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Healthy Lifestyles that Last Blog

Give your meals a Mediterranean makeover

Mediterranean Foods
Mediterranean Pyramid

Spring is underway and many of you have probably been doing some spring cleaning in your home, closets and yards but what about your kitchen? As we shed our winter clothes for sandals let us also consider shedding some of those warming winter foods for items that keep us satisfied, light and energized.

May has been deemed Mediterranean Diet Month so you’ll likely be seeing a lot of buzz about it on social media. Unlike some of the newer diet plans out there, the Mediterranean-style eating pattern is backed by decades of research and supported by the American Heart Association, the World Health Organization and the USDA. No wonder it has been ranked the #1 diet for the last several years!

Note to self: this is not a structured diet but an eating pattern as diverse as the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. In general, the foods emphasized in this eating pattern are nutrient-rich with diverse flavors. As you can see in the Mediterranean pyramid, meals are based on vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fruit, and olive oil followed by smaller portions of cheese and yogurt (fermented dairy), meat, fish, and poultry. Red meat and sweets are reserved for special occasions. Also encouraged are shared meals and physical activity since this is a lifestyle rather than a short-lived diet.

If you want to eat the Mediterranean way, try making these healthy swaps on your grocery list and give your kitchen pantry and refrigerator a makeover this May. 

  • Instead of chips, pretzels and ranch dip; try raw veggies and hummus or Greek yogurt dip with herbs.
  • Instead of white rice, refined pasta and bread; try brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread/pasta
  • Instead of eggs with Hollandaise sauce, try eggs with salsa
  • Instead of sugary cereal, try old fashioned oats
  • Instead of hamburgers, try black bean burger, turkey burger, salmon croquettes
  • Instead of steak, try seafood
  • Instead of butter, try extra virgin olive oil
  • Instead of french fries, try roasted red potatoes
  • Instead of seasoning salt, try no-salt herb & spice blends and garlic
  • Instead of mayonnaise for sandwiches, try avocado
  • Instead of salad dressing, try oil & vinegar (or citrus)
  • Instead of cheese-based dips, try bean-based dips
  • Instead of cream-based soups, try broth-based soups
  • Instead of candy as a snack, try nuts & seeds, celery with nut butter, fresh fruit
  • Instead of ice cream, try blended frozen bananas, fruit sorbet
  • Instead of soda, try water infused with fruit & herbs, tea

By making over your kitchen pantry - and ultimately your eating pattern - you will be getting more fiber, phytochemicals and healthy fats while reducing sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.

The Mediterranean Diet alone or in combination with other healthy behaviors can reduce risk of death from all causes, but especially from cardiovascular disease. It can also lower risk for Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer (particularly colorectal cancer), and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s.

Celebrate May the Mediterranean way and raise a glass to good food and good health! Cheers!
Try my go-to Mediterranean inspired recipes for Mediterranean orzo salad and Mediterranean hummus dip. Check out the Mediterranean All-Stars in this 1-minute video.

How Mediterranean is Your Diet? Take this quiz developed by Oldways.