By Marin Woods, Steward Health Care Clinical Nutrition Manager
Did you know that the Mediterranean diet was recognized by US News and World Report as the best overall diet for 2019? A large component of the popularity of the “diet” is the fact it is more of a lifestyle than a diet.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating habits of those in the coastal regions of Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain, and North Africa. These groups are known for their heart health and longevity. The diet is less focused on what you shouldn’t eat, but instead focuses on prioritizing heart-healthy foods, balanced viewpoints about exercise, and portion sizes. Socializing over meals is also encouraged.
Key Components of the Mediterranean Diet
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
- Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil and canola oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Enjoying meals with family and friends
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
- Getting plenty of exercise
A few ideas to get you started
Consider making some of these easy and delicious choices in the coming weeks:
Fruits and Vegetables
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Reach for whole fruit such as apples, grapes, or melon chunks. For breakfast, stir fruit into oatmeal or yogurt, or add vegetables to your egg. Serve a sandwich with sliced apples or pears. For a snack, try raw vegetables such as carrots or celery dipped into nut butter, hummus, or Greek yogurt.
- Treat yourself to a yummy dessert of cut-up fruit and chocolate hummus. Strawberries, apple slices, or orange sections are excellent selections.
Herbs and Spices
- Instead of salt, use fresh or dried herbs and spices to add flavor to your dishes. Try adding bay leaves, cilantro, rosemary, or garlic to your soups, dressings and sauces. Many herbs and spices provide antioxidants and have an inflammation-fighting effect.
- Try olive oil in cooking. Dip whole grain bread in olive oil instead of butter, or add a drizzle to cooked vegetables. It adds rich flavor that’s good for you!
- Use whole grain pasta instead of enriched pasta.
- Try whole wheat flour in place of half the white flour in recipes for cookies, muffins and pancakes.
- Cook brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice.
- Stuff peppers with cooked whole grains, such as bulghur or brown rice, instead of meat.
Fish and seafood
- Try adding tuna or salmon one to two times a week. Fish is a top source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
- Nuts are your friend! Keep almonds, walnuts, cashews, or pistachios on hand for a quick snack.
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