9 Easy Ways to Follow The Mediterranean Diet

Health + Fitness

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Heidi Diller, Albertsons Corporate Dietitian

By Heidi Diller





Want to eat heart healthy? Then the Mediterranean diet might be right for you. Considered the “gold standard” for healthful eating, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to promote lifelong good health and help lower the risk of both heart disease and cancer. But it’s more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle.[i]

Main ingredients of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Eating a generous amount of fruits and vegetables
  • Consuming healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Eating small portions of nuts
  • Drinking red wine, in moderation
  • Consuming very little red meat
  • Choosing poultry every two days or weekly
  • Eating fish or shellfish at least twice a week
  • Enjoying yogurt and small portions of cheese daily
  • Regularly exercising and enjoying meals with friends and family

Fruits, vegetables, and nuts

The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes fruits, vegetables and nuts. For example, residents of Greece eat very little red meat and eat antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables at every meal. Nuts are also part of a healthy Mediterranean diet. Nuts are high in monounsaturated fats but also high in calories, so they should be eaten in moderation — generally no more than a handful a day.

Bread is an important part of the Mediterranean diet, however it is eaten without butter or margarines, which contain many saturated and trans-fats. Choose breads rich in whole grains.

Healthy Fats
The focus of the Mediterranean diet is making smart choices about the types of fat you eat. Healthy fats include olive oil, canola oil and fatty fish. Fish — a source of omega-3 fatty acids — is eaten on a regular basis in the Mediterranean diet. Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides and help reduce inflammation, which may improve the health of your blood vessels.

The Mediterranean diet typically includes some red wine. Red wine contains powerful antioxidants that have been shown to increase your good HDL cholesterol. However, wine should only be consumed in moderation. This means no more than 5 ounces of wine daily for women (or men over age 65), and no more than 10 ounces of wine daily for men under age 65. Any more than this increases the risk of health problems, including increased risk of certain types of cancer. Choose 100% grape juice if you don’t drink wine.

So how do you  “Med–up” your Diet?   
It just takes just a few easy diet swaps….

  • Sprinkle pine nuts or walnuts on your salad instead of croutons
  • Substitute fish for meat two times per week
  • Trade white bread for whole wheat bread
  • Serve sliced fruit for dessert
  • Choose olive oil- and canola oil- based dressings and mayonnaise
  • Eat natural peanut butter, rather than the kind with hydrogenated fat added
  • If it’s OK with your doctor, choose wine over other alcoholic beverages
  • Keep walnuts, almonds, pecans and Brazil nuts on hand for a quick snack
  • Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese

[i] Lyon Diet Heart Study

Heidi Diller is Albertsons’ corporate nutritionist and manages the company’s “To Your Health” education program. Her expertise includes weight management, wellness, heart-health and senior nutrition education. Heidi is registered dietitian and an active member of the American Dietetic Association, Food and Culinary Dietitians Practice Group, and the Dietitians in Business and Communications. Heidi is a graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, California with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics and Food Administration.

More by Heidi Diller: 12 Foods for a Healthy Heart

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