How to Start a Mediterranean Diet
The reason the Mediterranean diet became so popular is because Italian and Greek adults in the 1960s had the lowest rates of chronic disease in the world, despite have more limited access to medical services. Unlike fad diets that come and go like changes in the weather, the Mediterranean diet is a healthy staple that helps fight against heart disease, specific cancers, type 2 diabetes, and cognitive decline. The Mediterranean diet is packed with healthy fruits, vegetables, nuts, seafood, and olive oil, and maybe even a glass or two of red wine.
Making the Change to a Mediterranean Diet
It may seem daunting to adjust your eating habits, but here are some suggestions to get you started on your way to success:
- Eat plenty of produce: Load up on veggies at any given opportunity, such as eating a simple plate of sliced tomatoes drizzled in olive oil and crumbled feta cheese. Eat plenty of greens by incorporating salads, soups, and crudité platters into your routine. Swap out doughnuts and cookies and eat fresh fruit for dessert, instead.
- Eat more seafood: Fish is jam-packed with omega-3 fatty acids that contribute to better brain and heart health. If you’re concerned about mercury, avoid eating larger fish and stick to 12 ounces of cooked seafood per week.
- Eat vegetarian meals once a week: “Meatless Monday” is a trend of foregoing meat on the first day of the week. You can pick meals that are built around beans, whole grains, and vegetables instead. Once you get the hang of it, you may want to have two “meatless” days every week.
- Eat dairy products in moderation: Dairy can have a lot of dietary fat, especially in whole products like whole milk, high-fat cheese, and ice cream. You can still enjoy dairy products such as natural/unprocessed cheese and low-fat Greek yogurt.
- Eat breakfast every day: You can start your day off right by eating fruit, whole grains, and fiber-rich foods in the morning so you feel pleasantly full for hours.
- Consume good fats in your diet: The best sources of calories from fat come from olive oil, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados rather than pastries and plates of mac and cheese. Try to sauté your food in healthy oils instead of butter.
- Eat whole grains instead of refined breads, rice, and pasta: Whole grains are a better choice and leave you feeling fuller than processed grains from white flour.
Swapping Out Your Old Food Choices for Better Ones
Instead of ordering stir-fried meat with white rice at your next restaurant outing, consider quinoa with stir-fried vegetables instead. Rather than ending your meal with ice cream, consider pudding made from low-fat milk. Skip the big pieces of bread in a sandwich and opt for a wrap with a whole-wheat tortilla instead. And finally, make sure you always snack mindfully. Make sure your snacks are more along the lines of carrots, celery, jicama, and salsa, rather than chips, pretzels, carrots, and ranch dip.
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