We’re inching towards the year end. While it’s a phase that brings with it a gamut of memories and reasons for revelry; let’s not forget that it’s also that time of the year when diets gets thrown out the window. But, before you sulk over the decadence, remember it’s never too late— to switch back to a healthier way of being that would resent your body post a festive binge. While many diets in general don’t guarantee fail-safe results; Mediterranean diets have risen to prominence in the recent past, owing to their effectiveness. So just in case if you’re on the lookout for a healthily diet to bounce back to resilience that would fit the bill, you have arrived at a right place!
What is “Mediterranean diet?
For starters, let’s get to the basics. What does the term “Mediterranean diet” really mean? Well, the Mediterranean diet is essentially a diet comprising more plant-based foods with healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, whole grains, beans, fruits & vegetables largely & minimal milk products (not vegan though). It is predominantly plant-based diet & largely non-meat based (so meat is included but minimally). The Mediterranean diet is one of the richest diets in the world. But does that equate to the diet being pricey? Well, the answer albeit a subjective one, can be best defined as a diet that could be customized as per one’s budget, thus making it a feasible option if enough thought is put into it. For instance, there can be less expansive version of Mediterranean diets mostly limiting to beans, fruits, vegetables & whole grains. What’s important to note is that since eating clean requires a great deal of understanding and perseverance, the money spent is often seen as an investment more than an expenditure.
The art of balancing
While switching to a Mediterranean diet might seem like a great idea, it is important to strike a balance and not push yourself too hard. Ideally, one should restrict cheat days to once in a fortnight while on this diet. In terms of eating clean, focus on eating invisible (healthy) fats such as fish, nuts, seeds & minimizing visible fats such as oils. Beans, greens and whole grains work best on Asians who want to give this diet a try. Seasonal vegetables, beans, whole grains and herbs are some of the best foods to include into your diet just in case you wish to go the Mediterranean way.
Simply put, Mediterranean diet does a fine blending of the basics of healthy eating with the traditional flavours and cooking methods of the Mediterranean. This kind of a diet gained popularity in the 1960s owing to how significantly fewer deaths, due to heart diseases, were recorded in the Mediterranean countries like France, Greece, Italy and Spain. It was also noted that the main components of Mediterranean diet entailed a daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats. This was coupled with a balanced intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs. The diet also includes moderate portions of dairy products and a limited intake of red meat. A fun fact is that red wine forms an integral part of the Mediterranean diet— thus making it a lot enjoyable than one must’ve assumed.
Breaking down to the specifics; the Mediterranean diet is largely plant-based. The meals are ideally conceptualized around plant-based foods. Yet, what needs to be noted is that dairy, poultry, eggs and seafood are also a vital part of the Mediterranean Diet. Red meat is however avoided to a large extent. If you’ve made up your resolve to eat the Mediterranean way; here are some pointers to keep in mind:
• Include more fruits and vegetables into your diet: Aim for 7 to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. This is one of the best and most crucial aspects of the diet.
• Stick to whole grains. One of the easiest and most important ways to make the Mediterranean switch is by opting for whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta. You may occasionally experiment with other whole grains, such as bulgur and farro.
• Use olive oil as a replacement: Olive oil extracted from the fruit of the Olea europaea plays an essential role in Mediterranean Diet. Olive oil is highly rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) considered to be a healthy dietary fat which is overwhelmingly beneficiary, as opposed to saturated fats and Trans fats.
• Eat more fish: Fish considered to be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids- Add fish twice a week to your diet. Tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are incredible choices for your body and brain.
• Say no to red meat: Substitute fish, poultry or beans for red meat. But, if you’re someone who just cannot do without a side of meat, include lean meats. A generous helping of plain yogurt is a great add-on too.
• Amp up the flavour: A smattering of herbs and spices vastly reduces the need for salt in dishes. Make use of them, and spice up your meals without feeling guilty!
– By Dr Pooja Sharma, Dietitian, Nutritionist & Healthy Lifestyle Evangelist