The Mediterranean diet plan follows a way of living that resembles the way that people from countries like Italy and Greece ate in the 1960s. The diet focuses on fresh fruit and vegetables but with flavorsome additions like herbs and spices or the occasional glass of red wine, and it’s said to have a number of health benefits.
We often hear about diet trends that make you follow one particular food group or focus on proteins or carbohydrates but rarely do these diets focus on a location. The Mediterranean diet plan is one that lives up to its name, following the eating and lifestyle habits of those places that border the Mediterranean sea.
The reason for the popularity of this diet is that it provides numerous health benefits and weight loss, but also keeps the important flavors in food. This means that although you’ll have to cut some things out, you’ll also get to enjoy a whole range of flavor-rich meals that you probably wouldn’t expect on a regular diet.
Whenever you’re planning on starting a new diet, the overhaul of your pantry and fridge can seem like an arduous task. This diet can be started slowly and simply with just a few replacements in your meals, and because there’s no need to calorie count if you don’t want to, it’s not as strict as you might think. We’re here to explore the nutrition behind the Mediterranean diet and what benefits it can offer.
What Is the Mediterranean Diet Plan?
The Mediterranean diet plan is fairly self-explanatory, following the nutrition and lifestyle enjoyed by countries that neighbor the Mediterranean sea. Research has found that especially during the 1960s, citizens of these places were exceptionally healthier and less obese than their American counterparts, and a closer look at their diet revealed why.
The basis of this diet is to eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy oils, nuts and seeds, fish and seafood, and whole grains, among other things. Red meat should be limited and sugar should be always avoided, but you are allowed to have a glass of red wine occasionally.
The thinking with this plant-based diet is that as long as you follow the recommended healthy foods you should have no need to count your calories, as you’re avoiding the refined and sugary things. It’s recommended to use oils and herbs and spices to give your food flavor so that you don’t feel as though you’re missing out.
What Foods Should You Focus On?
Although there’s no bible related to the Mediterranean diet plan, most people agree on the same foods. These are the food groups that you should be aiming to eat and how much of it you’ll need:
- Fish and seafood: It’s recommended to eat two serves of seafood and fish each week on this diet.
- Fruits and vegetables: Fruits like apples, strawberries, melons, and figs that are high in fiber should be eaten twice a day. Vegetables include broccoli, kale, spinach, and tomatoes with at least five serves a day.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, and cashews are just some of the nuts and seeds that are good for protein and healthy fats.
- Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, and peas are all part of the Mediterranean diet and a healthy form of protein and fiber.
- Whole grains: Whole grain bread and pasta are good staples, as is rye, barley, and corn.
- Tubers: This food group includes sweet potato, turnips, potatoes, and yam.
- Eggs and poultry: One or two serves a week of poultry is best, and chicken, quail, and duck eggs being part of the diet as well.
- Dairy: Healthier options like Greek yogurt should be eaten, along with small amounts of cheese and milk.
- Healthy fats: These can include olive oil, olives, avocados, and avocado oil, all of which can be useful in cooking.
- Herbs and spices: A variety of herbs and spices like basil, garlic, and pepper will not only season your food but make it healthier, too.
- Alcohol: A moderate amount of alcohol is acceptable, preferably one glass of red wine per day.
Which Foods Are Eliminated in The Mediterranean Diet Plan?
With such a wide variety of foods to choose from on the diet, keeping away from the restricted ones is usually easier to do. Here are some of the things you’ll need to avoid when you’re on the Mediterranean diet.
- Processed meat: Foods like sausages and hot dogs should not be eaten, and limiting your red meat intake is also recommended.
- Added sugar: Any sugar that’s not naturally occurring including foods like soda, candy, ice cream, and table sugar.
- Refined oils: Soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and canola oil are a few examples.
- Refined grains: Any white bread or pasta is usually made with refined grains and should be avoided.
- Trans fats: These are found in most processed foods like margarine.
- Processed foods: Anything heavily processed and packaged should be avoided as you want to focus on whole and clean foods.
The Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet Plan
Besides the many delicious flavors that you’ll experience following this type of diet, there are a number of other benefits to be found as well. Here are just some things you can expect from the Mediterranean diet.
- Reduced risk of heart disease
This diet is low in salt and fat which means it’s low in cholesterol. This effectively can reduce the build up in your arteries that lead to so many cardiovascular problems.
- Weight loss
Following the simple meal plan will reduce your intake of fats and sugars that are high in caloric value but have little sustenance for the body.
- Reduced incidence of other diseases and illnesses
Studies have proven that following a Mediterranean diet can reduce the incidences of breast cancer in women, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic diseases.
- Variety of food
Compared to other diets that limit what you eat quite severely, you’re able to enjoy a range of flavorsome foods without keeping track of every single bite you take. This diet focuses on flavor so nothing will ever be bland and boring.
- No processed foods
We all know the dangers of having too much-processed foods, but the good news is that Mediterranean diets mainly consist of fresh and natural ingredients.
How to Get Started on the Mediterranean Diet Plan
Making the transition to a new way of eating can be hard to do in the early stages. If you’re considering following the Mediterranean diet but aren’t ready to jump all the way in just yet there are some things you can do at home to get yourself started.
Make a conscious effort not to eat too large of a portion at meal time and really take the time to savor every bite. One reason why this diet works so well is that it’s less about making yourself so full that you feel ill and more about enjoying what you’re eating.
Trade your butter and unhealthy fats for more healthy options and throw away the salt. There are a number of herbs and spices that can add a lot more flavor to your meals and they’re much better for you. Try to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables so that you get into the habit of these natural and raw foods, rather than process alternatives.
Examples of Meals to Eat When Following This Diet
The standard Mediterranean diet plan differs quite a lot as there are plenty of options to choose from when picking your meals. Here is an example of what you might eat for the bigger meals of the day and some snack options as well.
- Breakfast: Omelet with fresh vegetables and herbs/Greek yogurt with fruit and muesli/oatmeal and raisins
- Lunch: Whole grain sandwich with salad and cheese/eggs and vegetables/Mediterranean lasagna
- Dinner: Salmon and baked vegetables/grilled lamb with baked potato and salad/Mediterranean pizza
- Snacks: A handful of nuts, oatmeal, fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and natural peanut butter.
A Simple but Flavorsome Way to Eat
The tell of a smart and healthy meal plan is one that doesn’t require you to count calories, and that’s exactly what the Mediterranean diet plan offers. When you’re eating such a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, seeds, carbohydrates, and protein, you’ll always feel full and you won’t even realize that you’re on a diet.
There’s a lot to be learned from following the lifestyles of other cultures and countries around the world, especially when our own has become so engrossed with processed food. A smart meal plan that follows the Mediterranean diet can be the first step you take to a more natural way of living and one that your heart, waistline, and taste buds will all thank you for.