The Healthiest Diet: Eat Like a Mediterranean
As most of us have discovered dieting does not work. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight has to be a lifestyle change. That sounds intimidating, but small steps over the course of many months or years is very much possible.
Studies have shown again and again that a Mediterranean “diet” or more accurately, “way of eating”, is most ideal for a healthy weight. Following a Mediterranean diet is also associated with significant improvements in health, including decreased chances of developing:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Diabetes, and
- Cardiovascular disease
The Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet of Greece, Spain, Italy, and the surrounding regions. Long term scientific research has shown that people in this region have lower rates of chronic disease and a longer life expectancy.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes foods from plant sources, including:
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats like olive oil, and
- Lean proteins like fish, chicken, and eggs
So, eat like a Mediterranean! Follow these simple steps to shift your dietary pattern for long term health.
- Eat lots of vegetables. Look at your plate, you should see a rainbow of colors!
- Eat locally grown and seasonally available foods. Visit your local farmer’s market [find your local market here: Farmer’s Market Finder] for affordable fruits and vegetables. Many farmer’s markets now take EBT or food stamps, so it’s becoming easier to get fresher and locally grown produce, even on a budget.
- Use olive oil as your principal fat. Butter, in moderation, is better than margarine and other processed vegetable oils. Other sources of good fats are nuts, sunflower seeds, coconut oil, olives, and avocados.
- Limit red meat, especially processed meats like hot dogs and sausages, to 12-16 oz per month. Start thinking of red meat as a side dish or a topping instead of the main entrée.
- Build your meals around beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
- Cheese is fine, but should be used in moderation.
- Plain, whole yogurt is full of good nutrients and probiotics. Avoid the dessert yogurts like Yoplait, etc. Make your own flavored yogurt with a drizzle of honey or fruit preserve.
- Eat more fish: salmon, sardines, and other small to medium sized fish are full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Limit tuna and other bigger fish. The bigger the fish, the more mercury it will have. *(Pregnant and nursing mothers can consult this guide from Purdue University on the amount and type of fish to consume: Fish Consumption when You’re Pregnant.
- Switch to whole grains. Try bulgur, barley, farro, red, brown or black rice. Buy breads, pasta, and tortillas made with whole grain or whole wheat flour. Avoid enriched bleached flour.
- For dessert, eat fresh fruit and save cakes, cookies, and ice cream for special occasions or once per week.
- Finally, even moderate exercise, like walking, goes a long way in maintaining healthy weight and health.
Here’s to your health! Yasou!
- Meta Analysis of prospective cohort studies from 1966 through 2008 with a total of 1 574 299 study subjects
- Harvard School of Public Health
- Photo Credit: OldWays Preservation Trust