The Mediterranean Diet is less a diet and more a way of living – living longer, healthier and happier, while eating like you’re on a European holiday!
Research shows that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern include reduced risks of heart attacks, depression, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, while improving weight loss, control of bood sugar levels, heart health, skin and hair quality.
Here are 7 easy food swaps you can make to eat like a Mediterranean.
1. Swap margarine and butter with olive oil and other healthy oils
Mediterranean recipes are not afraid to use heart-healthy olive oils, and for good reason. Stock up on a couple of high-quality extra virgin olive oils and enjoy the nuances in flavour – subtle and light to cook with, fruity and peppery to pour over salads and vegetables. A small bottle of walnut oil kept in the fridge makes a healthy treat to enjoy with egg and pasta dishes.
2. Swap meat with fish
Mediterraneans eat fish regularly and red meat and chicken rarely – exactly the opposite to our eating patterns. Fish and seafood are packed with Omega-3 oils which our hearts and brains love and are low in saturated fats (which steaks are high in).
3. Swap bread, rice and potatoes with farro, beans and legumes
What’s a traditional side dish on your dinner plate? A bread roll? Mashed potatoes? In much of Europe, proteins are served with fibre-rich beans and legumes including lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas. We adore farro, an ancient grain that is deliciously nutty and easy to cook – serve either hot or cold just like couscous.
4. Swap your white carbs with colourful carbs
Many nutritionists describe white carbs (like white pasta, white bread and white rice) as “dead carbs.” We all need carbs for energy but all you need is to make a simple swap and replace white carbs with colourful carbs: instead of white pasta, look for whole grain pasta; enjoy brown and wild rice instead of white rice; and wholewheat, country-style bread instead of sugar-rich white bread.
5. Swap your usual snacks with European-style snacking
Ever noticed how you never see Europeans walking down the street eating packets of chips or chocolate bars? Europeans enjoy healthier portions at lunch and dinner and don’t have the need for mid-afternoon munchies, but when they do, they enjoy a handful of nuts or a small plate of cheese or cured meat.
6. Swap having an entree with having vegetables
Italians start every meal with some vegetables – think antipasto or a vegetable soup – and salads before or after every meal are the norm, providing great contrast of flavours, textures and colours on your plate – not to mention a vitamin boost with every forkful.
7. Swap dessert with a taste of something sweet
The Mediterranean diet celebrates the best of seasonality – so dessert is less likely to be a giant wedge of heavy chocolate cake and more likely going to be a ripe peach with honey or a poached pear with a dollop of mascarpone. Easy and simple, yet elegant and satisfying for every sweet tooth.
What’s your favourite Mediterranean diet food swap that you’re planning to make?