Research has connected eating foods included in a traditional Mediterranean diet with many health benefits, including weight loss and prevention of heart disease. The diet is so named because it includes the foods traditionally eaten by inhabitants of Mediterranean countries. Here is an overview of how to fill your family’s weekly menu with healthy foods from the Mediterranean diet.
- Replace saturated fats like butter with olive oil when you cook or bake, when possible. Olive oil contains heart healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Canola oil and walnut oil are also healthy alternatives to butter or margarine when you bake or cook.
- Swap out red meat for fish or lean meats like skinless poultry. For some meals, go meatless and eat plant-based proteins like nuts, lentils, and beans. Also, reduce the amount of protein you eat by making whole grains, fruits, and vegetables the main focus of your meal. Eating too much animal protein for an extended period of time has been linked to higher risks of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.
- Try to eat more whole grain bread, pasta, and rice. Whole grain pasta, bread, and rice contain the healthy fiber and nutrients that are removed when grains are processed to make white bread, pasta, and rice. Whole grains have a pleasant, nutty flavor but they might take some getting used to. If necessary, ease the transition by first introducing pasta and breads that are a mix of whole and refined grains.
- At dessert time, replace those less healthy sweet treats with fruit. Fruit is full of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Choose a variety of fruit and keep it in a visible location, so it most likely you will reach for it when you need a sweet treat.
- Finally, eat your meal Mediterranean style by sitting down at the table with your family and taking the time to enjoy your food. Eating slowly helps prevent overeating because you give your body time to realize you have had enough to eat.