A Dietitian’s Review: Mediterranean Diet

Blog, Food

by Melinda D. Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDE 

We review several different eating approaches in our “Dietitian’s Review” series with the goal of helping people who are looking to evolve their eating style towards better health. It’s important to emphasize that “going on a diet” is very rarely associated with long-term success with weight. We provide these reviews for anyone who wants to improve their health and is looking for an eating approach that will best fit their lifestyle and preferences.

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The Mediterranean Diet is based on the healthy eating styles of individuals living in regions that border the Mediterranean Sea including southern Italy, Greece and Spain. It does not involve strict rules such as counting carbs or calories and puts the emphasis on moderate portions of whole, unprocessed fruits veggies, seafood and whole grains. Much research has linked this eating pattern with reduced risk of many chronic diseases.

What do I eat?

Seafood is the preferred protein source, with red meat limited to a few times a month.  Lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts are encouraged. Replace butter with healthy fats such as olive and canola oil.  Moderate amounts of red wine are allowed, if permissible by your doctor. Herbs, spices and flavorings such as garlic and lemon are used in abundance and salt is used less. Also emphasized are healthy lifestyle patterns such as enjoying meals with friends and family and more exercise.

Is it effective?

While this is not a diet specifically for weight loss, it is an overall very healthy eating style. Much research has been conducting showing that this eating pattern is associated with decreased risks of heart disease, lower LDL cholesterol levels, less risk of getting type 2 diabetes and decreased risks of some cancers.

What are some pros and cons?

Pros:  Large research studies have found links to reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes; well-balanced and nutritionally sound

Cons: Not specific for weight loss.

What do I buy at the grocery store?

How do I learn more?

Eating Well:  http://www.eatingwell.com/article/16372/8-ways-to-follow-the-mediterranean-diet-for-better-health/

Old ways:   https://oldwayspt.org/traditional-diets/mediterranean-diet

Note: There are many approaches to weight loss that can be successful for people.  My Weight– What to Know does not recommend a particular diet, but is happy to share facts about a variety of approaches. As with all meal planning approaches, regular exercise is recommended.

Eating a healthy diet and being active are both really important for being healthy, but for many people diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to help them reach their weight-loss goals. If this sounds familiar, read this fascinating article about what to do when diet and exercise aren’t getting you to where you want to be.

UPDATE: A recent study from the NIH suggests that a diet high in ultra-processed foods led to overeating and weight gain. Watch a Facebook Live episode that covers what to know about ultra-processed foods here:

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