Most of the Mediterranean countries, including Italy, Spain and Greece to name a few, have it right when it comes to eating delicious, wholesome and healthy foods. More than just a way to drop a few pounds, the Mediterranean diet is considered an actual lifestyle focused on healthy eating, regular physical activity, low stress and finding pleasure in daily living. If you need a lifestyle overhaul, particularly one that promotes heart health and fights cancer, the Mediterranean diet is a mouthwatering place to start. Here’s what you need to know about living more Mediterranean.
Here’s how to incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle.
Enjoy healthy fats
By now most people realize that not all fats are bad for you. In fact, your body needs fat to function properly, but the key is consuming healthy fats. For example, the Mediterranean diet utilizes olive oil instead of butter or lard. Quality extra virgin olive oil can be drizzled over salads, vegetables and pasta, and even used in baking in place of other fats. Just be cautious of how many tablespoons you consume; all oils are high in fat and calories.
Reduce red meat intake
The Mediterranean diet focuses on lean proteins, like seafood, as opposed to red meat, which is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Red meat can be eaten in limited amounts — try once or twice a week – or replace meat dishes with fish. Fatty fishes, such as salmon and tuna, are good choices since they are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fat. Poultry is another lean source of protein.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
As with any sensible diet and healthy lifestyle, eating fruits and vegetables is highly recommended. Fruits and vegetables can be consumed throughout the day as healthy snacks, cooked as a main dish while meat plays the side, and fruits make naturally sweet healthy desserts. Try to reverse your way of thinking that meat and protein always needs to be the center of a meal; instead, make heartier vegetable dishes, which will fill you up for fewer calories and fat. Also, at least twice a week make your entire day or one meal vegetarian – get your protein fix from beans and nuts.
Go ahead, enjoy nuts and grains
Contrary to popular belief grains are not the enemy. Even though whole grains are high in carbohydrates, they are also high in fiber and healthful nutrients. Bread, pasta and rice are part of the Mediterranean diet, but are consumed in moderation and made with whole grains and/or partnered with wholesome ingredients. Other grains to consider: quinoa, couscous, bulgur and oats. Nuts are also a terrific way to enjoy healthy fats and protein. Because they are also high in calories, be cautious of how many you consume. A handful each day will usually do the trick. Just be sure to stick to raw, unsweetened or lightly salted nuts.
Spice things up
Using as little salt as possible when you cook is always good advice, but it is especially important if you have high blood pressure or heart disease. Instead of flavoring your foods with salt, cook with fresh or dried herbs and spices. They can add a lot of flavor without putting your health at risk.
Consume eggs and dairy in moderation
Dairy and eggs can be high in cholesterol and calories, so eating them in moderation and choosing low-fat dairy options is a sensible way to include them in your diet. Limit your intake of eggs to three to four per week and consider eating the entire egg since many of the essential nutrients are in the yolk. Limit your dairy intake of low-fat cheeses, yogurts (Greek yogurt is especially healthy) to a serving or two per day.
A nice element of the Mediterranean diet is the green light to have a glass of red wine each day. Red wine has long been associated with heart health.
A key component of the Mediterranean diet is incorporating physical activity into your daily lifestyle. When the weather is nice, head outside for a workout, walk to work, play with your kids, or go for a hike. Engage in active sports like skiing, biking or even playing soccer or another sport. You can also going to the gym or even play on a Wii. Whatever you do, make sure you move every day; it is good for your body and mind.
Along with daily physical activity, you need to get a good amount of rest. Between seven and nine hours of sleep each night is recommended for good health. Sufficient shut-eye will improve your physical health but it is also beneficial for your mind and can reduce your stress levels.
Perhaps the best thing about living more Mediterranean is the inherent love and zest for life. Reducing stress can help you enjoy life more, and the reverse is also true: enjoying life more can reduce your perception of stress-inducing events. A good way to adopt this mindset is to put aside a few minutes each day just for yourself to think, deep breathe and really listen to the peace in your world. Keeping stress levels low is essential to healthy living and simply making a conscious effort to be healthy, happy and to laugh every day will let you enjoy life more.