The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle and a way of eating that focuses on delicious food that is healthy and enjoyed with others. It is recommended for its role in reducing heart disease risk, protecting against diabetes and certain types of cancer, and maintaining a healthy weight. The diet is primarily plant-based with a focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats. This diet encourages healthy fats from fish, as well as from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat sources, like seeds and nuts. It also includes small amounts of chicken, low-fat dairy products, and eggs, as well as red meat one to two times per month.
Break It Down
- Fruits & Vegetables: This is the base of the diet, providing vitamins and minerals needed for good health, carbohydrates for energy, and fiber for smooth digestion. Plants become the center of the meal, instead of meat sources.
- Fish: The major protein source, because it is a top source of omega-3 fatty acids, DHA in particular. This fatty acid is present at the nerve endings of the brain, and is needed for cognitive behavior, memory, and brain function.
- Beans & Lentils: Another lean protein source that provides complex carbohydrates for sustainable energy and fiber for intestinal health. They are also a good source of potassium, magnesium, and iron.
- Healthy Fats: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from olive and canola oils, ground flaxseed, avocados, nuts, and seeds have been shown to raise the good cholesterol (HDL) levels in your body, which in turns lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and protects the heart.
Common ingredients: fish, chickpeas, feta cheese, olives, olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
A big part of the Mediterranean lifestyle is the focus on community. Meals should be enjoyed with others, instead of a rushed part of your day that is full of distractions. Make time to sit and savor your food, while laughing and talking with friends and family.
Prepare one of the recipes below, or find another Mediterranean recipe that you like, and enjoy the meal with friends and/or family. Journal about your experience. Did you like the recipe? Could you start to include more fruits and vegetables, fish, beans and lentils, and healthy fats into your current diet? How will you accomplish this?
Complete the "Go Mediterranean" journey found in your Health Plus Health Guide!
Pesto Chicken Salad Pita
1/4 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons prepared pesto
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/2 cup grated carrot (about 1 medium carrot)
4 mini whole wheat pita rounds, split
1 cup baby spinach leaves
- Combine yogurt, pesto, lemon juice, and pepper in a medium bowl; whisk until well blended.
- Add chicken and carrots; stir to combine.
- Stuff each pita evenly with spinach leaves and chicken salad mixture.
- Add in other vegetables, if desired.
Nutrition information, per serving: 1 serving = 1 stuffed pita
- Calories: 259
- Total Fat: 9 g
- Saturated Fat: 2 g
- Sodium: 542 mg
- Carbohydrate: 19 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 27 g
- Total Sugar: 2 g
- Added Sugar: 0 g
Source: Modified from kidseatright.org pesto chicken salad pitas
Mediterranean Nourish Bowl
2 cups romaine, roughly chopped
1 cup spinach
4-5 roasted brussels sprouts
1 roasted sweet potato
½ cup carrots, shredded or diced
¼ cup cucumber, sliced thinly
¼ of an avocado
2 tablespoons hummus (of your choice)
Freshly squeezed lemon
- Start by filling a large salad bowl with the dark leafy greens.
- Top with all the remaining vegetables, piling them in their own "spot" in the bowl (as pictured). You can arrange each ingredient in a pile and then wait to stir everything together, or you can simply top the dark leafy greens with all the remaining ingredients at the same time and stir thoroughly.
- Add the hummus in the middle and squeeze lemon juice over the top.
Nutrition information, Per serving(1 bowl):
- 283 calories
- 6 g total fat (1 g saturated fat)
- 260 mg sodium
- 49 g carbohydrates
- 12 g fiber
- 9 g protein
Source: Mckel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN