italy, and Turkey. It is popular among these countries because it emphasizes healthy foods rather than unhealthy processed foods. The key components of the diet include:
- High consumption of fruits and vegetables and whole grains such as legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Moderate consumption of fish and poultry. You might also find some dairy products.
- Low consumption of red meat and processed foods.
- Use of healthy fats. You are likely to use olive oil instead of saturated fats.
- A glass or two of red wine.
These are the foods you will mainly find on a Mediterranean plate.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. But why mainly fruits and vegetables? Dietitians suggest that they provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals. You will also find vitamins and antioxidants in fruits that help you reduce inflammation.
Some fruits and vegetables on the diet include:
- Leafy greens
- Citrus fruits
Proteins sources such as fish, poultry, and legumes are highly advocated in the diet. They are popular for their rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Healthy proteins are known to:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Reduce cases of depression
- Reduce the risk of dementia
It would be best if you get your proteins from sources, such as:
- Chickpeas and lentils
- Poultry (mainly chicken and turkey)
- Nuts and seeds
The Mediterranean diet is not complete without healthy fats. Dietitians recommend monounsaturated fats in olive oils, nuts, and seeds.
With healthy fats, there are no cases of bad cholesterol. As a result, you will always have a healthy heart while consuming healthy fats on the Mediterranean diet.
Other sources of healthy fats include:
- Almonds and chia seeds
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How to Start the Mediterranean Diet
Do you want to improve your health while enjoying a delicious meal? The Mediterranean diet might be what you need to get started on. But how do you transition and make it your day-to-day lifestyle?
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Start small. Start by making a meal plan that incorporates the main dishes on the diet. Begin by following a weekly plan until you fully adapt to the diet.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. These are the staple snacks on the diet. Ensure you include them and consume them throughout the day.
- Choose whole grains. Brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat are recommended while starting the Mediterranean diet.
- Include lean proteins in your meal plan. Whether fish and poultry or legumes, they are the key to starting on the diet.
- Use olive oil as your primary cooking oil. You can drizzle it on your vegetable salad if you are more of a salad person.
While starting the diet, you should reduce the consumption of some foods. Here are some don'ts when starting the diet.
- Reduce red meat. If you need to consume red meat, it should only be done in moderation.
- Avoid processed foods. Instead, you are advised to focus on fresh whole foods.
Remember, the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle change. To maintain it on a long-term you should constantly:
- Try new recipes to make your meals interesting.
- Take time to enjoy your meals with friends and family. Eating together is the cornerstone of the lifestyle.
- Add some regular exercises to your daily routine.
Related: What Foods Are Not Allowed in the Mediterranean Diet?
Mediterranean Diet Pros and Cons
Here are some potential benefits and drawbacks of the diet:
- Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers are uncommon among Mediterranean diet consumers.
- Improved cognitive function. Dietitians say that the diet reduces the risk of cognitive decline and cases of dementia.
- The Mediterranean diet is highly effective for weight loss and weight management.
- The diet is rich in antioxidants. They help you manage inflammation in your body.
- The diet is very sustainable.
- Some components of the diet can be expensive. Regular consumption of olive oil and seafood can burden your finances.
- Limited food options. Vegans or people having allergies may not find the diet suitable.
-Alcohol consumption. Although only small portions of red wine are recommended, excessive intake can have negative health consequences.
Research done on the Mediterranean diet has consistently shown it improves overall health. Following the diet has been shown to reduce cases of cardiovascular diseases.
For instance, a study on 2600 women who followed the diet for 12 years showed 25% less risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It also showed the diet improved their overall mortality. There are also cases of reduced blood pressure when following the non salt diet that includes low-sodium foods.
Related: Mediterranean Diet vs Paleo: Which One Is Right for You?
Mediterranean Diet Food List
Here is a comprehensive list of foods you will likely find on a Mediterranean diet:
Fruits and Vegetables
- Examples: Apples, bananas, tomatoes, garlic, avocados, broccoli, spinach, carrots, turnips, grapes, berries, and melons;
- Benefits: They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants & help with chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke.
- Examples: Wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal;
- Benefits: Rich in fiber, they leave you feeling full and satisfied.
- Examples: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas;
- Benefits: Main sources of protein and fiber, their complex carbohydrate content reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Nuts & seeds
- Examples: Almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds;
- Benefits: Great sources of healthy fats, they lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease and certain cancers.
- Examples: Tuna, crab, salmon, sardines;
- Benefits: Excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, they reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.
- Examples: Chicken and turkey;
- Benefits: They are healthier alternatives to red meat and a healthier source of protein.
- Examples: Cheese, yougurt and milk;
- Benefits: Good sources of calcium and vitamins, they help strengthen the bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Examples: Olive oil, seafood, seeds, nuts, avocados;
- Benefits: They reduce inflammation and rrotect against heart disease and stroke.
Herbs & Spices
- Examples: Bay leaf, black pepper, cloves, mint, thyme, and turmeric;
- Benefits: They make your food tasty and contain healthy alkaloids & other compounds.
Related: What Does a Vegetarian Eat for Breakfast? 10 Healthy Ideas
Mediterranean Diet Recipes
Where do you start? Let's see a quick and easy recipe for a day's meal.
Try out the following ideas:
- You can start with some Greek yogurt. It goes well with berries and nuts. If you want to sweeten it, you can add some honey.
- An omelet also works well for breakfast. It goes well with spinach and tomatoes.
- Whole grain toast is the other quick fix for breakfast. It goes well with Avocados and eggs.
Your plate should contain mainly greens. These salads are common lunch recipes for the Mediterranean diet:
- You can try a Greek salad. Mainly mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. Add a lemon and drizzle some olive oil as dressing. It's perfect to pair with frittata.
- Quinoa salad. Mainly made of roasted vegetables and chickpeas. Add a tahini dressing as your snack bite.
- If you are looking for a salad alternative, try paella or grilled chicken breast. It goes well with a side of hummus and some vegetables.
Here’s a list of light and simple recipes:
- You can choose to prepare baked salmon. It goes well with roasted vegetables and quinoa pilaf.
- Zucchini lasagna and eggplant. You can side it with a leafy salad.
- Grilled chicken breast. Goes well with roasted potatoes and a Greek salad.
- Add a fresh fruit salad as dessert. You can also have Greek yogurt.
You can add some snacks in between meals, if need be, as follows:
- Apple slices. Taken with almond butter
- Carrots and hummus
- Boiled eggs
- Roasted chickpeas
Related: What Foods Are in the Mediterranean Diet
What Is the Mediterranean Diet and How to Get Started? FAQs
Q: What Foods Are Not Allowed on the Mediterranean Diet?
A: Foods not allowed on the Mediterranean diet are processed meat, refined grains, and alcohol.
Q: What Are the Top 10 Foods on a Mediterranean Diet?
A: The top 10 foods on a Mediterranean diet are:
- Olive oil
- Nuts & Seeds
- Whole grains
- Leafy greens
- Fruits and vegetables
- Red wine
Q: What Do Mediterraneans Eat for Breakfast?
A: Mediterraneans eat the following combination for breakfast: omelet + tomatoes + Greek yogurt.
Related: Going Green: Vegan Vs Vegetarian Vs Pescetarian
The Mediterranean diet is all about healthy eating. It's a lifestyle incorporating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, proteins, and oils. Research has shown the diet to have many health benefits.
With the Mediterranean diet, you will always have a healthy heart while immune to diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes. Starting on the diet is easy since it only involves healthy whole grains and vegetables. With our simple, easy recipes, you can start incorporating a Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle.