How to make your diet more Mediterranean
By Christina Ross, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)
You’ve likely come across the Mediterranean diet, for its long list of well-researched health benefits (ie. improved longevity and brain health; reduced risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers). Here are 5 ways you can adopt a more Mediterranean style of eating:
- Crowd out your plate with plants. The Mediterranean diet is characterised by an abundance of natural, plant-based foods including vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds. These foods are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, while their high fibre content promotes satiety (satisfaction after eating), which can support weight management.
- Opt for wholegrains. Most of the grains consumed in a traditional Mediterranean diet are whole and minimally-processed including wholegrain bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice and whole oats providing nutrients, including fibre, from all 3 layers of the unrefined grain.
- Stick to heart-healthy fats. The Mediterranean diet has a high ratio of monounsaturated fats (MUFA) to saturated fats, as olive oil replaces other sources of fats, including butter, margarine and lard.
- Enjoy more oily fish. Oily fish (eg. salmon, tuna, sardines) is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which can reduce risk of heart attack and stroke, so aim to include these foods in your diet 2-3 times per week.
- Keep red meat portions small, lean and less frequent. Replace fatty and processed meats with fish, lean poultry, eggs and plant-based options (eg. legumes, nuts) in main meals.
As well as adopting the ‘what to eat’ principles of a Mediterranean diet, you might like to incorporate some of the ‘how to eat’ practices common in many Mediterranean cultures – with others, at a table, mindfully, slowly – for additional health benefits and greater enjoyment of your meal.