The Mediterranean diet weight loss plan is easy, inexpensive (at least compared to high meat/protein diets), and colorful. It's based on variety.
You won't get bored. You won't feel deprived. And, it's great for the entire family. Technically, the Mediterranean diet is not a weight-loss program, but a lifestyle – or a way of eating – that promotes good overall health.
But, following this plan can help you achieve your weight loss goals simply because you will eat better, feel better, and sleep better!
Your body will function properly, and that can only lead to good things, right? A lot of research has proven that there are many benefits to following a Mediterranean diet.
In fact, a very extensive study of more than 1.5 million people showed that it can reduce the risk of many major illnesses. Here are some of the positive findings:
Well, the Mediterranean diet is high in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, while keeping sugar and saturated fats to a minimum. It strongly emphasizes plant-based meals, although it does allow for a moderate amount of animal protein. It also includes red wine and the occasional sweet treat.
So, you won't have to give up what you love! Great news, right? That's what makes the Mediterranean diet so successful – it's easy to follow and you won't feel deprived, so you are more likely to stick to it.
Yes, you may have to change the way you prepare your meals. Yes, you may have to reduce how often or how much you eat certain foods. No, you won't be able to have a doughnut for breakfast every day. No, your meals won't be built around a 12 oz. steak. But, you will be able to enjoy a wide variety of foods that will keep your menus flavorful and interesting.
It is important to note that the Mediterranean is about more than food. It also emphasizes physical activity and an overall healthy lifestyle. It's not a “quick fix” or quick weight loss program. Rather, it's a way of eating that will help you lose weight and keep it off (which is always the challenge, right?).
Some diets require extreme changes that can be both expensive and overwhelming, especially if you are living on a tight budget or trying to feed a family. But, you can begin the Mediterranean Diet for weight loss with a few simple steps that are inexpensive and family friendly. You will love it, and so will your kids.
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Veggies
Include them at every meal and choose a wide variety. There are so many interesting and delicious options, so try something new. Roast them, saute them, bake them, spice them, or eat then raw. If you aren't used to eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, try adding one or two extra servings each day. Look for in-season local produce because it is usually less expensive.
Whole grains should be the foundation of all your meals, but be sure to choose whole, unrefined grains, breads, and cereals as often as possible. That means avoiding – or at least limiting - white, processed, refined flours and products.
Keep it interesting by trying a variety of grains like brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, or teff. While breads and pastas are definitely allowed (oh, yeah!), they should be limited as part of a weight loss program. Keep portions small and choose to eat more of the whole grain rather than the flours (ie. buckwheat groats instead of buckwheat flour bread).
Olive Oil in Place of Animal Fats
The Mediterranean diet encourages using unsaturated (olive or canola oil ) rather than saturated fats (butter, lard, or coconut oil). Plus, many studies have shown that olive oil can actually fight the inflammation that causes heart disease. Keep in mind, though, that while it is healthy, olive oil is still high in fat, so you will probably want to watch your intake if you are trying to lose weight. For weight loss, use healthy oils in place of butter, but keep it to a drizzle rather than a downpour.
Switch to White Meats
Choose lean skinless poultry 3-4 times a week, and keep portions to 3-5 ounces. While you should limit red meat, you don't have to avoid it altogether, so go ahead and enjoy a nice steak or juicy burger occasionally (1-3 times month).
Replace processed meats (bacon, luncheon meats, and cured sausage) with fresh cuts as often as possible. There are healthier sandwich meats and bacon available, but they are still usually quite high in salt, so be careful when choosing these options. Eating your meat as unprocessed as possible is still the best way to go!
Choose Low Dairy
Dairy should be eaten in moderation – 1-3 servings a day – and choose low fat rather than full-fat options as often as possible. Greek or plain unsweetened yogurt (add your own fruit) or small amounts of cheese are preferable over a large glass of cows milk. For a variety, try goat's milk products.
Eat More Fish
Include cold-water fatty fish in your diet at least twice a week. Salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, or shellfish are great options. It is best to bake, grill, or broil (avoid frying), and stay away from heavy breading. Fish is a great source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, but since it is an animal product, the Mediterranean diet recommends limiting your servings to 3-5 ounces.
