While talking about Mediterranean food, one should know that it is a healthy way of eating rather than a formal diet plan. It means there is no exact version of this diet, nor did it require any caloric counting procedure or portion control. This means that it emphasizes on intake of specific food items from different food groups to improve health and prevent complications.
The mediterranean food is centered on a plant-based diet
It is generally centered on a plant-based diet including daily consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole-grain along with weekly intake of some sources of lean meat as fish, poultry, beans, and eggs with moderate intake of extra virgin olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet limits the intake of red meat, processed foods, dairy, and sweets. It is a way of living rather than a diet plan; one should distribute these food items throughout the day in form of small frequent meals, by incorporating healthy snacks. Also, add some kind of physical activity on daily basis. It is a concept of family meals that the whole family should sit together and have family time.
The Mediterranean diet is a way of living rather than a diet plan
Here are some examples of changes that can be done in different meals through which we can convert them into a healthy Mediterranean diet.
How to change your breakfast into a healthy Mediterranean Breakfast?
We can transform our breakfast into a healthy Mediterranean one by making the following changes:
- Instead of white bread slices, take multigrain bread as it contains more fiber in form of different grains, seeds, and cereals and therefore has a filling effect.
- Take barley or oatmeal porridge with a hand full of nuts (almond, walnuts, or cashew nuts) and seeds (flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds), as they contain more fiber and nutrients. Nuts and seeds are combinations of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
- Spread avocado which is a good source of healthy fat (omega-3) and fiber instead of butter or margarine which are high in saturated fats and trans-fats respectively.
- Take boiled or poached egg in breakfast rather than fried one. A whole egg is beneficial and heart-healthy as yolk consists of lots of nutrients including fats which help to satisfy your hunger longer, and it contains choline which is important for brain health.
- Switch to whole wheat flour chapatti instead of refined flour paratha as paratha contains a high amount of fat and refined carbohydrates.
- Take a Greek yogurt bowl with fruits and nuts as it is high in protein and a good source of probiotics. If you want to have a slightly sweeter flavor you can add a little amount of organic honey.
- Add peanut butter spread and slices of banana on your multigrain bread in place of jam and butter, as peanut butter is rich in protein and good fats and bananas are a good source of complex carbohydrates and other nutrients.
- Add granola or muesli with a little sprinkle of flaxseeds which is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids with a hand full of nuts to a cup of skim milk which will provide calcium, protein, and some minerals like magnesium and phosphorus.
- Scramble poached egg with feta cheese, spinach, and tomato slice along with multigrain bread.
How to transform your mid-day meals to healthy Mediterranean meals:
In midmorning and teatime the changes you can do to switch from regular snack to healthy Mediterranean snacks are:
- Healthy snacking includes whole fresh fruits instead of packaged fruits as packaged ones are high in sugar content and preservatives. Fruits have a wide range of health-boosting antioxidants, including flavonoids and they also help to eat more, add little sugar-drizzle slices of pear or apple with organic honey or sprinkle a little brown sugar on grapefruit to enhance the flavor.
- Popcorns air-fried with very little salt and no toppings of butter are healthy as they are a good source of polyphenols, which are antioxidants along with other beneficial nutrients.
- Boiled chickpeas or red beans with a lot of fresh salad including cucumber, tomato, onion, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, reddish and broccoli, etc, with extra virgin olive oil.
- Boiled corns are rich in several nutrients especially minerals such as zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese.
- Handfuls of nuts as almonds, walnuts are a heart-healthy and good source of omega-3 fatty acids. A study done in Nutritional Journal found that if people replaced their usual snacks like cookies, chips, snack mix, and cereal bar with almonds, their diet would be lower in empty calories, added sugars, and sodium.
- Add a handful of spinach to your smoothie to add on vitamins and minerals along with fiber.
- Take a slice of multigrain bread with a dip of olive oil along with herbs instead of regular butter.
- Make a sandwich of grilled fish or chicken with a slice of cucumber and tomato.
- A cup of smoothie made of Greek yogurt with a serving of fresh fruit.
How to make your major meals (Lunch and Dinner) full of Mediterranean food?
Now, coming towards main meals lunch and dinner, mentioning below the changes which should be done to make them healthy;
- Add lots of fresh salad with your every meal to increase your intake of fiber along with vitamins and minerals. You can sprinkle some seeds like flaxseeds or sesame seeds along with a little extra virgin olive oil or hummus or apple cider vinegar instead of mayonnaise or French dressing.
- Take whole grain or brown chapatti, bread, rice, or pasta in place of foods made with refined flour to increase fiber intake along with other nutrients like vitamins B-1, B-3, and B-5, along with riboflavin and folate.
- Cook in olive oil or canola oil which is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids instead of sunflower oil, vegetable ghee, or desi ghee.
- Take 2-3 servings of lean meat like fish, chicken, seafood, cheese, or eggs cooked in little oil preferably steamed, grilled, broiled, baked, or air fried.
- All kinds of vegetables can be added to curry but cooked in little oil. Include vegetables in form of steamed, broiled, or baked with spraying little olive oil on them with your lean meat either it is chicken or fish (mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon, and lake trout).
- Add barley or oatmeal to your soups along with a bunch of vegetables like mushrooms, cabbage, capsicum, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, and spring onions to make it filling and full of nutrients.
- Lentils and legumes are excellent sources of fiber, protein, carbohydrate, B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorous. Try to switch to the whole form of lentils or legumes as it contains more fiber in place of refined legumes.
- Try to use herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor to foods.
- Add quinoa to your soups or gravies by replacing cornflour or refined processed thickeners to increase the bulk of soup and fiber as well.
- Instead of having dessert after a meal as pudding, pastry, or ice cream try to have fresh fruits like dates, strawberries, or slices of peach, it is a healthy way to indulge your sweet tooth.
The Mediterranean food is full of healthy food items. However, the dietary changes should be long-term and sustainable to improve your health, lose some weight, and prevent yourself from serious illnesses like diabetes and heart diseases.