Whenever you’re dieting for weight loss, it’s even better when there are additional health benefits. That’s what the Mediterranean diet brings to the table – a plethora of heart health benefits your body needs.
The concept is derived from the eating habits and meal customs of the countries that are based around the Mediterranean Sea where the people enjoy olive oil, red wine, delicious vegetables and more.
On this particular diet plan, your cravings for sweets will dissipate and you’ll be able to enjoy a burst of energy because your blood sugar becomes more stabilized throughout the process.
Basic Principles of Med Diet
This diet is proven to help reduce heart disease by helping you lower your LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol that accumulates in your arteries and causes blockages).
The weight loss is a side benefit of following this diet, but it’s the primary reason why many people choose to follow it. In addition to heart health and weight loss, you also cut your risk of certain cancers and reduce the chance that you’ll suffer from dementia or Parkinson’s disease.
You’ll want to begin incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet and cut out processed foods like pasta and white rice. Whole grains are perfectly fine on this diet, and while you’ll be able to enjoy meat, it’s not the focus – plants are!
When you do eat meat, make sure it’s heart-healthy fish or lean chicken. Red meat is okay, but it’s best to consume it in moderation. Forget about processed meats like bacon, sausage, or some sandwich meats.
You want to make sure that you’re consuming plenty of produce throughout each day, about 9-10 servings per day - and start enjoying snacks of nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios.
Your cooking habits might change a bit. Instead of cooking foods in a way that’s not healthy, you’ll be using olive or canola oils and naturally occurring herbs and spices to contribute flavor to the food – not salt.
Can you drink milk or wine? Moderate wine (red) is acceptable, as are dairy products – but try to make sure it’s the low fat version. In other ways, you don’t want to eliminate fat from your diet – not healthy fat, that is.
Healthy fats like olives, avocados, and those found in nuts are beneficial for the body and won’t impede your weight loss efforts. They’ll also bring a lot of flavor to your meals and help you feel full, longer.
SAMPLE MEAL PLAN FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
When you’re planning your meals, make sure you’re adhering to a natural foods premise. Fruits and eggs are great for breakfast – just make sure you’re cooking the eggs in olive oil.
Omelets are a great options. You can load the eggs up with vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, onions and more – a Mediterranean-friendly breakfast choice. You can also make smoothies that are good for this diet plan.
Lunch and dinner can be similar, depending on whether you’re cooking at home, taking meal prep containers with you for lunch, or needing to pack more convenient foods. Some places, such as Starbucks, offer Mediterranean meals like the protein pack that are in line with this plan.
If you’re cooking vegetables, make sure you add broccoli whenever possible. This vegetable curbs hunger and provides many nutritional benefits. You can sauté some green vegetables in olive oil with something to flavor it – like garlic. Or roast some red peppers for a bright, flavorful addition.
Choose whole grains to cook with – such as brown rice or quinoa. Making pasta meals is fine, but try to make the meal a healthy version and not one loaded with melted cheese and high fat meats.
In fact, meat like fish and chicken are great to have frequently, but if you like red meat, cut down on that and only eat it in moderation, such as a couple of times per week for optimal health.
If you’re eating salads, don’t be shy about sprinkling nuts or seeds over the top. Greek salads are different from a typical lettuce-based salad. They sometimes include tomatoes, beans, cheese, olives, cucumbers, and onions and is drizzled with olive oil.
Even pizza isn’t off limits! Pizza made with fresh ingredients is a healthy option – especially the heart healthy tomato sauce. One thing many dieters appreciate about this meal plan is that bread is not off limits.
You can have bruschetta, which is a delicious mix of the bread, topped with tomato, basil and garlic to flavor it. You can also have dips made from fava beans or hummus made from chickpeas and a few flavor additions.
If you’re in the mood to snack, choose Greek yogurt – or make a nice plate of raw fruits, vegetables and healthy nuts. Anything natural that hasn’t been processed is usually a good option, but just eat enough to take your hunger away and no more.
With all of your meals, keep them fresh and steer clear of drowning the nutrients out with creams and sauces – or cooking them in a manner that depletes the produce from maintaining its health benefits.