The Mediterranean Diet Made Simple

Mediterranean Diet Made Simple

Have you been looking to make a change in how you eat? Are you tired of reusing the same recipes week after week? Do you want to try a recipe from a new region? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, the Mediterranean diet may be the answer.

In the 1950’s, the American scientist, Ancel Keys, first discovered the health benefits of the Mediterranean style diet. Keys conducted the “Seven Countries Study,” in which he studied nearly 12,000 middle-aged men from Finland, Holland, Italy, the United States, Greece, Japan and Yugoslavia. Results of his study indicated that people from the Mediterranean region had lower rates of heart disease. Since that time, research has continued to discover many health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

A Mediterranean diet is considered more of a lifestyle than a diet, which may be part of the reason it has grown in popularity. Following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern has been shown to lower the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. This style of eating promotes fresh, locally grown foods and is abundant in plant foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds.

Olive oil is the primary fat used in the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fat help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol). There is also evidence that monounsaturated fat may improve insulin sensitivity (when consumed in place of saturated fat), benefiting glycemic control.

Strategies for following a Mediterranean style diet:

Eat More of:

Fresh fruits and veggies

Olive oil


Nuts and seeds


Whole grains


Eat Less of:


Full fat dairy (whole milk and butter)

Processed and packaged foods


Quick tips for what to look for on a nutrition label:

Zero grams trans fat

Saturated fat should be less than 8 percent of total calories

Sodium should be less than 600 milligrams for meal-type foods

Added sugars should be not be more than 4 grams per serving (this may be more difficult to assess. Added sugars and naturally occurring sugars are not separated on the nutrition label)

Are you now curious to try the Mediterranean diet? Challenge yourself over the next week to incorporate one of the Mediterranean diet principals into each day:

Monday: Snack smart. Replace cookies with almonds or fresh veggies.

Tuesday: Keep your plate in good balance. Make a dinner plate that is half vegetables, one-quarter protein and one-quarter starch.

Wednesday: Change your protein. Make a fish for dinner instead of steak.

Thursday: Think protein alternatives. Choose a vegetarian dish that includes legumes such as chickpeas or lentils.

Friday: Make a healthier happy hour snack. Instead of potato chips and dip try whole-wheat pita chips and guacamole.

Saturday: Change up the fat. Use olive oil in place of butter in meal preparation.

Sunday: Take a field trip. Shop at your local farmers market.

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