The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet – Why Is It So Good?

The Mediterranean Diet is synonymous with health and longevity. It is the most widely researched diet in the world and has been shown to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. There are many versions of this diet, but the basic principles are the same – a diet rich in antioxidants and fibre that is naturally anti-inflammatory.

The Mediterranean diet is:

  • Natural ingredients – with a focus on minimally processed foods
  • Flexibility and variety – eat different foods each week that work for you and your family
  • Cost effective – save money by buying less red meat, refined grains, desserts and fast food
  • A healthy lifestyle – with the right fuel and regular exercise, you will benefit from improved energy and vitality and reduce your risk of disease

How to eat

There is more to the health of the Mediterranean people than just food.  How they eat is equally as important.

  • Socialise – take the time to really enjoy your meal with friends and family; eat slowly and savour the flavours
  • No screens – switch off the TV, mobile phone and any other screen (see point one)
  • Drink smart – drink 2-2.5 litres of water per day between meals; limit your alcohol intake – enjoy 1 small glass of wine with your meal if desired (and note this equates to 100ml – measure it out and you will see just how small it is!)
  • Be active – exercise for 15-30 minutes every day; choose something you enjoy e.g. walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, pilates
  • Tip – read the ingredients list; if there is any ingredient that you don’t know, or if there are any ingredients with numbers, put it down – it won’t bring you health

What to eat

  • Every day without restriction – vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices
  • Every day – 30 ml olive oil, fruit (<2 serves)
  • Throughout the week in moderation – fish or seafood (2-4 serves are recommended), lean poultry, eggs, yoghurt, cheese
  • Once or twice a month (small portions) – red meat, dessert

What to avoid

  • Added sugars – soft drink, lollies, chocolate, ice cream, table sugar, and many others
  • Refined grains – refined wheat products including white bread and pasta
  • Trans fats – margarine, many processed and junk foods
  • Refined oils – canola, soybean, vegetable, cottonseed, and other seed oils
  • Processed meat – sausages, hot dogs, salami, kabana, bacon
  • Highly processed foods – includes anything packaged as ‘low fat’ or ‘diet’

Breakfast Ideas

Most days

  • Porridge with oats, ground linseeds, grated apple and cinnamon (or try pear and fresh ginger) is the perfect way to start your day
  • Bircher muesli using the same ingredients plus yoghurt and fresh berries is a great cold alternative

3-4 mornings a week

  • Eat some eggs – try them poached or scrambled, with avocado, wilted greens and/or sourdough toast
  • Try a vegetable and egg scramble cooked in olive oil
  • Or try my favourite 2 ingredient pancakes (1 small ripe banana + 2 eggs – add a pinch of cinnamon if you like)

A couple of times a month

  • Enjoy a traditional cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon and sausage with mushrooms and spinach

Lunch Ideas

Most days

  • Soups are ideal
  • Add black beans, chickpeas, cooked salmon or tinned sardines to salads; enjoy with a homemade salad dressing with olive oil and vinegar (apple cider /balsamic) and mustard; add seeds for extra crunch

A couple of times a week

  • Enjoy a sandwich made with sourdough bread; fillings could include chicken or turkey, avocado, tomato, onion, grated carrot and beetroot, lettuce

A couple of times a month

  • Indulge in your cravings and enjoy a hamburger, but ditch the fries and have a salad on the side instead

Dinner Ideas

Most evenings

  • Fill your plate with vegetables that are steamed, roasted or sautéed in a little olive oil with herbs and spices; add a small serve of fish, beans, lentils, spelt pasta, or quinoa

A couple of times a week

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables; add a small serve of chicken or fish and quinoa or rice; enjoy some fruit for dessert

A couple of times a month

  • Add roast beef, lamb chop or pork tenderloin to your half plate of vegetables
  • For a treat make a fruit-based dessert such as homemade apple crumble or berries with vanilla yoghurt

Snack Ideas

Top choices

  • Nuts, seeds
  • Fruit – apple, kiwi fruit, berries
  • Yoghurt
  • Olives

Shopping List

You can download your own personal shopping list here.