The Mediterranean Diet
You may be wondering – “What is the Mediterranean diet?” Or “How can I incorporate this healthy option into my everyday lifestyle?” Well, read on to learn more about how you can start eating healthier, Mediterranean options!
Being possibly one of the world’s healthiest diets, the Mediterranean diet is rich in the following foods: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and legumes! It includes poultry-lean sources of protein (instead of red meat), and fish – red wine is also a regular part of the diet, but is always consumed in safe, healthy amounts.
There is research that would suggest the following benefits may come from following a Mediterranean-style eating habit: A reduced risk of depression, weight loss, improved blood sugar levels, and the Mediterranean diet has also been said to help reduce levels of inflammation, the risk for heart attacks, Alzheimer’s disease – as well as the reduced risk for a possible stroke.
Although the whole idea of changing your diet may sound scary, or an impossible mountain to climb – Relax!! You can start small! Baby steps are the way to go. You may not need to change your entire diet to reap the benefits of the Mediterranean diet… Instead, you can start by choosing one (or a couple) of the following eight options listed below, and start revamping your lifestyle with smarter, healthier choices!
1. Snacking, Snacking, Snacking!
If you find yourself constantly reaching for a granola bar, or a bag of chips – try switching to a Mediterranean-style alternative for snacks…Nuts! Eating a handful of nuts, whether it’s cashews, pistachios, or almonds, can provide a filling, no-mess snack! Nuts contain more minerals and fiber in comparison to overly processed store snack foods.
There is also research to suggest that if one replaced their average, everyday snacks with almonds – they would have a diet with less amounts of added sugar, sodium, and empty calories.
2. Olive Oil
No matter what oil you’ve been cooking with, make a switch to extra-virgin olive oil! Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. This fatty acid is suggested to potentially include many benefits, and is a tasty, healthier option for cooking oil. It may improve HDL cholesterol, the “good” type of cholesterol. Olive oil is also loaded with powerful antioxidants that are biologically active, and may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases!
You can use olive oil to finish dishes like chicken, or fish, and to give it a splash of added flavor – as well as use it as replacement for olive oil in pasta, or mashed potatoes. You could also use olive oil to make homemade, healthy salad dressings or vinaigrettes.
3. Veggies The Whole Day Through
Look at your diet. Are there any leafy greens? Vegetables? If not, then now is the ripe opportunity for you to fit more vegetables in, while getting benefits from following the Mediterranean diet! One of the best ways you can do this is by eating one serving at breakfast, lunch, or dinner! (Or maybe even snacktime too!) You can chip away at bell peppers, or carrots if you’re looking for a crunchy, healthy alternative – or you can stuff a handful of spinach into juice, or smoothies. You should try to aim for a minimum of two servings of veggies a day. More can be better, as three servings has been suggested to potentially help you deal with stress.
THE main protein in the Mediterranean diet is fish, fish, fish! The Mediterranean diet points to fish that are especially fatty such as the following: Sardines, Mackerel, and Salmon. All of these fish are rich in brain, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The leaner fish such as Cod, or Tilapia, are still worth your time though, because they provide a great source of protein. Even if you don’t get a lot of fish in your daily lifestyle now, you can start incorporating fish by making at least one night of the week “Fish Night”. You can cook fish in foil or parchment paper for an easy, no-mess option of cooking fish to put on the dinner table at night. You could also try adding fish to some of your favorite food dishes, such as tacos, or soups!
A great way to start helping yourself to the “Grain” portion of the Mediterranean diet is to try eating real whole grains that have not yet been refined, and are still in their pure, whole form. Barley is a good source of fiber, plus, it’s filling! – (Eat it with mushrooms for a rich, satisfying soup.) Quinoa can cook in just 20 minutes, making it an easy and fast option for side dishes at dinner. A steaming hot bowl of oatmeal can be the most cozy breakfast on a blustery, cold winter day. Even popcorn counts as a whole grain! Just make sure to buy the kind without pre-added butter and salt! -(Try drizzling olive oil over popcorn instead of butter.) You can also supplement your intake of whole grains with whole-grain products such as whole-wheat pasta or bread.
Looking for the label “Whole” or “Whole-Grain”(It should be listed as the first ingredient) on food packaging can help you make those healthier choices! If you still find it a tad bit too difficult to make the switch from your regular pasta brands – try slowly adding it in, by blending regular pasta with a whole-grain one!
6. Fruit For Dessert
Although fruit is generally a good source of fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C – fresh fruit can be a much healthier way to give in to your sweet tooth! Try adding a few drizzles of honey to pear or apples, along with a sprinkle of brown or white sugar on grapefruit! Keeping the fruit on dining table or kitchen counter, in a bowl, or somewhere that it’s fully visible can help you beat the temptations to grab a sugar-laden snack or treat! There a ton of grocery stores that keep exotic fruits in constant stock, so try a new fruit every week! Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new favorite.
7. Drink A Little Wine
Those who live alongside the Mediterranean – the French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish (plus others) have not been known to shy away or ignore wine, but that certainly does not mean you should pour yourself one-hundred glasses! The experts who helped develop the Mediterranean diet advised women to try to stick with a 3-ounce serving, and men to a 5-ounce serving each day.
You should try to sip your wine with a meal, and maybe do so with a few shared loved ones! If you have a tendency to drink too much, you shouldn’t start this diet just so you can drink alcohol and say, “I’m being healthy.” …That’s not how this works. A little goes a long way.
8. Enjoy Every Bit Of It
Eating Mediterranean food is a lifestyle change just as much as it is a diet! Try slowing down and enjoying your meals bite-by-bite, with friends and family, instead of scarfing it down like a ravenous wolf! Eating slower helps you to realize your body’s hunger and fullness signals – You’ll be more likely to eat only until you’re satisfied, instead of treating every meal like it’s Thanksgiving dinner all over again.
Regardless of which ways you choose to start incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle – you’re sure to start eating healthier in (seemingly) little ways! So what are you waiting for? Go start taking those steps to make those changes that’ll help support your body’s well-being!