1. No calorie counting
A diet where there is no calorie counting! And it’s classed as one of the healthiest diets in the world. Compare it to the traditional British diet, the Mediterranean diet swaps butter for olive oil, red meat for fish and poultry, and dessert for fresh fruit. And you can eat tasty staples like vegetables and beans until your heart’s content. If you love nuts a small handful a day give added health benefits. And as long as they are in moderate amounts, wholegrain bread and wine are welcome too! I’m liking the sound of this!
2. Fresh is best
Eating food that is fresh and in season is the secret of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. Kiss goodbye to processed and fast foods, and enjoy a simple salad using a range of fresh ingredients like spinach, tomatoes and cucumbers topped in classic Greek style with pitted olives and feta cheese.
3. Bread is ok
Wholegrain breads and pastas have a key role in the Mediterranean diet. The are rich in protein and minerals, and their high fibre content helps maintain a healthy digestive system by promoting regular bowel movements and the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. Choose a wholemeal pitta or bread roll with olive oil, hummus or tahini and salad filling for a great Mediterranean lunch option.
4. Choosing fat
Key to the healthy Mediterranean diet is choosing the right type of fat. Limit the amount of saturated and trans fats which are found in fatty meats, butter and cream, and opt for unsaturated, or ‘good’ fats instead. These can be found in olives, olive oil, rapeseed oil and nuts. Not only do they add flavour, but research suggests that unsaturated fats may reduce the risk of inflammation and health related risks such as arthritis, heart disease and even some cancers. Although olive and rapeseed oils are healthier, they are still high in calories, so use them in moderation.
5. Enjoy a wide variety
When you think of Mediterranean dishes, you normally think of Italian or Greek but don’t forget about Spain, Turkey, France and Morocco. You can find umpteen choices making your menu varied and aromatic. As a rule you should limit red meat and whole-fat dairy and fill up on wholegrains, fresh fruit and veg, as well as chickpeas, herbs and spices.
6. Make it spicy
Mediterranean herbs and spices provide a host of flavours. Go light on the salt and substitute with coriander, rosemary, cinnamon and garlic. Spices such as coriander and rosemary that are high in antioxidants are said to have added health benefits.
7. Make meals easy
Mediterranean food often includes small, simple dishes called mezes. Preparation is usally quick and easy and often includes carb-rich foods such as pitta bread, dairy such as tzatziki or feta cheese and vegetables likeolives or stuffed vine leaves. Chicken marinated with lemon juice, garlic and herbs, served on skewers with onion, pepper and tomato makes a very tasty and low fat main. Serve with salad and couscous for a filling healthy choice.
8. Wine is fine
Family dining in Mediterranean countries is usually casual and relaxed and most often, wine is a standard accompaniment to a meal. Of course moderation is key. There is evidence that one glass of wine a day for women, and up to two a day for men, can have health benefits ranging from longer life to a healthier heart. Red wine is favourite in the Med but white is fine The tee-total amongst us can opt for unsweetened grape juice as a non-alcoholic alternative.
9. You’ll be full up
Some diets can leave us feeling hungry and set off cravings. The Mediterranean diet won’t leave you hungry for more. The protein in nuts staves off hunger as will olives or cubes of low fat cheese. Both feta and halloumi are naturally lower in fat than the usual cheeses like cheddar, but they’re just as satisfying to the taste buds.
10. Shed pounds
Weight loss is just one of the many health benefits of following a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Nuts, oils and cheese take longer to digest. Add the more leisurely style of eating and you have a sustainable diet that will make it so much easier to maintain a trim and healthy waistline. Combine with regular physical activity to uncover the secret of the Mediterranean diet’ssuccess.
11. A healthy heart
Studies have suggested that a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and beans can help prevent strokes and heart disease. That’s why the Mediterranean diet is often recommended to help maintain good heart health
12. Fuel your brain
Saturated and trans fats are linked to conditions such as damaged arteries and inflammation in the body. The healthy fats that protect your heart are said to be also good for your brain. So, eating the way they do in Mediterranean countries could also be the best choice for your overall health and wellbeing.