May is National Mediterranean Diet Month. Use this time to practice making delicious heart-healthy meals — you’ll enjoy a healthy diet that’s actually a lifestyle!
Let your mind wander to your dream vacation for a moment: Maybe you see yourself relaxing on the beaches of the Mediterranean where the clear water sparkles brilliantly, the weather is perfect and the food is fresh and simply divine. Okay, so maybe a Mediterranean vacay is out of reach at the moment, but at least you can eat like you’re in that region while you’re at home.
Paired with the delicious flavors, colors and textures of Mediterranean meals are numerous health benefits. The food eaten throughout Mediterranean countries like Italy, Israel, Greece, Morocco and Spain contributes to a heart-healthy diet.
The basics of a Mediterranean Diet
Think about the folks living in the Mediterranean countries. They enjoy wine, relax and savor their meals together and engage in physical activity — like walking — on a regular basis. Not a set meal plan but actually a lifestyle, a Mediterranean Diet consists of the following:
- Eating whole grains and plant-based foods (nuts, oats, brown rice, lentils, whole wheat pasta, couscous). Try this recipe for warm lentil salad with portabella mushrooms.
- Reducing fatty foods, red meat and dairy products (or at least eating lower-fat dairy products).
- Incorporating fish into meals a few times a week (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines). Try this recipe for herbed salmon.
- Using olive oil instead of butter or margarine.
- Adding fruits and veggies to most meals.
- Limiting poultry and eggs to a few times a week.
- Eating fresh foods and limiting processed foods.
- Limiting salt intake, using herbs and spices instead.
- Enjoying red wine with dinner (if you don’t or can’t drink alcohol, drink purple or red grape juice instead).
- Limiting desserts and sweets (think of substituting fruit and nuts for dessert).
Try a meatless Mediterranean feast >>
The benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
If you haven’t heard, this lifestyle has health benefits associated with it. This way of eating and living has the potential to:
- Prevent heart disease, stroke and some cancers
- Lower cholesterol
- Prevent Type 2 diabetes and obesity
- Promote weight loss
It might take a bit of practice to change your eating and lifestyle habits, but the benefits will be worth it. You’ll also experience new foods — and ways to prepare that food — that you may not otherwise have discovered.
What’s not to love about a Mediterranean Diet and lifestyle? If you can’t be in the Mediterranean, you can at least eat like you are!