Information about healthy eating seems to be everywhere. Magazines in the check-out lane promise tips and tricks on how to eat healthy, and you can hardly watch TV without finding a show about weight loss or people who are living a “600-pound life.” While bringing attention to positive eating habits is helpful and important, too many conflicting messages about what to eat can confuse people.
As a clinical dietitian, I help patients identify food that contributes to better health, disease management, and a healthy approach to weight loss. Over time, I found that the majority of patients have success using the Mediterranean diet.
To be clear, the Mediterranean diet is actually not a diet but a lifestyle and traditional way of eating in some countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (think Italy and Greece). This style of eating emphasizes fruits, vegetables, cheese, yogurt, whole grains, beans, wine and olive oil.
While great for weight loss, these foods are also associated with reducing the risk for heart disease, some cancers, and lowering the risk of developing high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
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The Mediterranean Style of Eating Promotes:
- Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
- Enjoying a wide range of vegetables with every meal
- Eating legumes (such as chick peas, kidney beans, navy beans and black beans)
- Eating whole grains
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Consuming fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Limiting red meat to 1-2 times per week
- Eating fruit daily
- Eating nuts
- Consuming low fat dairy products
- Limiting consumption of sweets to an occasional use
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
Other diet plans embrace the basic components of the Mediterranean diet while adding their own twist. For example, Weight Watchers Freestyle Program encourages people to lose weight by eating more fruits, vegetables and lean protein, and fewer sugar products and unhealthy fats. Their twist: don’t go over your allotted points for the day. Similarly, the keto diet emphasizes eating whole, fresh vegetables and proteins and avoiding sugars, additives, chemicals, and processed foods. That part sounds like the Mediterranean diet, but keto heavily restricts all carbohydrates--even the unrefined versions--and often leads to eating a lot of red meat and other animal products.
As with most things, there isn’t a “one size fits all” food plan. Hopefully this article helps you start a conversation with your doctor or dietitian about the diet best suited to your health and medical needs.
Interested in trying some Mediterranean-based recipes? Here are a few of my favorites.
Mediterranean Kale Salad
Mediterranean Bean Salad