8 tips to follow a Mediterranean diet

September 1, 2018 in Leslie's Featured Content

8 tips to follow a Mediterranean diet

It's said  to be the healthiest diet in the world. The Mediterranean diet - a diet that emphasizes fruit and vegetables, grains, nuts and olive oil - is recognized as the gold standard eating pattern that promotes good health.

The diet helps guard against heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes, asthma, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. And it's been shown to increase life expectancy.

The Mediterranean diet is a pattern of eating that's low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat, high in fibre and packed with protective phytochemicals.  The Med diet is primarily plant-based with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts eaten daily. 

Dairy products - cheese and yogurt - are also part of the daily diet. Red meat is not. Meat is eaten no more than a few times per month. Poultry and fish are the protein foods of choice and are consumed at least twice per week.  The diet also allows up to 7 eggs per week, including those used in cooking and baking.

The principal fat is olive oil; butter and margarine are seldom used.  Herbs and spices are used to flavour foods rather than salt.

Scientists speculate the Mediterranean diet's health benefits are due to its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. 

Use the following eight strategies to help you adopt a Mediterranean-style diet.

Make fruit and vegetables daily staples

These foods deliver fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals and should be eaten at most meals.

Include whole fresh fruit at breakfast, at snacks and serve fruit salad or berries for dessert.  Limit 100% fruit juice to ½ cup per day.

Make sure lunch includes at least one vegetables serving such as a spinach salad, grated raw carrot or beets in a sandwich, red pepper sticks or vegetable soup.  Aim to cover half your plate at dinner with vegetables.

Switch to whole grain

Minimally processed grains such as barley, bulgur, couscous, rice, pasta, polenta, faro, millet and oats are a central part of the Mediterranean diet.

Choose 100% whole grain bread and cereals. Eat brown rice and whole grain pasta more often than white.

Enjoy low fat dairy

These foods supply protein, calcium and B vitamins. Choose low fat (1% milkfat) or non fat yogurt or Greek yogurt.  Eat cheese in small portions; look for part skim versions (less than 20% milkfat).

Eat fish twice weekly

To get heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, aim to eat oily fish twice per week. Good choices include salmon, sardines, herring, and trout. Enjoy (unbreaded) fish baked, grilled or steamed.

Scale back red meat

The Mediterranean diet includes lean red meat no more than three times per month (maximum of 12 to 16 ounces per month). Instead of having a large steak, have smaller portions of meat in a stir-fry, vegetable stew or pasta dish.  As a main course, limit your portion to 3 ounces - this fills only one-quarter of your dinner plate.

Add vegetarian meals

To increase your intake of vegetarian protein, eat a legume-based meal at least twice per week.  Try a hearty lentil soup, vegetarian chili, black bean tacos or pasta with white kidney beans.

Choose healthy fats

The majority of fats in the diet should be monounsaturated.  Use olive oil in cooking and baking. (Extra virgin olive oil is not suitable for high heat frying.)  Include one small handful or nuts such as almonds, pecans and cashews in your daily diet.  Instead of butter or margarine, add sliced avocado to sandwiches.

Drink in moderation

The Med diet typically includes a moderate amount of wine which is consumed with meals.  This means no more than 5 ounces per day for women and 10 ounces for men. 

Wine is optional; alcohol, even in moderation, is not healthy for everyone.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.