Mediterranean diet is not just a simple weight loss program, it is a way of life. So you don’t have to be on a diet to eat as recommended by the Mediterranean diet program, it is a healthy way of eating meant for everyone who wants to eat delicious food and stay healthy and in shape. Inspired by the traditional cuisine of some Mediterranean countries, the diet has always been a synonym of a healthy way of living and healthy hearts.
The diet was publicized for the first time in 1945 by the American scientist Ancel Keys (1904 – 2004) who after doing various researches and studies wrote a bestseller “How to eat well and stay well the Mediterranean way” in 1975. After the economic boom in the sixties, the diet was considered very poor and it did not gain much of an attention. Later the diet was a subject of various studies which have confirmed its important role in preventing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and tumors.
UNESCO recognized the Mediterranean Diet in 2013 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Portugal, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Cyprus and Morocco.
Based on an intake of healthy ingredients like seasonal fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood, extra virgin olive oil, cereal and legumes it is not surprising that it is one of the most recommended diets all around the world. It is a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat, the bad mix that is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease and cancer nowadays. All the foods that have undergone minimal processing and are fresh are the preferred. Although red meat is very popular in some parts of Mediterranean countries like the lamb in Greece, Croatia and some islands in Italy, the key is in its preparation, quality and quantity of red meat eaten a month etc. It was a subject of many studies as some scientist saw that the amount of red meat and fat eaten in some Mediterranean countries was the same as in the United states or Northern Europe, but the cardiovascular diseases were less frequent in Mediterranean countries. It is called the Mediterranean style diet paradox and French paradox.
So if you have decided to do your heart a favor by reducing your bad cholesterol (LDL), increasing the good one (HDL) as well as reducing your blood pressure, then the Mediterranean diet and the way of life is the right choice for you.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
- Sweet ≤ 2 serving a week
- Red meat < 2 servings a week
- Processed meat – once a week
- Potatoes ≤ 3 servings a week
- White meat – 2 servings a week
- Eggs 2-4 servings a week
- Fish/Seafood ≥ 2 servings a week
- Legumes ≥ 2 servings a week
- Low-fat dairy – 2 servings a day
- Nuts, seeds or olives – 1 serving a day
- Herbs and spices – every day
- Fruits and vegetables ≥ 2 servings every main meal
- Olive oil, Pasta, Rice, Bread and other cereal – 1 serving per meal
The healthy principles of this diet other than this pyramid are based on drinking the recommended amount of water (2 liter a day) which will help you flush toxins out of your vital organs, drinking 1 glass of wine a day (should be avoided by those who have alcoholism problems) and doing some physical activity at least three times a week. Physical activity is very important part of any diet program, but as this diet, but even if you’re not on a diet it will help you stay healthier and in shape. If you don’t have the time or money to go to the gym, try walking at least 30 minutes a day, take the stairs not the elevator, download some of the numerous free online exercise programs that you can do at home and after just a few weeks you will see the changes. You can drink tea, coffee, and fresh fruit juices without added sugar, but all beverages with a high amount of sugar should be avoided.
It is recommended to eat 3 main meals a day and two snacks and if it is possible to eat every day at the same time. You should also pay attention on your calorie intake during the day.
Breakfast – 20 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day and it should never be skipped. An example of a healthy Mediterranean breakfast is one cup of milk, two/three rusks with marmalade or honey, a fruit and a cup of coffee.
Morning snack between breakfast and lunch should make 5 percent of your daily calorie intake. You can eat a low fat yogurt and a fruit. It is better to eat a Greek yogurt or a simple white yogurt rather that fruit yogurt or with other added ingredients because they are high in sugar. If you like fruit yogurt that you can add some fresh fruit yourself in a Greek yogurt which is a much healthier solution.
Lunch – 35/40 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from lunch. For example: 80 grams of whole wheat pasta with fresh tomatoes basil and a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, salad with fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, black olives, walnuts, arugula and valerian. See our recipe page.
Evening snack – it makes 5 percent of your daily calorie intake. You can eat a fresh fruit with a pack of crackers or tea without sugar.
Dinner – It should make 30 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake. Remember to eat smaller meals for dinner so you can have a good sleep without having digestion problems. It is always recommended to go to sleep at least after 2 or 3 hours have passed from you last meal, not referring to siesta, a famous power nap after lunch in Spain. For example you can eat: grilled fish with fresh salad or boiled or grilled vegetables.
Check out our recipe page for some delicious healthy Mediterranean recipes.