The Mediterranean Diet

My doctor recommended the Mediterranean Diet to me and I think it is a good idea. I have not mastered it yet, but I try to use it as a guideline. Honestly, I may never eat this way exclusively, but the closer I can get to it the better.

I thought I would share!

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
Mediterranean Nutrition Pyramid

The Mediterranean diet consists of a lot of fruits, vegetables, and vegetarian proteins, along with moderate amounts of whole grains, and small amounts of red meat. Regular consumption of fish, olive oil, and nuts makes this diet higher in fat than the classic “heart healthy diet”, but the fat is mostly unsaturated, which can be good for the heart. The pyramid above and the information below describe types and amounts of foods found in a heart healthy Mediterranean diet.


Low-fat Dairy Products          1-3 servings per day


1 cup of skim milk

1 cup of light yogurt

1 ounce of low-fat cheese

  • Soy milk, soy yogurt, and soy cheese can take the place of dairy products.
  • If servings of dairy or fortified soy are less than 2 per day, a calcium and vitamin D supplement is advised.

 


Whole Grains and Starchy Vegetables          4-6 servings per day


1 slice whole wheat bread

½ cup potatoes, corn, peas or winter squash

½ large whole grain bun

1 small whole grain roll

6-inch whole wheat pita

6 whole grain crackers

½ cup cooked whole grain cereal

½ cup cooked whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or barley

  • Whole grains are high in fiber and have less effect on blood sugar and triglyceride levels than refined, processed grains like white bread and pasta.
  • Whole grains also keep the stomach full longer, making it easier to control hunger.

 


Legumes and Nuts          1-3 servings per day


2 tbsp. sunflower or sesame seeds

1 tbsp. peanut butter

7-8 walnuts or pecans

20 peanuts

12-15 almonds

¼ cup fat free refried beans or baked beans

½ cup kidney, black, garbanzo, pinto, soy, navy beans, split peas, or lentils

  • Aim for 1-2 servings of nuts or seeds and 1-2 servings of legumes per day.
  • Legumes are high in fiber, protein, and minerals.
  • Nuts are high in unsaturated fat, and may increase HDL without increasing LDL.

 


Fish or Shellfish          2-3 servings a week


3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)

  • Bake, sauté, broil, roast, grill or poach your fish.
  • Choose fatty fishes like salmon, herring, sardines, or mackerel often. The fat in fish is high in omega-3 fats, so it has healthy effects on triglycerides and blood cells.

 


Poultry          1-3 servings a week


3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)

  • Bake, sauté, stir fry, roast or grill the poultry you eat, and eat it without the skin.

 


Healthy Fat          4-6 servings per day


1 tsp. olive or canola oil

2 tsp. light margarine

1 tbsp. of regular salad dressing

2 tbsp. of light salad dressing, made with oil

1 tsp. regular mayonnaise

1/8 of an avocado

5 olives*

  • These fats are mostly unsaturated and contain little or no trans-fat, so they will not increase LDL cholesterol levels.
  • All fats are a concentrated source of calories, so try to keep the servings small.

 


Alcohol


No more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.

One drink equals one 12 ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor (whiskey, vodka, brandy, etc).

  • People with high blood pressure or high triglycerides, or those taking certain medicines may be advised to avoid all alcohol. Ask your doctor to be sure.

 

Limit egg yolks to 4 per week. Egg whites can be eaten in unlimited amounts. Limit your sweets – use fruit as your dessert.
Lean red meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal) can be eaten 3-4 times per month.

*Olives are high in sodium and should be limited, especially for those with high blood pressure.

 

Weight Control - While eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat in the Mediterranean diet can be heart healthy, large portion sizes may lead to increased calorie intake and weight gain. If you are trying to lose weight, choose fewer servings from each food group, and make sure your serving sizes match those listed.

Getting enough physical activity is very important. Start with 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week. Moderate exercise includes activities like walking, biking, or swimming.

I like to think of it as a way of eating and not a diet.

References 

University of Wisconsin Health

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