Interested in the Mediterranean diet? Here’s how to start tonight
Here are 10 simple steps to your healthy Mediterranean dinner. Best part? You don’t need new recipes!
You’re over kale chips, green smoothies and watching the clock tick until you’re allowed to eat again. With a lighter in one hand and your well-worn membership card to the diet-of-the-month club in the other, you’re ready to swear off strict diet rules forever.
But what if there was a better way?
Not the next shiny new thing leaving you with empty promises, a grumbling belly and a grumpy mood. But something that makes you smile. And helps you get healthy!
There’s a plan that puts oodles of yummy foods on your plate, doesn’t require that you deny yourself chocolate, peanut butter or red wine (okay, those are my favorites), and makes even the most diet-weary person keen to dive in. Yep, the Mediterranean diet is the perfect diet for people who hate following diets. And it’s easy to get started right away.
Hop in tonight with any of these 10 simple steps to a healthy Mediterranean dinner.
Personalize your Mediterranean dinner
Start with dinner, and then work on the rest of your diet.
There isn’t a single Mediterranean diet. Instead when I say Mediterranean diet, I mean one of many traditional eating patterns eaten in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Each country has its own set of local foods, so the specific foods on the menu differ, but the concept of the diets is similar. By following the concepts, you can eat foods from any part of the world – Spain, Greece or Texas – and still have a Mediterranean-style diet.
Here’s what to eat on your Mediterranean diet
- More plants than animals. Plant slant your plate with loads of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and pulses or other legumes.
- Fish over other meats. No food is off limits, but choose fish and other seafood more often than beef, poultry, pork and others.
- Herbs and spices over salt. Sprinkle both fresh and dried herbs and spices, which have the same types of health-boosting phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables.
- Try mint or basil with tomatoes and peaches; chives with potatoes and eggs; tarragon with green beans; oregano with pasta and tomato sauces; parsley in grain-based salads. Check out 5 mistakes you’re making with herbs and spices.
- Unsaturated fats over saturated fats. Reach for liquid oils like olive oil or less expensive canola or vegetable oils over semi-solid and solid fats like coconut oil and butter.
10 ways to follow a Mediterranean diet at dinner
- Make dinner the event. Racing through your dinner or eating in the car are not very Mediterranean. They’re also not any fun. Prioritize time to prepare and enjoy your meal. Break bread with family or friends as often as possible.
- Eat just enough. How much is that? It’s the amount you need to be satisfied but not one bite more. Eating just enough is hard to do, so embrace the learning process. Tune into your hunger, have fun with your dinner companions and taste – really taste – every single bite. Eating just enough is easier to do when you make the meal the event rather than something your squeeze between two other events. Though the Mediterranean dinner may be eaten late, it’s frequently not the largest meal of the day.
- Enjoy raw vegetables. Mix diced cucumbers, tomatoes and red onions together or dig into a green leafy salad.
- Embrace whole grains. Try out brown or black rice, barley, bulgur, polenta and farro. Give quinoa, amaranth, wheat berries and buckwheat a go. Mix them with vegetables, herbs and spices, pulses and small amounts of fish or other meats. If you want your grains in 90 seconds, try ready-to-eat whole grains.
- Alternate vegetarian and fish dinners. While folks who live near the Mediterranean Sead do eat beef and poultry, they eat seafood and pulses like lentils and chickpeas more often.
- Reach for olive oil. Drizzle it over your salad and cook your other foods with it. If olive oil isn’t in your budget or to your liking, use canola or another heart-healthy oil rich in monounsaturated fatty acids.
- Dip bread. Yes! Bread is a common food for a Mediterranean dinner. But it’s not slathered with butter. Do not feel guilty about eating bread if you want some. (I’m pretty sure feeling guilty about eating isn’t a Mediterranean thing. In fact, a Greek acquaintance just told me that real Mediterranean moms chase their kids around with at least one slice of bead! ) Have a small piece and dip it lightly into seasoned olive oil.
- Drink alcohol with meals (if you drink at all). It’s not a Mediterranean dinner if you start with a few cocktails. Choose wine more frequently, limit the amount, and enjoy the wine as part of the full flavor package – not as a psychoactive drug. Health guidelines tell us to limit alcohol to 1 standard drink (5 ounces wine) for women and 2 standard drinks for men each day.
- Finish your meal sweetly. Save baked goods and pastries for special occasions. Most evenings, end your meal with fresh or dried fruit. Toss a few nuts on your plate too. Those dates, oranges and grapes above make a perfect dessert.
- Take a walk. If you can fit it into your schedule, take a 20-minute walk after dinner. It’s good for you in so many ways: blood pressure, mental health, blood sugar, inflammation, triglycerides and on and on. Check out how you can lower your blood sugar with a Mediterranean diet.
Healthy eating & more protect you against type 2 diabetes. Get this prediabetes self-care checklist.
I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.
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Welcome to my Blog
Hi there! I'm Jill, a nutrition & diabetes expert and the author of 4 books.
I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.
And I believe willpower is way overrated.
Right here is where you can discover the mindset and habits to stick with healthy lifestyle choices most of the time - and drop the guilt when you don't.