The Mediterranean diet offers numerous health benefits, including a longer lifespan, better heart health, as well as stroke and diabetes prevention. A traditional Mediterranean diet involves lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish and olive oil. Many people who switch to this style of eating say they'll never eat any other way.
Here are 7 easy ways you can start incorporating the Mediterranean diet in your life:
1. Eat lots of vegetables!
How full is your plate of veggies at a meal? Can you fill half your plate at lunch and dinner? Or eat between 2-3 cups per day of vegetables?
Increase your vegetable intake the Mediterranean way:
- fresh tomatoes with olive oil and a sprinkle of feta,
- greens with garlicky olive oil and balsamic vinegar,
- healthy vegetable pizza (less cheese, more veggies!),
- oven roasted vegetables with olive oil, or vegetable soups or stews.
2. Change the way you think about meat!
If you eat meat, can you have smaller portions? Can you eat fish more often, ideally twice per week? Think of meat as adding flavor instead of the main component (i.e., add grilled chicken to a salad).
3. Include some dairy products.
We have great cheese and dairy products in Wisconsin but can we think of cheese as a treat instead of something we are eating at every meal? Eating Greek or plain yogurt with added fruit is a great example of a healthy dairy product. If you include cheese, can you eat a smaller amount of a variety of cheeses such as a sprinkle of cheese on a vegetable omelet or on a salad? Remember an ounce of cheese is equal to 4 playing dice (it adds up quickly!).
4. Cook a vegetarian meal once per week.
Can you build a meal once per week around beans, lentils, whole grains and veggies? Aim for once a week to start and then increase from there!
5. Use good fats!
The great thing about Mediterranean eating is that you can eat fat - but the emphasis is on eating a plant-based diet. In the Mediterranean, they primarily use extra-virgin olive oil because of its great flavor and its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Nuts, natural nut butters, seeds and avocados are also included in these heart-healthy plant-based fats.
6. Switch to whole-grains.
Whole-grains contain 2-3 times more nutrients than their refined counterpart and can help you feel fuller longer! Have you tried any new whole grains lately? Try quinoa, farro, bulgar wheat, brown rice or barley!
7. For dessert, eat fresh fruit!
Finish your meal like they do in the Mediterranean by avoiding pies, cakes and other sweets. Instead go for some delicious fruit or for a treat, savor a square of 70 percent dark chocolate (you’ll get some healthy antioxidants and not to mention a satisfying sweet to end your meal).
Learn more about maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle with Women's HeartCare, a lifestyle program designed to prevent and treat heart disease and improve overall health and well-being.