For thousands of years, people living along the Mediterranean coast have enjoyed a lifestyle that includes leisurely dining, plenty of exercise, and a diet rich in plant foods and healthy fats. This way of eating and living has been linked to numerous health benefits including a decreased incidence of diabetes, heart disease and obesity – as well as an increased life expectancy. For good reason, the Mediterranean diet has long been considered one of the healthiest in the world.
At the core of this eating style is a balance of healthy fats and carbohydrates with a strong emphasis on plant proteins. As a weight loss plan, it makes perfect sense and is easy to follow. Use these guidelines to eat as if you lived in the Mediterranean and enjoy a tastier leaner way of life.
1. Include lots of vegetables. Start your day with an egg white omelet stuffed with your favorite veggies. For lunch and dinner, fill half your plate with vegetables. Eat them fresh with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of crumbled feta. Or have your vegetables sauted with garlic and olive oil.
2. Eat less meat and more seafood. If you eat meat, choose lean cuts and have it less often. Roast, bake, broil, or grill rather than frying. Eat seafood at least twice a week. Salmon, herring, and sardines are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish including mussels, oysters, and clams provide health benefits for the heart as well as the brain.
3. Cook more vegetarian meals. At least one night a week prepare a meal that centers around beans, lentils, or other legumes rather than meat. Prepare meatless dishes that include vegetables and whole grains such as vegetarian chili with brown rice.
4. Use more plant oils. Include sources of healthy plant fats every day especially extra-virgin olive oil. Substitute for butter, margarine, and creamy salad dressing whenever possible.
5. Eat more fruit. Have it with meals or as a between meal snack. Fresh fruit makes an ideal dessert. Save the cookies, cakes, and ice cream for special occasions.
6. Include more nuts and seeds. These provide a healthy source of protein and are high in fiber and other nutrients including folate, magnesium, and iron. Sprinkle them on your yogurt or salad. Always go for the unsalted varieties.
7. Include some dairy products. Eat plain unsweetened yogurt. Add your own fruit to sweeten it naturally. Try Greek yogurt for its extra protein and creamy texture. In addition, eat a variety of cheeses in small amounts.
8. Enjoy whole grains. Packed with nutrients, fiber and protein, whole grains contain healthy carbohydrates. Popular Mediterranean whole grains include barley, brown rice, bulgur, whole wheat couscous, quinoa, and farro. These grains are great for salads and side dishes.
To get you started eating the Mediterranean way, here’s a recipe that’s sure to please. Just remember, as with any healthy weight loss plan, you still need to focus on portion sizes and overall calorie intake.
Avocado Quinoa Tabouli
Makes 6 Side Dish Servings
Courtesy of California Avocado Commission and tweaked slightly by The Meal Makeover Moms.
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 cups all-natural vegetable broth or water
- 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice
- 1 tomato, seeded and cut into Â½-inch dice
- 1 cup parsley, chopped
- 1 ripe California avocado, seeded and peeled and cut into Â½-inch dice
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse very well several times in cold water. Drain and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Stir in the quinoa, cover, and simmer according to package directions until the liquid is absorbed.
3. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and fluff slightly with a fork every few minutes until the grains cool. Gently stir in the cucumber, tomato, parsley, and avocado.
4. For the dressing, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. Stir the dressing into the quinoa mixture until everything is coated, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Nutrition Information per Serving (about 1 cup): 190 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated, 4g monounsaturated, 0.4g omega 3), 170mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 6g protein, 25% vitamin A, 35% vitamin C, 15% iron
The key to any successful weight loss plan is eating fewer calories than you expend. Like the healthy people of the Mediterranean, physical activity should be part of every day. If you are someone who is always on the go, this can be extremely challenging.