Increase Plant Based Proteins
Beans, lentils, and legumes are a delicious source of plant-based proteins. Use them in place of meat a few times a week. Combine black beans with rice, or make a hearty lentil stew for a tasty – yet protein-packed – vegetarian dish.
Replace Salt with Herbs
You don't have to eliminate salt completely, but you should definitely cut back on the amount you use. And, opt for sea salt or Himalayan rock salt rather than table salt.
There are so many healthy herbs that can flavor your food without raising your blood pressure. Expand your spice repertoire, try new seasonings, experiment with some interesting flavors that you have never dared to cook with before. Be brave! Take a walk on the wild side. You may discover that turmeric, saffron, and sumac really aren't that scary after all!
Are you tired of diets that leave you feeling hungry all the time? Thankfully, the Mediterranean diet allows – even encourages – snacking.
But, you have to choose wisely. Fruit is a great choice, but limit the amount of dried fruit if you are trying to lose weight due to the high calorie and sugar content.
Unsalted walnuts, cashews, almonds, or pistachios are also a healthy option. But, keep it to a small handful rather than a bowl full. Spread natural peanut butter on whole grain bread or crackers.
Dip veggies in healthy olive oil vinaigrette rather than a calorie packed ranch dressing. See, it's about wise choices, not depravity. Another point in favor of the Mediterranean diet!
Again, “limit” does not mean eliminate entirely. According to the Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid, sweets should be kept to 1-3 servings per week. Of course, homemade desserts are usually better than packaged or processed options that contain a lot of preservatives and chemicals.
Dark chocolate (70% or greater) is a good choice, as are desserts containing fruit such as baked apples or strawberries with frozen yogurt. Keep portion sizes reasonable. After all, you want to enjoy a treat without going overboard on the calories.
If you are used to eating a lot of sweets, this may seem like a sacrifice, but a few treats a week is better than nothing, right? The diet also recommends limiting your intake of sodas, boxed sugared cereals, and granola bars that claim to be healthy but actually contain large amounts of sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
The Mediterranean diet definitely holds to the adage that breakfast is the most important meal. It prepares you for the day ahead, so don't skimp. Fruit and whole grains are high in fiber so they fill you up and keep you satisfied for hours. Plus, the carbohydrates give you energy – and we could all use more of that! Add nuts to oatmeal or cereal for extra protein.
While eggs are a traditional breakfast option, eat no more than 3 or 4 a week. Some Mediterranean diet experts say that, while egg yolks should be limited, the whites can be eaten in abundance. So, if you want to enjoy an omelet a couple of times a week, add a few extra egg whites to your single yolk.
Of course, water is always the best choice, so aim for at least 6 glasses a day. Certain teas also have great health benefits, especially green, ginger, basil, and chamomile.
Choose Healthy Drinks
The Mediterranean diet does recommend drinking red wine, although this is optional. However, women should keep it to 1 glass per day while men should have no more than two glasses.
And “glass” implies a 6-ounce flute not a 30-ounce fishbowl. Sorry! Red wine is good for you when taken in moderation, but too much can actually increase the risk for some health problems.
Eating when busy, rushed, or under stress is not healthy for digestion, so take the time to savor your meals. Stop, sit, and relax. Even if it 's only for 15 minutes. The Mediterranean people make eating an experience – a time to enjoy family and friends, or even a good book. Life is busy, but do your best to make eating slowly a priority.
Make exercise a regular part of your routine. Even adding a little extra activity to your average day can make a big difference. Avoid sitting for long periods of time and be conscious of how much you are moving.
Historically, people in the Mediterranean region spent a lot of time walking (often up and down steep hills), which is one of the reasons why this diet is so successful in maintaining a healthy weight and preventing certain diseases. So, staying active is important!
The Mediterranean diet weight loss plan can be a healthy and safe way to shed unwanted pounds without eliminating your favorite food groups or having to prepare complicated recipes. With a few simple changes, you can be on your way to a healthier – and thinner – you!
I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.