The Simple Guide to Starting a Mediterranean Diet

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When you combine the benefits of balanced, healthy eating with recipes that are flexible and flavorful, you get a diet that is not only good for you, but one that is much easier to stick with in the long run. That’s the Mediterranean diet in a nutshell. It offers fewer restrictions than Keto and Paleo diets and is connected to a reduction in heart disease, lower cholesterol and weight loss. Breads and dairy are ok on the Mediterranean diet as well, within reason, of course.

Depending on your current health and diet goals, this might be the perfect diet for you, but as always, please talk to your doctor before making any major changes to your diet. 

History Of The Mediterranean Diet

Though the foods and techniques that make up the traditional Mediterranean diet have been around for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the diet gained recognition for its health benefits. It was discovered that those who adhered to the diet were among the healthiest in the world, experiencing far fewer diseases and living much longer.

Simplicity and a focus on unprocessed, local foods became hallmarks of the diet as many of the fishing and farming communities surrounding the Mediterranean sea didn’t adopt the more modern, industrial driven diets that emerged during the 20th century. Following extensive study and research, the Mediterranean diet was hailed by the medical and nutritional communities as a reliable way to combat many of the diseases and ailments associated with modern lifestyles.

What You’ll Eat When Following The Mediterranean Diet

If you choose to follow the Mediterranean diet, the foundation of your diet will be fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, pasta, rice, grains and potatoes, along with beans, nuts, legumes, and seeds. These foods should be consumed daily and will form the basis of every meal you eat, with fresh vegetables taking center stage. While carbohydrates are a part of this diet, they tend to be whole, complex, high in fiber, and consumed with protein or fats at the same time.

Fish and seafood are the staple proteins in this diet. Regular consumption of fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and tuna not only helps with satiety but boosts intake of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. When shopping for fish, however, steer clear of farm raised whenever possible. Additional sources of fat include olive and canola oil, which take the place of butter and lard for cooking and dressing food.

In moderation, you’ll eat poultry, eggs, cheese, and plain, unsweetened yogurt every other day or a few times per week depending on your preference. Opt for natural dairy and cheese, not heavily processed or flavored varieties, to avoid added preservatives, sugars or chemicals. Goat cheese and feta cheese are commonly seen on Mediterranean diet menus.

Sweets such as raw honey are enjoyed in strict moderation, while other desserts are eaten only on special occasions. Red meat is hardly consumed in the Mediterranean diet, along with highly processed meats like sausages and bacon. On the plus side, a single glass of wine is considered a staple in the diet and part of what makes the diet so heart healthy, so don’t feel bad about pouring yourself a glass with your dinner.

Who This Diet Is Well Suited For

This diet will work great for anyone who is hoping to improve their heart health, lower their cholesterol, lose a little weight and do so without feeling deprived. Do keep in mind though, if you are eating too many refined grains in your diet (white breads, white pasta, etc.,) this can actually increase your cholesterol level so it’s important to focus on wholesome grains that have been processed as little as possible.

This diet is also great for those who do not respond well to a traditional low carb diet. An important part of the Mediterranean diet is the value placed on everyday exercise, which is supported by the energy you’ll get from complex carbohydrates and natural fruit sugars.  Don’t be surprised if 50-60% of your total daily calorie intake comes from carbohydrates while on this plan.

Finally, the plan is great for those who are looking to maintain their weight using a dietary protocol that can be sustained for years to come. Because you are not eliminating any food groups entirely, it’s very possible to get well-rounded nutrition with this plan.

Pros:

• Based around proper nutrition and balance rather than dietary extremes
• Will help to lower cholesterol levels
• Saturated fat intake will decrease
• Rich in omega-3 fatty acids
• Can help to keep blood pressure levels lower
• Is relatively easy to plan and follow
• Supplies sufficient energy for physical activity

Cons:

• Could be low in protein if not enough nuts, seeds, legumes, fish and dairy are consumed
• The higher carb nature of this plan may cause hunger in some people
• Cravings for red meat may make it hard to stick with the diet over time
• Blood sugar levels may fluctuate if the right types of carbohydrates are not chosen

How To Get Started On The Mediterranean Diet Plan

To get started on the Mediterranean diet plan, the first thing you need to be doing is eliminating the red meat from your daily menu. While you can have it on occasion, it shouldn’t be something you eat frequently at all. From there, start focusing the base of your diet around whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Add fish and seafood to one meal a day as well as chicken, eggs, cheese, and yogurt once a day or every other day. Lamb is also commonly found in this diet, but is treated as a rarity.

Make sure that you are eating regularly to keep your blood glucose levels stabilized and hunger level in check. Three main meals plus two to three snacks per day will work best for the vast majority of people.

Wean yourself off any sweets you may be eating. Note that you may treat yourself to some sweets that you enjoy on occasion only, but apart from that, they should be avoided.

Lastly, choose the Mediterranean option as your Primary Diet Type in your Food Preferences on Eat This Much. While the diet plan is quite flexible, it does have some restrictions, and we can make sticking to them much easier. Even better, start your two week free trial of Eat This Much Premium Account to get access to all our features including week long plans and automatic grocery list generation. Combine this with exploring the new flavors and dishes in a Mediterranean diet and you’re sure to find a diet that is as satisfying as it is healthy.

 

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