by Tracey Shaffer, RDN, LD
Have you heard of the Mediterranean diet? It’s the diet getting all the buzz about being one of the best eating plans to promote health and prevent chronic disease. Scores of leading scientists have rated this way of eating as one of the healthiest in the world.
What makes the Mediterranean diet so healthy? It is a way of eating based on traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Though there is no single definition of the Mediterranean diet, its foundation is made up of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and olive oil.
The main components of the Mediterranean diet include:
Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats
Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs
Moderate portions of dairy products
Limited intake of red meat
It isn’t a vegetarian diet, but rather a plant-based diet with meals centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds with moderate amounts of dairy, poultry, eggs, and seafood. Red meat isn’t eliminated but eaten only occasionally. What about wine? The Mediterranean diet typically allows red wine in moderation. Health recommendations for wine are drinking no more than one glass of wine per day for women and no more than two glasses per day for men to reap the benefits.
How to get started eating the Mediterranean way:
Eat lots of vegetables – add them to every meal whether as a side or main dish, soup or salad
Change the way you think about meat – If you eat meat, have smaller portions
Include some dairy – plain Greek yogurt is a great source of protein
Eat seafood twice a week – fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring and sardines is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats
Cook a vegetarian meal at least one night a week – not all meals need to contain meat to be complete
Use good fats – olive oil, nuts and avocados are a few examples of healthy fats
Switch to whole grains – whole grains are higher in fiber, protein and essential nutrients
Choose fruit for dessert – save sweets for special occasions