Following a Mediterranean diet may be the key to good health. But what sorts of foods does it include? Find out here!
For years, experts have been singing the praises of the Mediterranean diet, which is believed to promote a healthy heart and protect the body against disease. It can also help you lose weight - plus some studies suggest a Mediterranean diet can help you sleep better, too.
What's not to love?
Rich in nutritious, whole, natural foods, the Mediterranean diet contains lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. It tends to contain a lot less meat and dairy than the typical 'western' diet... but it does allow for a moderate amount of antioxidant-rich red wine.
Before we get to the foods you SHOULD include in a Mediterranean diet, let's take a look at the foods you shouldn't!
Following a Mediterranean diet - foods to avoid
Refined grains. These are usually found in 'white' foods (think white rice, white pasta, white bread).
Refined oils. These include vegetable, canola, soybean, corn and safflower oils, plus margarine or other 'butter replacement' spreads.
Sugary foods, like candy, cakes and soda.
Processed meat, like hot dogs and deli meats.
Processed convenience foods. A good way to look at it is that the foods in a Meditteranean diet shouldn't be full of ingredients - they should BE the ingredients!
Now you know what to avoid, here are some of the foods you should be eating.
Mediterranean diet food list
- Yogurt - Greek yogurt is good, or any plain, unflavored variety
- Whole wheat toast
- Whole grain oats
Try serving any of these options with sliced avocado for a boost of healthy fats.
- Whole grain bread - this includes whole-grain specialty breads like pita or wraps
- Leafy salads with tomato
- Hummus (preferably homemade to avoid any unwanted additives)
- Protein-packed quinoa
- Soft cheeses, including goat's cheese and ricotta
- Fish (including fish rich in fatty acids, like sardines, salmon and mackerel)
- Shellfish, like fresh shrimp
- A little meat
- Whole grain pasta with grilled vegetables, such as zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, squash, sweet potatoes and onions
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grain couscous
Use olive oil to dress salads and to saute vegetables.
Use herbs generously - they are key to Mediterranean cuisine and bring their own health benefits to every dish. Good herbs to try include thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano and marjoram.
And whether serving breakfast, lunch or dinner, always include plenty of fresh, delicious fruit!
Good snacks for a Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet allows you lots of different, satisfying snack options:
- Whole fruits, or dried fruits like apricots and raisins (do remember that these can be high in sugar, so enjoy in moderation)
- A handful of nuts (try almonds, which can help satisfy a sweet craving, plus walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts or pine nuts)
- A small serving of plain, unflavored Greek or natural yogurt
- Hummus with crunchy vegetable sticks or halved cherry tomatoes
- Seeds, such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds