Let’s Break Down The Mediterranean Diet
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Time and time again, you hear of the different diets you should be following, and the Mediterranean diet is one of the names that has been around for decades. The reason why the Mediterranean diet has stood the test of time is that it is recognized worldwide as one of the healthiest diets and lifestyles to follow. It has even been recognized in the US Dietary Guidelines as one of their healthy eating patterns (1). We have likely all heard of the Mediterranean diet, but do you actually know what foods you should be eating when following it?
Let's explore what the Mediterranean diet is made up of, and what foods it incorporates.
The staples you should consume:
- Grains (mostly whole grains)
- Beans, legumes, and nuts
- Olive oil
- Cheese and yogurt
Plant based foods like fruit and vegetables should be consumed daily and in abundance. In the Mediterranean diet you should be consuming 4-8 servings of non-starchy vegetables, and 4-6 servings of whole grains every day. For legumes and nuts, as well as fruit, you should be consuming 2-4 servings per day. Healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which is the main dietary fat of the Mediterranean diet, should be consumed 4-6 times a day. For low-fat dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, you should be consuming 1-3 servings per day (2).
Fish and poultry should be eaten in low or moderate amounts, around 2-3 times a week. Eggs should be consumed in low amounts and egg yolks should be limited to 4 or less per week (2). Sweets with added or concentrated sugars should only be consumed a few times per week and should be limited or switched out for fruit, which is typically the dessert option in the Mediterranean diet.
Red meat, such as beef, pork, lamb, and veal, should only be consumed a few times monthly, around 3-4 times (2).
Remember, the Mediterranean diet isn't just about food, but it is also about lifestyle. It’s important to get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week. Some exercises that will help increase your heart rate are things like biking, swimming, running, hiking, and even brisk walking. It is also important to choose activities or exercises that you enjoy!
Overall, the Mediterranean diet focuses on increasing whole plant foods, healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and decreasing processed sugar, red meat, and animal fats like butter.
Written by Isabelle Hammack
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.