Mediterranean diet: Foods to put on your plate

July 27, 2021 | by Mary Gardner, RD, LDN
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Nowadays on media platforms, we are exposed to countless dietary suggestions: Keto, vegetarian, intermittent fasting. And the list goes on.

Following a prolonged lockdown period, we’ve probably put on a few pounds. And that’s okay. Because it doesn’t have to be too difficult to lose that unwanted weight. If your goal is simply to eat healthier, that is possible, too.

According to U.S. News & World Report’s annual list, the Mediterranean diet is the top ranked diet for four consecutive years. The diet may help you:

  • Lose excess weight due to a focus on whole, fresh foods
  • Keep your heart and brain healthier
  • Prevent or control diabetes
  • Protect against certain types of cancer
  • Relieve depression symptoms

The Mediterranean diet includes a combination of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, using olive oil. The diet discourages processed foods, refined grains and oils, added sugars, sodium and saturated fats.

Regular weekly foods consist of fish and seafood, poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt. It’s also highly advised to drink a lot of water, although one can mix in a celebratory glass of red wine here and there because hey … we earned it.

A typical daily diet may consist of:

  • Breakfast: 0% fat Greek yogurt with mixed fruits and a drop of honey
  • Lunch: A salad containing tomatoes, cucumbers, white onions, beans, Kalamata olives and a little crumbled feta cheese and tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt (to taste), pepper, and oregano
  • Dinner: Any fish or seafood with a side of vegetables, and quinoa
  • Snack: Any low-calorie dip, like hummus, combined with chopped vegetables or a small serving of nuts

If you’re someone who has a higher daily caloric intake and exercises heavily to build off of those calories, this diet will be a drastic transition for your body. But even though you’re consuming different kinds of foods that aren’t as heavy as others, the long-term effects of this diet are equal if not better than what you’re currently doing.

But this is all easier said than done. The Mediterranean diet takes different kinds of commitment.

  1. The first is mental. Your body will immediately realize the change in your eating habits and will communicate with your brain to let you know. When your stomach digests less than what it is used to, your brain’s hypothalamus produces two proteins that cause hunger. It all comes down to the willpower to push through and change your body’s perception to make long-term, sustainable dietary changes.

  2. The second is physical. In addition to your new diet, you must keep your body in shape to stay healthy and lower the risk of various diseases and illnesses. Devoting 30 minutes to an hour for physical activity, for multiple days each week, is a great way to stay in shape. This could be going for a run, biking, swimming, lifting weights, body-weight exercises or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Any activity to get your heart rate up and in that target zone will help tremendously.

  3. The third is monetary. Many foods today are processed and touched by large corporations, most of which provide food for the largest grocers in the nation. Depending on where you buy fresh produce and whole food items, it can become expensive to maintain this lifestyle. Although you’re getting what you paid for, the numbers add up over time.

If you have any questions about how to eat healthier, consult with your doctor or a dietitian to recommend an eating plan that works best for you.

Check out some Healthy Driven recipes.

For more healthy meal tips, visit Healthy Driven Chicago.

Fasting, keto, counting macros – which dietary trends are the healthiest to follow? And is it possible to change your eating habits if others in your household don’t? In this Health 360 with Dr. G podcast episode, host Mark Gomez, MD, and his guests break down common diets and offer practical tips on how to establish sustainable, healthy eating habits. Listen to the podcast.

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