Mediterranean Diet 101 + Recommend Menu And Recipes
- March 04, 2021
Want to lose weight healthy and enjoy food? The Mediterranean diet is exactly what you need. We reveal to you the tricks of healthy weight loss!
The Mediterranean diet was created on the basis of the traditional diet used by the inhabitants of Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Israel. A large number of studies [1, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3] done on this topic have shown that the Mediterranean diet allows a gradual weight loss, with the use of healthy and nutritious ingredients. Also, food prepared in the Mediterranean way has a preventive effect on people with heart disease and reduces the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
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The Secret Ingredients of the Mediterranean Cuisine
Although the benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been known for decades, new research makes it active again, adding something new to its already known characteristics each time. However, what this diet is known for are the ingredients that are used for preparing meals.
This diet contains a low percentage of protein and saturated fats, and the emphasis is on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Cheese and yogurt can be consumed daily, while eggs, fish, red meat (usually lamb and beef) are recommended once or twice a week.
Olive oil is the main source of fat in this diet, and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables are ingredients in (almost) every meal. In the Mediterranean diet, spice herbs such as mint, basil, oregano, parsley, or rosemary are used a lot. A special flavor of food is achieved by using garlic or lemon. Dinner usually includes a glass of red wine.
Properly combined, these ingredients are not only a healthy choice for every meal, but they also create a feeling of satiety.
Although many argue that the Mediterranean diet contains a high percentage of fat (35-40 percent), here we are actually talking about healthy fats  found in olives, nuts, avocados, and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flax, and nuts. Research has shown that these fats are very useful – those who follow a Mediterranean diet high in monounsaturated fats remain slim despite the high percentage of them.
If you decide to follow this diet, you must know that besides the ingredients in the preparation of food, the lifestyle itself plays a big role. People who live in the Mediterranean like to be outdoors with family and friends. On such occasions they are relaxed, surrounded by positive thoughts. These circumstances are also important if you want to follow this diet. In this way both mind and body benefit.
Mediterranean food was included in 2013 on the official list of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO . Countries whose food has come under protection include Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Croatia.
Who Is the Mediterranean Diet For?
The Mediterranean diet is recommended for people who:
- are looking for a healthy diet to lose weight, healthy ingredients, and gradual weight loss
- care about their health and want their heart to be healthy
- choose quality over quantity
- like simple and easily prepared meals with fresh ingredients
- like to enjoy in a glass of wine after meal
People who are looking for a diet with more protein and like to eat meat, probably won’t find themselves in this way of eating. For them, the Atkins diet is a better variant.
Food to Eat in the Mediterranean Diet
Mediterranean cuisine and cook books are based on healthy, Mediterranean ingredients, and in large quantities include:
- vegetables: tomato, broccoli, spinach, onion, carrot, cucumber, zucchini, potatoes
- fruits: oranges, grapefruit, watermelons, melons, strawberries, apples, tangerines
- nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
- legumes: beans, lentils, chickpeas
- wholegrain cereals (whole grains) rice, cornflour, rye flour, oats
- fish and seafood: shellfish, squid, crabs, tuna, sea fish
- meat: chicken, goose, beef, lamb
- dairy products: cheese, yogurt
- spices: garlic, mint, rosemary, cinnamon, dill, parsley
- healthy fats: cold-pressed olive oil
- large quantities of water
Using these ingredients is the key to losing weight and maintaining good health.
It is best that ingredients that are not healthy and not used in this diet are not nearby. Because, if they are, you will be tempted to eat them. If there is only healthy food in the house, you will not make a mistake.
Although we do not belong to the Mediterranean countries, we are able to adjust and adapt the Mediterranean diet to our characteristics, without major changes in the regular diet.
Rules of the Mediterranean Diet – How to Eat and Stay Slim?
This is exactly the characteristic of the Mediterranean diet – weight loss without dieting! In the countries from which the Mediterranean diet comes, there are so many tempting, world-famous, and not so healthy dishes, but their inhabitants still live the longest.
Small Portions and Balanced Meals
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by smaller portions. It is eaten more often, but less. Also, the balance of everything has a very important role in the Mediterranean diet: healthy foods are eaten, the required amount of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins is ingested. People eat in a relaxed manner, without haste, and enjoy the meal. Calories are not counted – Mediterranean peoples stop eating when they are full, and there is always some space left for a Greek frappe or Italian cappuccino.
The Mediterranean diet cannot be imagined without olive oil. This oil is rich in monounsaturated acids, which are considered healthy fats, very suitable and recommended for nutrition. Most Mediterranean countries have a tradition in growing olives and use only the best oil for food.
Olive oil is used in salads, as an ingredient in spreads and most dishes. There is no representative of the Mediterranean country who will not ask for olive oil during a meal, to add it to at least one dish.
Use of Fresh Ingredients
Mediterranean countries are lucky enough to be rich in fresh ingredients at all times. The favorable climate allows fresh fruits and vegetables to be grown at any time of the year, so it is the main ingredient of every meal. This is very important for the Mediterranean diet because fresh fruits and vegetables are very important for a balanced diet, which is at the same time healthy and gives a feeling of satiety. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also added to meals – pasta in Italy is unthinkable without fresh tomatoes.
