There is so much hype at the moment about the Mediterranean diet and its impressive results, with most people claiming it is the diet to follow to make your skin glow and your health radiate, all the while ensuring sustainable results. The reason for its popularity is quite simple: it focuses on fruit, vegetables, and whole foods.
The Mediterranean diet can be sourced back to the 1960s, in European countries like Italy and Spain, where their meals were, and still are today, centred around traditional whole foods which were available seasonally. As time went on, it has become clear that these nations are incredibly healthy, with a far longer lifespan than Americans, as well as a lower risk of disease. The Mediterranean diet is also seen to aid with weight loss, as well as preventing strokes and type 2 diabetes.
The Mediterranean diet traditionally totally avoids sugary drinks, added sugars and refined grains and limit consumption of products such as full fat yoghurt, cheese and red meat. This means you ideally want to avoid excessive amounts of ice cream, white bread, trans fats, oils such as soybean oil, hot dogs etc. Products labelled “low-fat” are also not great if you’re planning to follow this diet as the emphasis does lie on the benefits of incorporating healthy fats into your diet.
- High quality fish, and occasionally meat: Protein is a key component of the Mediterranean diet, coming primarily from a variety of fresh fish, particularly salmon and mackerel, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish is also a fundamental element of the diet, including clams and oysters. Meat is still consumed, but in smaller amounts, and it tends to be lean, or occasionally cured, meats. Upping vegetarian protein sources, such as legumes, is also a great way to implement Mediterranean eating habits.
- A variety of in-season vegetables: Seasonal vegetables are really important when following the Mediterranean diet, as they make up the bulk, or even the entirety, of most meals. Tomatoes are a key player in this category, as well as courgettes and peppers. Making an effort to consume wholly vegetarian meals is a great way to follow the Mediterranean way of life;
- Fresh fruit: This tends to be a dessert option, which is a substitution for sugary, processed sweets and puddings, while also satisfying those after-dinner sweet cravings.
- Extra virgin olive oil: It is widely known that the Mediterranean diet advocates the regular use of olive oil, whether it be to roast vegetables and fish, or to dress a salad.
- Tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, onions, courgette, peppers, cucumbers, avocados, olives
- Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, grapes, figs, melons, dates
- Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- Lentils, chickpeas
- Sweet potatoes, potatoes
- Whole oats, brown rice, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta
- Salmon, tuna, shrimp, oysters, clams
- Greek yoghurt
- Moderate amount of cheese
- Spices and condiments: Garlic, basil, rosemary, cinnamon, Himalayan pink salt, extra virgin olive oil, hummus, nut butters
In terms of beverages, water is incredibly important and should be consumed regularly. Red wine is also tolerated, as a part of a healthy lifestyle of course!
Snacking doesn’t tend to be a huge part of the Mediterranean way of life, however it is clearly a huge component in our Western diet, so some great ideas of Mediterranean diet-inspired snacks would be:
- A handful of nuts: almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts
- A piece of fruit
- Some carrots with hummus
- Greek yoghurt with some fresh fruit
- Apple and almond butter
it is important to note with the condiments such as hummus and almond butter that moderation is key, as the calories can really add up if you don’t portion these foods out correctly!
- Breakfast: Greek yoghurt or porridge topped with berries, or a vegetable omelette
- Lunch: A spinach-based salad with mixed vegetables and some prawns.
- Snack: An apple and some almonds
- Dinner: Oven-roasted salmon with roasted vegetables and brown rice, followed by some fresh fruit.
Another great benefit of the Mediterranean diet is how easy it is to eat out, making it a very sociable diet to follow. All you have to do when eating out is to ensure you stick to roasted fish or meat as your main dish, with a side of vegetables and whole grain bread if you must – and eat it dipped in olive oil, not butter! In order to avoid temptation, have a huge clear out of your kitchen cupboards and get rid of super processed foods. Out of sight, out of mind!
It is important to bear in mind that healthy eating is the key here, not a fad diet, and the Mediterranean “diet” solely encompasses a healthy and balanced approach to nutrition, without eliminating any major food groups.