Mediterranean diets are rich in whole grains, lean protein and ample fresh produce. Red wine, olive oil, nuts and traditional cheeses add flavor and luxury. While many diets and weight loss plans are about deprivation, traditional Mediterranean diets offer health and weight loss benefits without extreme deprivation. Whether you are a devout foodie or just hoping to enjoy your food and be healthy, Mediterranean diets can please both your palate and your doctor.
Fruits and Vegetables
The diet of the Mediterranean is centered around fruits and vegetables. Most people consume at least nine servings of fresh produce daily. Generous salads, plates of fresh fruit and a variety of cooked or pickled vegetable dishes will please the palate and improve health. Legumes, like lentils and chickpeas, offer a high fiber, high protein and low-fat alternative to meat. Fresh fruit can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack, or combined with yogurt and honey for a sweet and creamy dessert.
Meats and Dairy
While much of the protein in the Mediterranean diet comes from beans, dairy products and whole grains, fish and seafood are eaten at least twice a week. Red meat is limited and plays a minimal role in the diet. Choose low-fat protein sources. Use them to complement bread, grains and vegetables if you are striving to eat a more Mediterranean-style diet. Dairy products, particularly yogurt and strongly flavored cheeses, are eaten in moderation.
Monounsaturated fats play an important part in the diet of the Mediterranean. Olive oil is the primary fat used in cooking, meals and even baking. Butter and trans-fat laden margarines are less commonly consumed. Fatty fish and nuts provide additional healthy fats. While the Mediterranean diet is rather high in fat, the fats are quite healthy. Fat also serves to increase satisfaction and helps to reduce portion sizes.
Part of what makes a Mediterranean diet easy to stick to for the long term is attitude. Food is meant to be shared and enjoyed with friends and family. Red wine is consumed in moderate amounts, assuming there are no contraindications. Richer, higher fat foods provide satisfaction in small portions. Combined with an active lifestyle, a Mediterranean diet allows you to enjoy meals and stay healthy.