7 Simple Swaps to Make Your Diet More Mediterranean

May is Mediterranean Diet Month, and what better time to start making a few Mediterranean-style swaps in your diet?  You may have considered the Mediterranean diet for weight loss, and while it is a sensible option for this goal, it has been shown again and again to boost both short- and long-term health overall.  In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic:

“An analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.”

Healthy Food

Health benefits, plus just plain good food make this diet a winner, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow a strict eating plan to reap some of the rewards. In fact, the beauty of this diet and lifestyle is that it can be easier and a whole lot more enjoyable to follow than many more restrictive diets.  These 7 simple swaps will help you make your diet a little more Mediterranean without the fear of falling off a diet wagon.*

  1.  Order whole grains instead of refined – The Mediterranean diet is big on whole grains!  Whole wheat pasta, quinoa, bulgur (used to make tabbouleh) and more can add fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals to your meal.  The added weight loss benefit is that adequate fiber in the diet has been linked to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
  2. Thinking about beef?  Opt for fish – It’s no surprise that the Mediterranean diet includes lots of seafood, which is abundant in the region.  This lean protein is a cornerstone of a healthy diet and may help with increased satiety and improved muscle maintenance. 
  3. Opt for steamed or broiled instead of fried – Mediterranean menu choices are often prepared using these more healthful methods that are generally lower in saturated fat and calories.
  4. Reach for fresh herbs and spices instead of salt – The vibrant flavors of Mediterranean foods primarily come from fresh herbs and spices or a dash of lemon – perfect for the warmer climate.  These ingredients bring out the beautiful flavors of fresh foods without adding sodium.
  5. Order the vegetarian choice instead of chicken – The Mediterranean diet is known for its focus on plants.  This includes a wealth of fruits and vegetables as well as beans and legumes, which provide plant-based protein and fiber as well as health-boosting phytochemicals.
  6. Skip the cheese on your salad in favor of nuts – Both of these toppings can be higher in calories, but nuts are loaded with healthy fats associated with a host of health benefits.  Remember, even healthy fats can be high in calories so include them in moderation.
  7. Request olive oil in place of butter – If you like a good sautéed veggie, make sure you’re getting the most bang for your nutritional buck by requesting a small amount of olive oil in place of butter.  Like nuts, olive oil adds healthy fat to your diet.  Also like nuts, it’s high in calories so more isn’t always better!

The Mediterranean diet is more than just a way of eating; it’s a way of living that can support a healthy weight.  This lifestyle includes plenty of movement, time spent with friends and family and a belief in moderation.  Be sure to find ways to walk more, play more, socialize more, laugh more, and don’t be afraid of the occasional glass of wine!

These are just some of the easy choices you can make to embrace the Mediterranean diet.  How do you incorporate the healthful ingredients and lifestyle of the Mediterranean into your day?