Mediterranean Diet - Nutritional Facts & Food
Choices With This Dietary Plan
the last decade we Americans have been looking overseas for the
secrets behind the svelte waistlines of our European counterparts.
Entire shelves at bookstores are stocked with diet books based on
the way French women don't get fat and the way Italians indulge
their passion for pasta, chocolate and wine without putting on a
pound. Even Spaniards and Greeks who linger over two-hour lunches
consisting of three courses are slimmer than the typical American
worker who squeezes in half a sandwich and a diet soda in front
of the computer Monday through Friday.
The truth is the diet of those who live in countries with shores
along the Mediterranean Sea is only part of the formula that keeps
them slimmer and less likely to suffer from heart disease, obesity,
diabetes, and certain forms of cancer than Americans. The Mediterranean
lifestyle calls for lots of walking, and its more leisurely pace
allows for more time to prepare healthy meals, to eat slower and
therefore to eat less, and to spend with family and friends. And
since enjoying strong social and familial bonds are proven panaceas
against the health and diet-destroying effects of stress, our European
counterparts are better armed than we are in the battle of the bulge.
"Probably what these people have right is that they live
much closer to the way humans were meant to live and the way humans
have been living up until very very recently in modern society,"
says Jessica Black, a registered dietitian in Virginia who specializes
in childhood obesity.
The tenants espoused by the Mediterranean lifestyle, it seems,
are lost across the Atlantic. Americans place a premium on convenience
due to our increasingly hectic and stressful work lives. The idea
of a two hour lunch through the week is almost unimaginable. Outside
of major metropolises like New York, Chicago and San Francisco,
our cities are not pedestrian friendly, and given that we are more
likely to move around the country for careers, our social and familial
bonds tend to be weaker. It may, therefore, be unreasonable to completely
overhaul our lifestyles to mimic those of Europeans, but there are
certainly aspects of the Mediterranean lifestyle than can be adapted
to the American way of life. In fact the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
guidelines are currently being updated again for 2010 with recommendations
that are more in line with the Mediterranean lifestyle, but in the
meantime we can enjoy some of its slimming benefits without counting
Mediterranean Diet Way: Eat up to 40% of total daily calories
from monounsaturated fat sources, such as is found in olive oil,
fatty fish, nuts and seeds.
Translation: Stop fearing fat. Use antioxidant-rich olive
oil in cooking and in preparing foods such as salads and vegetables.
Eat fish, a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids 2-3 times per week.
Snack on almonds and walnuts which are heart-healthy monounsaturated
The Mediterranean Diet Way: Eat poultry and fish several
times a week. Keep egg consumption to less than 5 per week. Eat
red meat once or twice per month.
Translation: Replace red meat with protein sources that
are lower in saturated fat. Replace a meat-based meal twice a week
with a vegetarian protein source such as beans and lentils. Use
two egg whites in place of whole eggs whenever possible.
The Mediterranean Diet Way: Eat a low to moderate amount
of diary each day.
Translation: Eat only organic dairy, which is free of the
hormones found in most US dairy products. Avoid sugary yogurts.
Try Greek-style yogurt, which is low in sugar and high in protein.
Add just a touch of honey for sweetness. Go for light cheeses and
nonfat milk to meet calcium needs, and remember that certain vegetables,
such as broccoli, provide calcium too.
The Mediterranean Diet Way: Eat as many fruits and vegetables
Translation: Aim for 7-9 servings of various colored high-fiber
fruits and vegetables per day. Be sure to wash produce or buy only
organic to avoid the pesticides so common in produce grown within
our borders or shipped from neighboring countries. Try preparing
vegetables with a bit of olive oil as recent studies show that a
small amount of fat is necessary for the body to absorb the maximum
amount of nutrients found in vegetables.
The Mediterranean Diet Way: Incorporate a moderate amount
of whole grain breads and high-fiber cereals into the diet. Another
secret-seek out fresh, artisan bread and serve with high quality
Translation: Avoid processed, low-fiber bread. Seek out
good bread and serve with extra virgin olive oil, preferably cold-pressed.
You'll be satisfied sooner and eat less.
The Mediterranean Diet Way: Eat fruit, one ounce of high
quality dark chocolate, or a small piece of fresh cheese along with
a small glass of red wine for dessert. And then, go for a walk.
Translation: Do what the Spaniards do and indulge in a portion-controlled
dessert a few hours before dinner in the early evening and then
take a walk. The ritual is called la merienda. Savor it-and don't
The Mediterranean Diet Way: Walk everywhere.
Translation: Buy a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a
day in addition to bi-weekly strength workouts at the gym.
The Mediterranean Diet Way: Eat the biggest meal of the
day midday while gathering with family or friends and then relax
for a bit before heading back to work.
Translation: If you don't have the luxury of an hour-long
lunch, divide up a larger meal over the course of the late morning
and afternoon. The more you eat earlier in the day the less you'll
eat overall. And, make time for friends and family-no matter what.
The Mediterranean Diet Way: Eat seasonally fresh and locally
Translation: Avoid processed food whenever possible. Shop
the parameter of the grocery store and shop farmer markets. Eat
food as close to its whole natural state as possible. Recent studies
show that chemically altered foods and preservatives confuse the
body's register of calorie consumption.