Fresh Air and the Benefits of Staying Outdoors
Is there anything more beautiful than a walk to the nearby square, the seashore, the park? The Mediterranean peoples are lucky enough to have a lot of days with good weather, which allows them to walk more than the representatives of some other countries. Doctors recommend walking and moving for those who are on a diet, for at least 30 minutes every day.
With the obligatory bottle of water, use every free moment and take a walk. If there is a natural oasis nearby (park, lake, river), the enjoyment will be even greater.
There Is No Place for Fizzy Drinks
Members of the Mediterranean peoples rarely drink carbonated drinks, which is understandable because they have fresh fruit in abundance. Eventually, after a hard-to-digest meal, they drink carbonated water, but even that doesn’t happen often.
What Mediterranean people practice is drinking a large amount of water. It can be plain water or some flavored variant such as Sassy water that melts fat layers. Anyone who has visited a cafe or restaurant in Greece at least once has noticed that the first thing they serve is a glass or a bottle of water. Freshly squeezed fruit juices are also very popular drinks, most often squeezed oranges, with the addition of grapefruit, lemonade, or fruit mix. Of course, there is also the inevitable coffee, which Italians like to drink especially after lunch. Just like with the Greeks, a glass of good wine is not unusual for them. The inhabitants of North African countries prefer to drink tea.
Fast Food Is Not Their Type
The Mediterranean peoples are proud of their national specialties. Surely, we all know Italy by pasta and pizza, Greece by Greek salad and gyros, Spain by tapas and paella. Then why would any of them eat fast food besides all these delicious meals? Of course, it happens to everyone to sometimes want something from the menu of kiosks and fast food restaurants, but that really rarely happens. Mediterranean people know where to eat well, because they enjoy it, so they will avoid places where the food is not tasty and prepared from good ingredients. And for a meal at home, they will always choose only the best.
Pizza or Gyros Are Not Eaten Every Day
The fact that these countries are known for specialties that may not be very suitable for the Mediterranean diet, does not mean that they are consumed every day. Everyday meals include healthier ones, with lots of fresh ingredients, fruits, and vegetables. And they are aware that eating pizza or gyros every day will not help them to stay as healthy and vital as their ancestors, so they consume them most often when they go out in the evening with friends.
It’s Not All About Diet, It’s Also About Lifestyle
Sometimes it’s not what you eat that matters, it’s how you eat. Meals are a kind of ritual that is repeated several times during the day. The secret of the Mediterranean peoples is that they enjoy this ritual! They choose to consume meals in the company of family and friends. You will often see whole families at the weekend, from grandparents to grandchildren, enjoying the open-air restaurant at the family lunch. They talk, laugh, eat slowly, enjoy small portions. They are in no hurry. If Mediterranean people hear the waves or smell the sea nearby, they enjoy a meal even more!
Mediterranean Diet – Diet Plan
There is no strict schedule in the Mediterranean diet, not only certain types of food are eaten, which are repeated from day to day. So, there is no right or wrong way to follow this diet. The way of food preparation as well as the use of individual ingredients differs from country to country, which makes them a real treasure trove of a variety of foods and tastes.
The menu we will suggest is the one that gives effects, but is, of course, suitable for adapting to your habits.
The first step
- Purchase of ingredients that are used daily in the Mediterranean diet and taking into account their frequency
- This should be eaten daily: fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, cereals, spices, olive oil
- This should be eaten occasionally: eggs, cheese, yogurt
- This should be eaten less often: red meat
- This should not be consumed: sweets, carbonated drinks, meat products, refined oils, and other industrially processed foods
During the Mediterranean diet, avoid these unhealthy ingredients:
- Foods that contain a lot of sugar: carbonated drinks, candies, ice cream, sweets
- Cereals: white bread, white flour macaroni
- Trans fats: margarine and a large number of industrially processed foods
- Refined oils
- Meat products: pâtés, salamis, hot dogs
- Industrially processed food: Anything that the label says has fewer calories or is dietary and looks like it was made in a food factory
Before buying any industrially processed food, it is always advisable to read the composition on the packaging and avoid those that have unhealthy ingredients.
Healthy Mediterranean Snack
The Mediterranean diet does not recommend more than 3 meals a day. But if you get hungry in the meantime, here are suggestions for a healthy snack:
- a handful of walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds
- carrots cut into thin slices
- a handful of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
- a dish left over from yesterday
- yogurt (Greek)
- apple cut into slices, with honey and almonds
How to Adhere to the Mediterranean Diet in a Restaurant
Most restaurants generally have a selection of dishes suitable for those who are on a diet. However, if you can’t decide, these tips will be useful:
- for the main course, you should choose a dish that contains fish or seafood
- ask if and for what dish they use olive oil for preparation
- you should eat only whole grain bread
- instead of margarine or cream cheese, use olive oil as a spread
The countries of the Mediterranean are home to the sun, the sea, and excellent food that is the key to good health.
