As dietitians, we are always asked about the best diet to follow or super foods that can cure diseases and combat obesity. However, as cliché as that sounds there is no one meal plan that fits all or one type of food that has some magical curing powers. But, if you’re looking for heart-healthy foods good for your mind, as well and recipes based on the cooking style of the Mediterranean culture, then the Mediterranean Diet might be right for you!
What makes the Mediterranean Diet favourable is that it does not eliminate any food groups and thereby is not too restrictive. It is considered more of a change in your way of life.
How do you make your diet more Mediterranean? Well, here are a few tips for you to follow:
- Eating primarily a variety of plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables. They should make up the majority of your meals. You can add a side of quinoa tabbouleh with your grilled chicken skewers for lunch, add some mixed veggies with your lentil soup, or top your yoghurt with some fresh mixed fruits instead of simple sugar or honey.
- Switch to whole-grain bread and cereal and consume more whole-grain pasta, burghoul, barley, couscous and legumes (beans and peas) to increase your fiber intake in the day. You can stuff your eggplants with couscous or have your kebabs with a side of chickpea salad.
- For a quick snack make sure to keep some almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts on hand. Add some natural peanut butter to your banana or add some tahini (blended sesame seed paste) on top of your baked falafel. Be mindful of your serving size of tahini as it is pretty high in calories, and it’s so delicious that you may easily be tempted to overindulge.
- Try olive or canola oil as a healthy replacement for butter or margarine. Use it in cooking or lightly drizzle it on your roasted potatoes for a tasty alternative to butter.
- Add herbs and spices to your dishes rather than salt, as they make food flavorful and are also rich in health-promoting substances. You can top your pasta with some basil, rosemary, and oregano, or add some mint and sumac to your salad or even sprinkle some zaatar on your labneh.
- Eat fish at least twice a week. Fresh or water-canned tuna, salmon, sardines, cod, tilapia are healthy choices. Avoid fried fish and opt for grilled alternatives. Bring out their flavor by serving with a tomato based sauce on the side.
- Limit red meat to no more than a few times a month and substitute it with fish and poultry. When eaten, make sure it’s lean (sorry, but this means skipping the sausages, hotdogs & rib-eye steaks) and keeping portions small.
- Include eggs and dairy in your diet, as they add protein, vitamins B & D, and calcium to your diet. The good old Greek yoghurt falls here, and of course, you can guess where it originated from? It is an excellent source of proteins and calcium which can help improve your bone health.
- When you’re out with some friends on the weekend it’s Ok to enjoy one glass of red wine for some antioxidants benefits, but of course only if you have the ‘OK’ from your doctor. However, if you don’t drink alcohol, you don’t need to start now
Over time, science has proven that following a
Mediterranean Diet is beneficial for health, as it reduces the risk of heart
disease, by lowering the level of bad LDL cholesterol which is more likely to
build up deposits in your arteries.
Research has also shown that the Mediterranean Diet
can help prevent age-related cognitive problems and help maintain memory and
thinking skills over time. It is also associated with a reduced incidence of
Cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Given that our diet affects our mood and how we feel; the healthy fats present in the Mediterranean Diet may be the key to promoting a good mood! Lastly, make sure to have fun while cooking. Try recipes with new ingredients that have different nutritional benefits and enjoy good company at meal times, that’s what the people of the Mediterranean do.
Happy Healthy Eating!