10 Ways to Start Following the Mediterranean Diet

January 11, 2019
| Created by Melanie Taylor, MS, RDN, CD

Few diets have been more researched and revered than the Mediterranean diet. While more a lifestyle than actual diet in the weight loss sense, the Mediterranean diet was named the Best Diet Overall for 2019 by U.S. News. Read on for 10 changes you can make to head down the path of health and wellness. Then check out this eShop collection to pick up Mediterranean diet inspired ingredients.

1) Change your oil. Coconut oil is all the rage. However, it is 92 percent saturated fat, which has been linked to higher rates of cholesterol and heart disease. Stick with heart-healthy oils like olive or avocado.

Pro Tip: Try making salad dressing from scratch for fresh flavor and healthy fat combinations.

2) Eat more fish. Seafood cooks quickly and is easy to prepare, which makes it perfect for busy evenings. Watch for Fresh Fish Friday specials at Harmons each week! Eat a variety of types, and remember that canned fish, like tuna, counts too!

Pro Tip: This tuna recipe is a Harmons dietitian favorite and makes a quick and tasty lunch any day.

3) Focus on veggies. If your idea of eating vegetables only includes raw carrot sticks or over-boiled broccoli, you are seriously missing out. Make it your mission this week to find the tastiest ways of preparing vegetables and eat more of them.

Pro Tip: Dietitian Laura shared her veggie roasting expertise on KUTV recently. Check it out! 

4) Eat nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains every day. Fiber, plant-based protein, and heart-healthy fats deliver staying power to help you feel full longer after meals and keep blood sugar level stable. Make at least half your grains whole-grains, plan meatless meals using legumes, and snack on nuts and seeds or add them to your already favorites for added crunch.

Pro Tip: Freekeh? Sorghum? Keep grains interesting by trying something you haven’t before.

5) Make dessert a treat again. Save high sugar and calorie desserts for special occasions and pick fruit more often for dessert. Try grilling or broiling fruit to caramelize natural sugars for maximum fruity goodness.

Pro Tip: Try this grapefruit with maple cream for a dessert that will impress even your most fancy dinner guest.

6) Drink wine. Red wine is usually consumed with meals in the Mediterranean, but in moderation (usually 4-5 ounces). While certainly not required for good health, wine contains phytochemicals that may help fight chronic disease. Red wine is more beneficial than white because the skins are used in making red wine—most of the phytochemicals are found in the skin.

Pro Tip: Harmons Cooking Schools offer regular wine classes where you can learn about and try different varieties.

7) Change the way you think about meat. Think of it as a flavoring or addition, not the main show. If you eat meat, have smaller amounts. Try to limit meat servings to less than 3 ounces. You can add strips of chicken or sirloin steak to a vegetable sauté or salad, or add diced prosciutto to a pasta dish. Also choose the leanest cuts of meat, like chicken or lean cuts of red meat.

Pro Tip: Reduce ground meat in a recipe by half and replace it pound for pound with finely chopped mushrooms. This works really well for tacos, sloppy joes, pasta sauce, burgers, and meatloaf.

8) Eat intuitively and be social! Take the time to slow down and savor your meals without distractions, and enjoy the company of loved ones. Studies show that people who don't watch TV during dinner tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fat, and more of certain important nutrients. Plus, spending more time connecting with people you care about can be a good emotional boost and stress reducer.

Pro Tip: Don’t allow phones at the table.

9) Get moving. Walk with your family or friends after dinner, use the stairs when possible, and take meetings outside. Every little bit of exercise counts, so if you can’t devote time to structured workout — just move more.

Pro Tip: Walk with your family or friends after dinner, use the stairs when possible, and take meetings outside.

10) Season with herbs and spices. Cooking with herbs and spices is a great way to enhance the flavor of foods without additional calories or sodium from fat, sugar, and salt.

Pro Tip: Reduce sugar in meals by replacing added sugar with sweet tasting herbs and spices like; allspice, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, and nutmeg. Spices such as; black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, dill seeds, basil, ginger, coriander, and onion powder can be effective in replacing the taste of salt.