Beginner’s Guide To The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is based on the food staples historically eaten in countries like Italy and Greece. The diet is named after countries that border the Mediterranean Sea where this food grouping has been common.
Researchers have noted that people from these countries that follow this eating method are exceptionally healthy and experience greater longevity – especially when compared to their American counterparts. Those who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet also experience a lower risk of many lifestyle diseases (non-communicable chronic disease), like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Mediterranean Diet Basics
The Mediterranean diet isn’t a “diet” in the way many of us interpret that term. Instead, it’s a way of eating that emphasizes and prioritizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil. Fish is often the main source of protein instead of red meat, chicken, or pork. In fact, red meat and processed foods are not eaten regularly. However, red meat is certainly consumed on occasion.
Here’s one easy rule of thumb: the fewer ingredients, the better. Since processed foods aren’t a traditional part of the Mediterranean diet, check the packages your food comes in. If there are more than 3 or 4 ingredients, it’s probably too processed.
Instead, opt for whole foods that you have to prepare from scratch or minimally processed foods. If you can imagine that a factory was required to make the food you are about to eat, it may behoove you to rethink that bite.
Fruits and vegetables should make up the majority of your meals. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day – but you can start out with just 3 to 5 servings a day and still reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. An easy way to add more vegetables to your diet is to increase your vegetable intake within your regular eating patterns.
If you make eggs every day, add spinach and tomatoes. Make a salad to take to work instead of opting for a sandwich – or if you want to continue making sandwiches, add more green things to it than processed lunch meat. Throw on some lettuce, cucumbers, and avocado for a healthy boost.
Foods to Avoid:
Knowing what to eat on a Mediterranean diet is pretty intuitive. Most of us already know how to eat healthily, and what “whole foods” look like. It can be harder to know what to avoid – so here’s a list of common foods and ingredients to steer clear from:
- Added sugar like high fructose corn syrup: this is prevalent in soda, candy, and more. A simple step: don’t add sugar or sugar-filled creamer to your coffee. Creamer in and of itself is a factory product; it is massively processed.
- Processed grains: Avoid white bread and pasta that isn’t whole grain. Whole grains are actually good for you. Sadly, most food we can buy has processed grains that are no longer whole.
- Trans fats: Avoid margarine and various processed foods that have “trans fats” on the label.
You can still have meat, cheese, and dairy products – just in moderation. A great way to make sure you’re moderating your red meat intake is to first commit to eating only one meal a week with beef in it. Later, once a month is better.
Don’t Forget To Move
The Mediterranean diet is a great way to improve your health all on its own – but it’s better when incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. People in Mediterranean countries tend to move more – leading active lifestyles. Get outside at least once a day, and/or start your day with a gentle yoga routine. Exercise is necessary for the total health optimization that the Mediterranean Diet brings to you.
Stress reduction is part of this plan too
Make sure to make time for your meals; focus on the joy of cooking and eating so it’s a more intuitive eating experience. Eating with friends and family and enjoying the social interaction is definitely one of the reasons this method works.
Being with loved ones is a great way to reduce stress. Stress is damaging. This method of eating seeks to incorporate a good food plan with exercise and stress reduction.
At Warner Orthopedics, our goal is to help you achieve the healthy lifestyle you’ve always envisioned for yourself. Daily stressors, lacking diets, and a lack of movement can negatively impact your overall well-being, and we are here to help you get back into alignment.