The Mediterranean Diet has been hailed as the healthiest diet and lifestyle around the world. This enjoyable lifestyle includes healthy foods, regular physical activity and sharing meals with other people. Studies have shown it to assist in weight loss and to reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Experts reason that the success of the Mediterranean Diet over other prescribed diets for weight loss is that it doesn’t rely on reduced-fat or ‘diet’ food that are high in refined carbs. There are many countries in the Mediterranean region who all eat different foods, so what constitutes the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ and how can you follow it?
The Mediterranean Diet is less of a diet and more of a lifestyle. It does not have a strict set of guidelines of what you can or can not eat. It does not require you to follow any regime. Basically the studies have followed people who mainly ate plant-based foods in their everyday diet. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks have less processed foods and more whole foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Occasionally, and in moderation, are other foods introduced into the diet. These foods aren’t forbidden, however, they are just less consumed and do not comprise the main diet.
What’s the Mediterranean Diet?
Olive oil is the main source of fat in the Mediterranean Diet. It is a healthy fat just like avocado. There is no butter or coconut oils and margarine is not used. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which has been suggested to improve HDL cholesterol. Extra-virgin olive oil can be used in almost all parts of your cooking. Use it to roast, grill, mix it with herbs and have as a dip, or drizzle it over your salad.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
We all know we should eat lots of fruits and vegetables. So why don’t we? The easiest way to start is by adding them into your main meals. If you spend the most amount of time on dinner, then make sure you’ve got plenty of veggies in there. Add a salad or grate some carrot into the dish to boost your vegetable intake. Add some tomato or cucumber to your sandwich or throw a handful of spinach into your smoothie. Make sure you shop fresh so you always have yummy fresh fruit and vegetables on hand. It is so much easier to throw a banana or apple or carrot into your bag than to have to cut up fruit for an elaborate smoothie or salad. And buy fruits that make you excited! Buy a mango and save it for dessert or a shared afternoon tea. The more excited you are by food, the easier it is to make the switch.
Nuts also contain those healthy fats that are good for your cholesterol level. But they also supply great fibre, protein and minerals such as potassium. Nuts are an excellent post workout snack. Buy a few different nuts and seeds – try almonds, walnuts, Macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds – and mix them up for a daily snack pot. So instead of munching on some potato chips, crackers, cookies or even cereal bars, which don’t contain nearly the same amount of good gear for your body, snack on some nuts.
Fish is the main meat for the Mediterranean Diet, recommended to be consumed twice per week. Red meats are very rare, consumed only once or twice per month. Lean meat and poultry are consumed in moderation, with a serving being the size of your palm. Fish high in fats and Omega-3 are the best for your diet. These fish include salmon, sardines, and mackeral. However any type of fish is a good start to get into your diet.
Legumes and lentils play a big role in the Mediterranean Diet. From snacks, to sides, to main meals. Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas etc can all easily be added into most meals. Hommus is regularly enjoyed in the Mediterranean Diet and lentil soup is often consumed a few times per week.
Any grain that hasn’t been refined is a whole grain – basically how it was picked. You can get whole grain wheat, pasta, rice – opt for the brown versions over the processed white versions. Or even mix them up half/half so it is a little easier to digest. Quinoa is an easy wholegrain to include as a side or instead of white rice. Popcorn is a great wholegrain to add into your diet as a snack (just make sure it doesn’t have a lot of added butter or salt!).
Wine is an important part of the Mediterranean culture, however it is enjoyed in moderation. Never much more than one glass per day. One important part of the Mediterranean diet is to enjoy food and to enjoy life. A glass of wine a day may well be a great way to relax and manage daily anxieties we may get caught up in. Water is the main drink of the Mediterranean diet and coffee/tea are also regularly consumed. Drinks high in sugars such as soft drinks and juice are rarely consumed.
The Mediterranean Diet is a fresh look at healthy eating and healthy living. We at AJ’s love that approach to life. A happy, well-balanced life is a life enjoyed. Come and increase your physical activity with like minded people here at AJ’s. We love to encourage and spur one another along to living a longer, happier and healthier life!
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