Menu Proposal for the Mediterranean Diet for a Week
This is a meal suggestion for a week. Portions and choice of dishes can be adjusted according to the needs and availability of ingredients.
Breakfast: Yogurt (Greek) with oat bran or flakes and strawberries
Lunch: Briam (recipe below). Fruit.
Dinner: Tuna salad seasoned with olive oil
Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins
Lunch: Lentil soup (recipe below)
Dinner: Salad – tomato, feta cheese and olive oil
Breakfast: Omelette of 2 eggs, tomato and onion. Fruit.
Lunch: Lasagna in the Mediterranean way
Dinner: Sandwich with vegetables in a whole grain bun
Breakfast: Yogurt with seeds, nuts and fruits
Lunch: Grilled sea fish, rice as a side dish, salad
Dinner: Whole grain muffins
Breakfast: Boiled egg, whole grain toast and fresh vegetable salad
Lunch: Grilled lamb with roasted potatoes, seasonal salad
Dinner: Pie sandwiches with Greek salad (recipe below)
Breakfast: Yogurt, honey and seasonal fruit, whole grain toast
Lunch: Pizza in the Mediterranean way, with vegetables, cheese and olive oil
Dinner: Grilled vegetables with basil, bread, a glass of red wine
Breakfast: Toast with avocado (recipe below)
Lunch: grilled chicken with vegetables and baked potatoes. Fruit.
Dinner: Sandwich with vegetables in a whole grain bun
For the Mediterranean diet, counting calories and monitoring other parameters (fat, protein intake) is not necessary.
Recipes From the Mediterranean Menu
Briam is a Greek dish that is still often on the menu of Greek families. It consists of a variety of vegetables (tomato, zucchini, eggplant, pepper, onion) baked in the oven. It is prepared with olive oil.
Ingredients for 6-8 people:
- 4 big potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
- 3 medium zucchini cut into thin slices
- 3 onions cut into medium pieces
- 4 smaller eggplants cut into thin slices
- 3 smaller peppers cut into bigger pieces
- 4 medium tomatoes
- 8,5 fl oz (250 ml) of olive oil
- 12 fl oz (350 ml) of water
- 5 fl oz (150 ml) of fresh tomato juice
- salt (preferably sea), pepper, parsley
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)
- In a large baking dish, put a layer of sliced tomatoes, add salt and pepper, and then add a layer of potatoes and zucchini. These three types of vegetables require a little more time to cook, so they should be placed on the bottom. Add salt and pepper, and then add half the amount of onion and sliced eggplant. Add salt and pepper, add chopped peppers, parsley, and the rest of the onion. Add olive oil, water, and fresh tomato juice. Finally, stir, but so that the layers of vegetables are not disturbed, add salt and pepper.
- Put in the oven and stir carefully every half an hour. The briam will be ready after 2 hours when the vegetables should be soft.
- Serve warm. Sprinkle with parsley.
Greek Lentil Soup (Fakes)
Ingredients for 4 plates:
- 250 grams of lentils
- 2 finely chopped onions
- 2 finely chopped carrots
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 3 bay leaves
- 25 fl oz (750 ml) water
- 5 fl oz (150 ml) of fresh tomato juice
- parsley, salt, pepper
- olive oil
- spoon of vinegar
- Pour olive oil into a large pot so that it covers the bottom. Fry the onions, then add the carrot and garlic. Add the lentils and stir well. Add water, fresh tomato juice, bay leaf, oregano, and spices to this mixture.
- Leave to cook on medium heat for 30-40 minutes
- Finally, add a tablespoon of vinegar
- Serve warm
The advantage of this lentil soup is that it can be adapted to every taste. Those who like it a little more spicy, can add a little hot pepper. Apart from being the main dish, many also use it as a side dish with potatoes or macaroni.
It may seem strange that vinegar is added to this dish, but vinegar gives it a special note, which everyone should try.
Pie Sandwiches With Greek Salad
Ingredients for 10 pies:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 big tomato or 10 cherry tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1 green pepper
- ½ onion
- 3 radishes
- 250 gr Feta cheese
- 10 pcs of Greek whole grain pie (whole grain buns can also be used as a substitute)
- Pour olive oil and vinegar into a larger bowl, add salt and pepper, and make a salad dressing. Add sliced tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, zucchini, and parsley.
- Mix all the ingredients well with your hands, then add the feta cheese.
- Cover the bowl and leave the salad in the fridge. It is best if the mixture is prepared a few hours in advance.
- Take the salad out of the fridge and carefully place it on the pie (buns cut in half).
- Serve immediately.
- 2 small avocados, peeled and cleaned
- 80 gr feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
- juice of one fresh lemon
- 4 slices of whole grain bread or toast
- Put the avocado in a medium-sized bowl and mash it with a fork. Add chopped mint, lemon juice, and stir until all ingredients are combined.
- If desired, add sea salt and finely chopped paprika.
- Divide the mixture into 4 parts and spread all 4 pieces of bread with it. Sprinkle with feta cheese.
- Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet
- Facts about monounsaturated fats
- Mediterranean diet