10 Ways to Follow a Mediterranean Diet at Dinner
The Mediterranean diet is hot hot hot these days! And I am so glad. I love that there’s more focus on healthy eating plans for life instead of diets for fast weight loss. If you don’t currently follow a Mediterranean diet, ease in. Here are 10 ways you and your family can follow a Mediterranean diet at dinner.
Why Follow a Mediterranean Diet?
The foods are tasty, familiar and healthful! There’s nothing weird or foreign to scare you off. And you won’t go hungry.
Here’s how you can lower your blood sugar with a Mediterranean diet.
It’s important to recognize that there isn’t a single Mediterranean diet. Instead when I say Mediterranean diet, I really mean one of many traditional eating patterns consumed by people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Each country has its own set of local foods, so the specific foods on the menu will differ, but the concept of the diets is similar. In short, here’s what a Mediterranean-style diet looks like.
- More plants than animals. Plant slant your plate with a variety 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 vegetables oils over semi-solid and solid fats like coconut oil and butter.
Traditionally, following a Mediterranean diet also includes eating meals leisurely and socially and drinking moderate amounts of alcohol with meals.
10 ways to follow a Mediterranean diet at dinner
- Make dinner the event. Prioritize time to prepare your meal and to enjoy eating it. Break bread with family or friends as often as possible. It’s not very Mediterranean to race through a meal or to eat it in the car. It’s not very much fun either.
- Eat just enough. This is easier to do if you’re making the meal the event rather than something crammed between two other events. It also helps to eat slowly and make an effort to find pleasure in every bite. Though the evening meal may be eaten late, it’s frequently not the largest meal of the day.
- Enjoy raw vegetables. Dice 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.
- Alternate vegetarian and fish dinners. While red meats and poultry are certainly eaten, seafood and pulses like lentils and chickpeas are more common.
- Reach for olive oil. Drizzle it over your salad and cook your other foods with it.
- Dip bread. Yes! Bread is common. But it’s not slathered with butter. You should not feel guilty about eating bread if you want some. (I’m pretty sure feeling guilty about eating isn’t a Mediterranean thing.) Have a small piece and dip it lightly into seasoned olive oil. And while we’re talking unreasonable food fears, it’s okay and common to eat potatoes too.
- Drink mostly water. If you drink alcohol, choose wine more frequently, limit the amount, and drink with your meal. Health guidelines tell us to limit alcohol to 1 standard drink (5 ounces wine) for women and 2 standard drinks for men each day.
- Sweeten your meal naturally. 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, if you’d like. Those dates, oranges and grapes above make a perfect dessert.
- Take a walk. If you can fit it into your schedule, enjoy some time outside. A 20-minute walk is good for you in so many ways: blood pressure, mental health, blood sugar, inflammation, triglycerides and on and on.
Do you have any favorite tips to follow a Mediterranean diet?
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.
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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.