Mediterranean Diet: 9 Easy Ways to Eat Mediterranean Food

Mediterranean Diet: 9 Easy Ways to Eat Mediterranean Food

Mediterranean Diet: 9 Easy Ways to Eat Mediterranean Food

Colorful variety, plant-based food, home-grown harvestistetiana/Getty Images

Focus on plant foods

On typical American plates, meat is usually the star, likely followed by a starch such as potatoes or rice. The stars of a Mediterranean diet are fresh, plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes (beans and peas). These ingredients are Mediterranean staples. “Start by eating five or more servings of produce per day, every day, and plan on having a meatless meal like an Italian garden pizza at least once a week,” advises Julie Upton, a registered dietitian in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Start most meals with a salad or tomato soup and finish with fresh fruit or fruit-based desserts like baked apples or crumbles.”

Black bread on cutting boardMike Kemp/Getty Images

Choose better carbohydrates

Avoid cookies, chips, crackers, flavored rice mixes, mashed potato mixes, and other refined carbohydrates that are usually stripped of good fiber and loaded with added sugars, not to mention possible trans fats. Instead, the Mediterranean diet invites you to enjoy high-quality or complex carbohydrates. “In addition to enjoying many whole grains like oats, bulgur, and couscous, fresh bread is a staple of the region, and pasta is the main source of carbohydrates in Italy,” says Upton.

However, whole grains and fortified breads are typically enjoyed as part of a healthy meal, commonly served with olive oil or bean- or nut-based dips or sauces such as hummus or muhammara (paprika-walnut dip), rather than butter or sugary jams. “When choosing breads, opt for whole grains or make sure your breads aren’t overloaded with added sugars or saturated fats,” says Upton.

Pour extra virgin olive oil into a glass bowlfcafotodigital/Getty Images

Make friends with oil

Instead of butter, choose heart-healthy olive oil. “Use olive oil in salad dressings, cooking fish and poultry, and dipping bread instead of spreading it with butter or margarine,” says Jennifer Glockner, a nutritionist based in the Los Angeles area. “Try using olive oil instead of mayo in egg or tuna salads. Add olives to salads or sandwiches.”

Rebecca Lewis, HelloFresh’s in-house registered dietitian, recommends swapping out butter, an animal-based saturated fat linked to an increased risk of heart disease, for olive oil, a plant-based unsaturated fat linked to a reduced risk of heart disease . “Just remember that oils have a smoke point — the temperature at which they burn and lose their health-promoting properties,” Lewis warns. “Virgin oil has the lowest smoke point of all and therefore burns the easiest. So when cooking, choose regular olive oil that has a higher smoke point.”

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