The Mediterranean diet isn't as far-fetched as you may think.
The Mediterranean diet continues to be promoted as one of the best diets for health and longevity. In fact, it won first place in "The Best Diets for Healthy Eating", which weighs nutritional completeness and safety (U.S. News & World Report, 2018). Known for promoting heart and brain health and preventing cancer and diabetes, the Mediterranean diet isn't really a "diet" at all, but rather the cultural eating practices adapted by people of the Mediterranean region for hundreds of years.
The frustration with following the Mediterranean diet in the Midwest is that it can be difficult to follow one hundred percent. But the good news is that you don't have to in order to reap the health benefits. Here are three of the habits emphasized in the Mediterranean-style of eating and how you can adapt your eating habits to include them:
Eat primarily plant-based foods. Residents of Greece consume nine (that's right, nine) servings of fruits and vegetables each day. While that sounds like a staggering number, if you ate a piece of fruit at breakfast and a fruit and a vegetable at both lunch and supper you would consume at least five servings a day. That's more than the typical American eats right there! Grains consumed in the Mediterranean region are typically whole grains; think whole grain breads and pastas, brown rice, oats, barley and bulgur. Make a quarter of your plate whole grains at each meal.
Limit red meat and poultry. Red meat is only consumed a few times a month, and poultry and eggs once or twice a week in the Mediterranean. Look at how often you consume these types of protein currently and reduce it by replacing red meat at one or two dinners each week with fish and seafood. Legumes (fancy term for beans, peas, and lentils) can replace meat or poultry as the protein source at a meal. Use legumes once or twice a week instead of meat in soups and casseroles, meatballs or burgers, and as the protein source in salads.
Replace butter with olive oil. The idea isn't to limit total fat consumption, but rather to make healthier fat choices. Therefore, olive oil is featured as the primary source of fat as it is unsaturated and heart-healthy. Use olive oil in cooking, and as flavoring for vegetables, rice and pasta and on top of bread rather than butter.
As you can see, the Mediterranean diet isn't as far-fetched as you may have originally thought. If you shift your thinking toward more plants, less meat and healthy fats, you'll be on your way to living a long and healthy life.
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