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Mediterranean Diet for Complete Beginners: A Super Simple Guide

Mediterranean Diet for Complete Beginners: A Super Simple Guide

  • October 16, 2020
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There are tons of amazing benefits to the Mediterranean diet! This diet offers numerous health benefits and is widely recommended among healthcare professionals. Besides being super healthy and nutritious, this simple diet is also rich in flavors and culture. The Mediterranean diet is more than just a diet, it’s a way of life. Let’s learn the basics about what makes this diet so special and some healthy food options for beginners, so you can get started right away!

Mediterranean Diet

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet (also known as the “Med Diet”) derives from the countries near the Mediterranean Sea (Hence the name “Mediterranean” ) and traces its origins to Italy, Greece, and Spain.

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by very wholesome and natural foods with an emphasis on plant-based foods. Some of these foods include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Spices
  • Herbs

The Mediterranean diet is also more than just a diet. It’s more of a way of life or a lifestyle. In other words, this diet also embodies the culture of the Mediterranean countries.

mediterranean family dinner-min

The Med diet encompasses the following cultural characteristics of the Mediterranean region:

  • Very family-oriented
  • Encourages meals with relatives and family
  • Promotes wellbeing & exercise
  • Rich in flavors
  • Authentic, wholesome foods
  • Classy & healthy drinks such as red wine

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet:

The Mediterranean diet is widely regarded as a healthy and nutritious diet among health professionals.

There are numerous benefits to eating the Mediterranean diet.

Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk or complications of numerous health conditions and diseases. In fact…

  • Evidence has shown that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke (sources: 1, 2)
  • Studies also show that the Med diet prevents cancers such as breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
  • A study by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) revealed that the Mediterranean diet can reduce complications from diabetes such as retinopathy.
  • The Mediterranean diet is also associated with lower risk for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as lower mortality rates, in general.
  • The Mediterranean diet has even shown reduce inflammation associated with arthritis.
  • Overall, the Mediterranean diet has also been shown to reduce depression, promote healthy weight loss and increase the overall quality of life.

As you can see, there are tons of health benefits to adopting the Mediterranean diet. Now, let’s see what foods are typical in the Mediterranean diet…

Foods to Eat:

Now, the yummy part! These are some common Mediterranean foods…

Mediterranean fruit-min

Mediterranean vegetables-min

  • Fruits such as apples, , bananas, blueberries, cherries, grapes, pears, oranges, strawberries, figs, avocado, lemon, etc.
  • Vegetables such as carrots, onions, potatoes, beets, arugula, broccoli, zucchini, sweet potatoes, spinach, arugula, lettuce, asparagus, etc.
  • Legumes such as chickpeas, beans, lentils, peas, etc.
  • Healthy Oils such as olives and olive oil
  • Nuts & Seeds such as almonds, pistachios, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, sesame seeds, etc.
  • Whole Grains such as barley, buckwheat, whole grain wheat, oats, rye, brown rice, whole wheat pasta
  • Fish such as salmon, tuna, etc.
  • Herbs & Spices such as basil, thyme, garlic, pepper, parsley, rosemary, cinnamon, etc.

Foods That are Okay to Eat Sometimes:

The following foods should be eaten in moderation. They are okay to eat one in a while, but try to keep it to only a few times per week (for example, 2-3 times per week).

  • Poultry such as chicken, turkey
  • Dairy products such as cheese, and yogurt
  • Eggs

Foods to Avoid:

The Mediterranean Diet is known for its natural, whole foods. Therefore, processed foods should be avoided when following the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean Diet is pretty much the opposite of the Standard American Diet (or SAD diet ), which is characterized by the following unhealthy foods and is often associated with increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The SAD diet consists of….

standard American diet-min

  • Fried foods
  • Processed meats such as ham, hot dogs, bologna, sausage, salami, etc.
  • High sodium intake
  • High sugar consumption
  • Highly processed foods

The following foods should generally be avoided when you’re following the Med diet:

  • Red meat such as beef, lamb, pork  (limit to a few times per month or rarely)
  • Salt
  • Processed Foods
  • Refined grains such as white bread, white rice, white pasta
  • Trans Fat
  • Butter
  • Sugars
  • Junk Food

Simple Meal Ideas:

So now that you know what kinds of foods you should or shouldn’t be eating with the Mediterranean diet, let’s take a look at some ideas for different meals!

Breakfast Ideas: oatmeal, fruit, Greek yogurt, toast, eggs

Lunch Ideas: salad with veggies, quinoa, pasta salad, Mediterranean bowl, stuffed peppers, tuna salad

Dinner Ideas: soup, lentils, chickpeas, beans, sweet potatoes, fish, chicken, asparagus

Snack Ideas: nuts, fruit, veggies with hummus dip

Dessert Ideas: fruit, dark chocolate

This is obviously a simplified list that provides a general idea of some yummy meal ideas that you can eat with this diet, but hey, it’s a start!

Here’s a great resource and  7-day meal plan to help you get started!

In Summary:

The Mediterranean Diet is like the “common sense” diet for being healthy.

To me, it seems like a no-brainer that if you want to live a healthy lifestyle, you should eat lots of fruits and veggies, fewer meats, more fish, and avoid processed foods like the plague…(I guess it’s ok to cheat once in a blue moon! )

But really, the Med diet is actually really simple, which makes it so much more enjoyable and easier to follow!

What are your thoughts on the Mediterranean diet? Have you started the Med diet? Are you thinking about it? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Oh! And while you’re at it, why don’t you check out some free tips to help you live your joyous life? It’s completely FREE! You have nothing to lose! 

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