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This Mediterranean Diet Guide gives an overview of the diet, the health benefits, easy Mediterranean food swaps, and recipes for you to get started with this way of eating. It’s a lifestyle, not a diet, and one that’s sure to leave you feeling your best.
I figured it was about time I do a post talking all about the Mediterranean Diet. I’ve mentioned it briefly, but I’ve been following the Mediterranean Diet loosely for the past few months, and I’ve been loving it.
In case you’re wondering, the Mediterranean Diet was voted “best overall diet” by US News Health in 2018 and 2019. Despite the name, it’s not as diet-y as other diets, and therefore easier to follow and keep up with. While others will try (and potential fail) at other trendier diets, the Mediterranean Diet is one that you really can’t fail, and is much more of a lifestyle than a strict eating plan.
WHAT IS THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET?
The Mediterranean Diet is a diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds. Though those are the main aspects of the diet, there are still a LOT of other foods that are allowed and even encouraged. Picture the food pyramid for a second. Here’s an example of the Mediterranean food pyramid:
- Bottom tier: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, olive oil
- Middle tier(s): fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt, red wine
- Top tier: red meat, sugar
What you’ll notice is that no food is completely off-limits. The reason I like this is because it’s not unusual to be a place where you can’t control the food. In fact, I think it’s a really good thing to allow yourself the flexibility to eat ALL foods in moderation, rather than labeling certain foods as “bad”.
When you’re eating at home or when you go out to eat, it’s easy to follow the diet, but if you’re at a family gathering and they’re grilling burgers and having cake for dessert, you can enjoy those things because they’re not something you’re consuming regularly. The diet promotes treating yourself and listening to your body, rather than NEVER being able to eat a donut ever again. Again, it’s a lifestyle, not a diet.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
The Mediterranean Diet is said to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and a stroke. It’s said to help with weight loss, strengthening bones and aiding in digestion. Emerging studies show that it may also reduce the risk of depression, anxiety and some types of cancer.
EASY MEDITERRANEAN SWAPS
Butter –> olive oil: Olive oil is heart-healthy fat that can help lower cholesterol vs. butter, which is higher in saturated fat.
Meat –> seafood: Though some meat is allowed (chicken, turkey), for the most part, you’ll want to choose seafood over meat. Though all seafood is encouraged, it is best to focus on seafood high in omega-3’s, like salmon, tuna and herring.
Refined grains –> whole grains: Whole grains are high in fiber and tend to be easier to digest than refined grains. For most grains, you should be able to find the whole grain substitution. Choose brown rice over white, whole grain pasta, and whole grain bread instead of white.
Sugary cocktails –> red wine: Many cocktails contain hidden sugar. So, instead of a cocktail, opt for a glass of red wine. ….unless you’re like me and red wine gives you a migraine, then a cocktail from time to time is A-ok.
EVERY DAY MEDITERRANEAN DIET RECIPES
Now that you know what you can and cannot eat while on the diet, it’s time to cook some food! Check out these 51 Mediterranean Diet Recipes, which will hopefully inspire you to give it a go.
Want a full grocery list and meal plan? Download my FREE Mediterranean Diet Guide.