Are you going on a diet as part of your New Year’s Resolution? You may want to try the Mediterranean diet. A panel of nutrition experts through the U.S. News & World Report recently rated the Mediterranean diet as Number One in its “Best Overall Diet Category,” tied with the DASH Diet.
Unlike fad diets, the Mediterranean diet is a well-balanced eating plan that is sustainable. It reflects the traditional way of eating in countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, where the incidence of heart disease is much lower than in the United States. The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes physical activity and social connections. The core foods that should be incorporated daily include: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts, and olive oil. Fish and seafood are eaten at least twice a week and dairy, eggs and poultry are eaten in moderation. Red meat and sweets are rarely eaten. The Mediterranean was also named the diet that is “Easiest to follow.”
Follow these tips from Oldways to get started with the Mediterranean Diet.
- Eat lots of vegetables. Aim to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables. Slice tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil and top with feta cheese, toss a variety of veggies in soups and stews, make a salad with plenty of greens, and top a pizza with your favorite colorful vegetables.
- Eat less meat. Include smaller portions of red meat and use it as a side dish rather than the main entrée. Beans are packed in protein, so rather than using meat, add chickpeas to salads, pinto beans into a quesadilla or dip veggies into hummus.
- Enjoy dairy products. Greek Yogurt is a great choice and is high in protein.
- Eat seafood twice a week. Fish such as tuna, herring, salmon and sardines are rich in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Try adding grilled fish to pasta marinara or to whole-wheat couscous.
- Cook a vegetarian meal one night per week. Use beans, whole grains, and vegetables as the base of your meal. Flavor with plenty of herbs and spices. Try pasta with vegetables, minestrone soup, or steamed veggies over brown rice.
- Use heart healthy fats. Fatty fish, extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados are good sources of healthy fat. Make olive oil your go-to cooking oil and toss nuts with sautéed vegetables. Make a trail mix using your favorite dried fruits, whole-grain cereal, nuts and seeds.
- Switch to whole grains. Whole grains are high in fiber, which help to keep you full for longer. Bulgur, barley, farro and brown, black or red rice are traditional Mediterranean grains.
- Choose fresh fruit for dessert. Instead of ice cream or cookies, choose fruit, which is naturally sweet.