This guide is all about the easy ways to follow the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet, like its name suggests, follows the diet pattern of Italy, Greece and Spain. It focuses on more vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and consumption of healthy fats obtained through avocado and olive oil. There is greater emphasis on plant protein and restriction of animal fats. Lean meat is allowed and so is fish, but trans-fat laden foods like bacon strips are strictly prohibited. Dairy is consumed moderately in the form of yogurt/kefir or cheese. The Mediterranean diet also allows consumption of moderate quantities of red wine which is full of antioxidants, hence great for the heart and also as an anti-aging superfood.
Lard and butter are not a part of Mediterranean diet. In some parts of the region, fat from the tail of sheep is used as lard. The definition of Mediterranean diet is not hard and fast. This is due to the fact that people in different regions consume (and condemn) different groups of fats in various ways. But in a broader sense, Mediterranean diet can help lower cholesterol and fight obesity because it is high in monounsaturated fat and fiber; the emphasis being on plant products. Just like any healthy diet, it does not encourage processed food, which is high in cholesterol, sugar and salt. Following easy ways to follow the Mediterranean diet will help you gradually switch to a better meal plan and improve health and fitness.
1. Replace butter, margarine and animal fats with healthy oils
You can use olive oil or coconut oil in place of butter. Use canola oil in place of duck fat. You will compromise a bit on taste but you can make up for this by using herbs like oregano, a dash of pepper etc. Use oil that isn’t refined, as in whole grain oil. This contains monounsaturated fats that are good for the heart and they also help increase metabolism. This easy way to follow the Mediterranean diet can prevent obesity and keep you light and fresh all day.
2. Eat salads with low fat homemade dressings
You can include one potion of roast vegetables or fresh leafy salads in your meal. Start with one meal replacing a bit of animal protein with roast vegetables and fish. Avoid fatty dressings and use herbs instead of salt and pepper. You can use lemon juice to aid better absorption of iron in the green vegetables you consume. Grilled, baked and roasted vegetables like egg plant, squash, pumpkin, broccoli etc. taste divine with some herbs, garlic and lemon juice and you can gradually reduce the salt you use to season your dishes. You can also use herbs, aromatics, olive oil or even coconut oil in salad dressings instead of emulsified fats.
3. Gradually increase consumption of fish
3 portions of fish a week is essential to keep up with protein requirement and you can completely cut down red meat. If you don’t like fish, you can also consume lean or white meat in its place. You can also use skinless chicken, turkey and duck. Poultry with skin on is a lot fattier than skinless pieces. The diet however recommends fish so focus should be on that.
4. Eat organic
Organic leafy greens are great source of several vitamins, iron and other antioxidants. Fresh organic vegetables also contain antioxidants and are rich in several vitamins and minerals. Include roast vegetables and greens in your meals during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Roast vegetables taste much better than fatty meats, and salads give a nice kick when spiced and seasoned with fresh and dried herbs. Try to procure organic produce which is fresh. Even if the label says organic, if it is imported from a far off place, the odds are the nutrients are either drained or have attained a bit of toxicity. “Fresh produce” is the key.
5. Consume moderate amount of dairy and red wine
Consume 3 portions of Kefir or Yogurt, or 1 portion of cheese every week. Do not drink excess milk in the form of coffee. Black coffee is much better and is full of antioxidants. Red wine in moderation is highly beneficial but of course women should limit their intake to one glass a day and men to 2 glasses per day, no more.
Although these easy ways to follow the Mediterranean diet indicate consumption of limited animal fats and protein, eventually, cut down completely on consumption of animal fats. The focus should be on fresh produce in the form of organic fruits and vegetables. You can even start with unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices like orange juice and carrot juice. Gradually, increase consumption of whole fruits and salads. You can spice up your salads with bits of feta cheese or some Greek yogurt and herbs. Eat fruits, nuts and seeds during your mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack instead of reaching for a bag of chips and try to eat greens like celery, spinach, broccoli and bok choy. Baked or roasted Kale is great elevens snack and prevents you from reaching for processed food like instant noodles and readymade soups. Enjoy these easy ways to follow the Mediterranean diet and see an improvement in your health!