Are you looking for a heart-friendly meal plan? The Mediterranean diet might be just what you need!
The Mediterranean diet is based on traditional healthy ingredients, recipes, and cooking styles used in Mediterranean countries like Greece and Italy. Studies have shown that people living in these countries are much healthier than Americans and have significantly lower risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more. Furthermore, the Mediterranean diet is a go-to diet if your goal is weight loss!
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
Similar to other healthy eating plans, this diet is based on fish, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It limits the use of saturated fats, making olive oil one of the central ingredients and allows an occasional glass of good wine.
A Mediterranean Diet Plan
While there is no strict eating plan to stick to, there are general guidelines that can be adjusted to personal preferences. In a nutshell, the Mediterranean diet recommends increasing the intake of plant-based ingredients and decreasing the intake of red meat and processed foods.
It should be noted that, besides the following lists of allowed and banned foods, attention should be paid to ingredient proportions and amounts. In addition, the Mediterranean lifestyle includes eating with friends and family, as well as regular physical activities. In other words, besides eating high-quality foods, you should take care of your overall happiness and well-being!
The Mediterranean Diet Food List
List of allowed foods:
Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, herbs, spices, as well as fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil can be consumed on a daily basis.
Chicken and other poultry meat (turkey and duck), dairy (cheese and yogurt), and eggs should be consumed in moderation, whereas red meat is allowed only occasionally (few times a month).
List of forbidden foods:
All processed and refined foods such as added sugars, sweetened beverages, processed meat, refined grains, refined vegetable oils are strictly forbidden. Here is a more detailed list that will help you stay away from unhealthy foods:
- Anything that bears the label ‘low-fat’ or ‘diet’ indicates highly processed foods.
- Added sugar: table sugar, chocolate bars, candies, ice cream, soda, etc.
- Unhealthy trans fats like those found in margarine.
- Refined grain products including pasta and white bread.
- Refined oils like regular vegetable oil (corn, sunflower oil) soybean, cottonseed, canola oil, etc.
- Processed meats including sausages, hot dogs, burgers, etc. Bacon is considered too high in fats and should also be avoided.
The good news is that fulfilling foods such as pasta (preferably whole grain), rice, and potatoes are acceptable in the Mediterranean diet.
People living in Mediterranean countries are known to avoid red meats but take as many as 7-9 servings of fruit daily!
Bread made of whole grains are also allowed. In fact, bread is considered one of the staple foods in the Mediterranean region and is eaten plain or drizzled with olive oil, like in Spain. However, bread is never smeared with margarine or butter!
Nuts are very healthy and highly recommended but bearing in mind they’re high in calories, their intake should be limited to a handful a day. This refers to raw nuts only; toasted, salted, or candied nuts are on the blacklist!
The Mediterranean diet substitutes refined vegetable oils and butter with healthier fats like olive and canola oil. These oils are rich in healthy fats that reduce bad cholesterol levels and keep the heart healthy. Make sure that your olive oil bottle reads “extra-virgin” on the label. Other ‘good’ fat sources are olives, avocados, and avocado oil.
Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and salmon are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, the method of preparation makes a big difference. Avoid fried fish and opt for grilling. It is not only healthier but also less messy.
Spices and herbs like basil, rosemary, mint, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper, can be used in unlimited amounts. They will not only add flavor but also extra nutrients. Restrict the use of salt. If you must use it, opt for healthier options like Himalayan, Celtic, or sea salt.
When it comes to dairy products, opt for low-fat options such as fat-free yogurt, skim milk, and low-fat cheese (mozzarella is the safest option). Even better, try substituting dairy with plant-based milks like rice and almond milk.
And finally, avoid red meat whenever possible. When you do eat it, opt for lean varieties and restrict the amount to a fist-size per portion.
When it comes to drinks, water is recommended in high amounts. Plain, unsweetened coffee and tea are also acceptable. The Mediterranean diet also allows alcohol in moderate amounts. A glass of wine a day can help reduce the risk of heart attack. However, this is completely optional and can be disregarded if you are not a fan of alcohol or have health problems that could be worsened by alcohol intake.
A Weekly Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan and Recipes
Breakfast: Flax and Apple raisin Oatmeal
Lunch: Oriental Tuna Salad
Dinner: Tasty Salmon Cakes
Lunch: Veggie and Humus Sandwich
Dinner: Colorful Pasta Sala
Breakfast: Homemade Granola
Lunch: Broccoli Lasagna Roll-Ups
Dinner: Sunshine Greek Salad
Breakfast: Slow Cooker Vegetarian Omelet
Lunch: Seafood Casserole
Dinner: Fresh Sweet Potato Salad
Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup
Dinner: Roasted Pepper Pizza
Breakfast: Whole Grain Banana Blueberry Pancakes
Dinner: Lemon Grilled Chicken
Breakfast: Spinach and Feta Omelet
Lunch: Easy Turkey Skillet
Dinner: Grilled Leg of Lamb
Healthy Mediterranean Diet Snacks
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
The above mentioned meal plans include ideas for the three main meals. However, the point is not to allow to get hungry so, you’ll need to eat snacks between meals. Opt for a piece of your favorite fruit, handful of nuts, unsweetened Greek yogurt, granola with nut butter, carrots, etc.
The Mediterranean diet is more than a restrictive meal plan, it is a healthy lifestyle that will keep you satiated and healthy!