Let’s face it – the Western diet is pretty ridiculous if you sit back and think about it. Most Americans don’t eat breakfast because they’re too busy or because they’re trying to lose weight. Either way – skipping this meal is disastrous for your health. Lunch is typically something that’s quick – which sadly can often be described as “unhealthy” and “greasy”. Dinner is often served late due to our busy schedules and is probably the main meal that’s eaten at home. Whether the meal is homemade or partially prepped, the centerpiece of the meal is some sort of protein, surrounded by starches and sometimes veggies. And after a long, hard day working, a dessert is usually consumed because we feel we earned it.
If you’re reading this and your face is slightly contorted with disbelief or disgust, or you’re nodding your head in agreement, you’re not alone. Welcome to the eye-opening realization of what our society and world has succumbed to! When you look at our lifestyles in this manner, it’s no wonder we aren’t all walking around with more health and weight issues. In fact, it’s a wonder there are so many of us walking around period – we haven’t killed ourselves with what we’re eating.
My intention isn’t to alarm you, but there is a serious epidemic that’s sweeping our nation and endangering all of our lives. The fact that so many of us view what we’re ingesting as “ok” and “it’s what I can afford” shows how utterly clueless we are. We do have a right to feeding ourselves good foods so that we can continue to function.
And with that… I introduce to you the Mediterranean diet.
What is Mediterranean?
One of the primary focuses of the Mediterranean diet is the incorporation of healthy fats. Olive oil is pretty much a staple in this lifestyle and they’re very proud of it! I recently learned that in this area, they host olive oil tastings and people will judge all sorts of oils. I’ve been told that the key is the “bite” that you feel at the finish of the oil.
Another key feature of this lifestyle is the choice of fish other proteins like beef and chicken. People who follow a Mediterranean lifestyle don’t view proteins (especially meats) as the “star of the show” when it comes to meals. Often times, fruits and vegetables and even whole grains will be the centerpiece of a meal. Incorporating so many fresh and raw foods can only do wonders for your body vs. filling it with processed grains and meats.
Why choose Mediterranean?
As I mentioned earlier, the Western diet is not the model that the world should be following. It’s primarily composed of animal fats, sugars, and processed foods. Fruits and vegetables are thrown in here and there but they certainly aren’t the focal point. Sadly, research continues to show that diets such as ours are largely responsible for many of the chronic diseases we face today – cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and Alzheimer’s (just to name a few).
The Mediterranean diet, on the other handle, focuses on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These three food groups on their own provide an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. The best part – these foods are natural and in being so, can’t contain processed ingredients. Instead of using salt to flavor items (Western), this lifestyle instead incorporates herbs and garlic. Unlike the Western diet, which is predominantly made up of saturated fats, the Mediterranean diet understand that healthy fats are actually good for you. This is why healthy fats like olive oil and avocado are considered staples of this lifestyle.
What can I eat and not eat?
What you SHOULD eat:
- Olive Oil – healthy monounsaturated fats, polyphenols
- 4-6 servings a day (1 tsp per serving)
- 4-6 servings a day (5 olives per serving)
- 4-6 servings a day (1/8 avocado per serving)
- Nuts & seeds – fiber, protein, fats, and antioxidants
- Eat a small portion daily
- Legumes – fiber, protein
- Eat at least 1/2 cup twice a week
- 4 oz, two – three days a week
- Dairy – from cultured milk (kefir, ricotta) because it’s easier to digest
- 1-3 servings a day (1 cup yogurt/milk or 1 oz. cheese per serving)
- Whole grains – healthy fats, proteins
- 4 small portions daily
- Quinoa is an excellent choice
- Herbs and spices – antioxidant and inflammation-fighting effects
What to eat in MODERATION:
- Lean meat
- Red wine
What to AVOID:
- Fast foods – high in salt and saturated fats
- Dairy products like cream and butter
What did you like the most?
I loved that I could include olives and feta cheese into pretty much anything! I’ve never been a fan of olives until about a year ago when I tried Kalamata olives for the first time. Talk about love at first taste.
What did you dislike?
It’s sad – but true – I missed red meat. Just a bit. I mean, I wasn’t craving a hamburger or steak at any point, but I did miss red meat after five days. I was also sad that I couldn’t have yogurt as often as I was accustomed to.
What was the most difficult?
Not consuming as much dairy as I would like to. I’m used to having Greek yogurt every day – sometimes twice a day. I didn’t feel that having the word “Greek” in the name made it suitable for this lifestyle, so I did try to limit my intake. Since this is a key source of protein for me (I usually eat as an afternoon snack), I did experience some slight withdrawals.
What did you miss the most?
Red meat, which may sound strange, but sometimes I crave it. I usually have red meat once or twice a week, depending on leftovers. But to go 5 days without red meat and primarily consuming tuna was bit of a shock for me.
A Sample Day
Oats with Fresh/Dried Fruits and Nuts
Greek Yogurt & Fresh Fruit
Salads on on their own or stuffed in pita bread
Veggies or a salad with whole grains and protein
Want more? Check out recipes here!
THINGS I LEARNED
- Protein can be found in many different sources – not just red meat. Try a small serving of unsalted nuts and/or seeds as an afternoon snack!
- Fats are not the enemy, so long as you eat the right kinds! Avocados and olives and especially olive oil should be included in your diet.
- Sugar is highly overrated and not necessary to survive as we envision. Sure, we consume it in foods like fruit, but that’s naturally occurring. We don’t need the extra sugar in sweets, the sugar that is created when our body breaks down starches, or the sugar found in other processed foods.
If you eat natural foods – ones without a barcode label – you’re doing it right.