Eating a Mediterranean-style diet, let’s be clear, isn’t a diet in the self-denying, sacrificing sense of the word. Adopting this approach is simply a matter of shifting many of the foods you already enjoy – fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, healthy fats and seafood – to the centre of your plate. As you eat more of these foods, you’ll naturally have less room for unhealthy ones. Follow these simple guidelines to make your diet more Mediterranean and reap the incredible health benefits.
Go with the seasonal flow
Instead of trying to create a meal plan out of thin air, let the seasons be your guide. If the upermarket is overflowing with cheap asparagus or zucchini, for instance, it’s a good bet that they’re at their peak of deliciousness, so build your meals around these fresh ingredients
Learn to love legumes
Modern restaurants will have you believe the Med diet is filled with slow-cooked lamb shoulder and meaty bolognese sauce, but that’s certainly not the case. Instead, beans, chickpeas and lentils feature more heavily than meat. Make the switch to legumes a few nights a week and your health will thank you for it.
Start with greens
In many parts of the Mediterranean region, a meal isn’t complete without a heaping mound of fresh salad greens. Rethink your usual mealtime ratios by filling half your plate with salad (or lightly steamed veg), along with a fillet of fish, legumes or the occasional small portion of meat – rather than the reverse.
Don’t overthink it
Most Mediterranean dishes are relatively fuss-free. You’ll quickly find that adding more seasonal fruit and vegetables to your repertoire doesn’t need much added flavour beyond a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of citrus or a dusting of chopped nuts or fresh herbs to taste incredible.
Serve up a slice
A slice of bread alongside a main meal is the traditional Mediterranean way – but forget about the usual fluffy white culprit. Instead, opt for a wholemeal sourdough for long-lasting energy and more gut-loving fibre.
Check your condiments
Skip the mayo and tomato and barbecue sauces and look to flavour your food with healthy fat sources – like extra virgin olive oil, avocado, hummus or tapenade – for a creamy flavour kick.
Choose simple snacks
This means sticking with foods in their most natural, whole form – like fresh fruit and vegetables or nuts and seeds – rather than highly processed foods like cakes, biscuits or packet muesli/protein bars.
Swap to whole grains
Opt for grainy bread over white, brown rice and wholemeal pasta. Once you get used to the slightly different flavours, you’ll also come to see how much longer they keep you feeling satisfied.
End meals with fruit
Have what’s in season – for spring, that includes apples, mandarins, watermelon and oranges.
© Prevention Australia
First published: 4 Nov 2019