How to Start The Mediterranean Diet

Embracing The Mediterranean Lifestyle

So you’ve made the decision to give The Mediterranean diet a try…yay! We are happy you are here and are excited for your new, healthy lifestyle.

We hope that you’ve learned a bit about the background of this diet. Feel free to check out What is The Mediterranean Diet to find out more about the history and where it originates.

And now you may be asking yourself, how do I start the Mediterranean Diet in my own home? Well look no further. We are sharing our practical, realistic tips for starting the Mediterranean diet below.

How to Begin a Mediterranean Diet

One of the best parts of The Mediterranean Diet is that the focus is more on adding healthy ingredients to your diet and meals instead of eliminating certain food groups.

There are no hard fast “rules” with this way of life. There are guiding principles that lay out areas to focus on but the specifics are meant to be customized to your individual lifestyle.

Our Tips for Starting a Mediterranean Diet

The key to setting yourself up for success with this way of life is making small changes. You have to find what works best for you and make it your own.

We often find that taking a look at your meals as a whole is a great starting place. Look at what you eat in a day and then a week, paying attention to how often you include fruits and veggies, how often do you eat red meat, are sweets a big part of your meals? Starting with a good understanding of areas you can improve upon will help you plan out where to concentrate.

1. Increase Fruits and Vegetables

Fruit and vegetable intake in the US is severely under the daily recommended amounts. In fact, 90% of Americans don’t get the 2 1/2 cups of recommended veggies everyday.

Plant based foods (fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, olive oil, nuts and seeds) are the backbone of the Mediterranean diet. So it’s only fitting that one of the biggest things you can do when starting this diet is to really increase your fruit and veggie intake.

It’s estimated that people following a Mediterranean diet take in about 3-9 servings of vegetables everyday! For good reason too, since a plant based diet has been linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.

Some easy ways to add in the fruits and veggies –

  • Add spinach to scrambled eggs or make a veggie filled omelet for breakfast
  • These Spinach and Tomato Egg Muffins are great for breakfast meal prep
  • Add a huge salad to lunch or dinner for extra veggies like leafy greens, cucumber, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomato, etc
  • Layer on the lettuce, sprouts, avocado, or cucumber for that lunch time sandwich
  • Incorporate fruit into your salads
  • Add berries, peaches, banana, or fruit of your to yogurt
  • Challenge yourself to go meatless one night a week for dinner
  • Instead of just serving a veggie on the side of dinner, serve 2 or make it the star of the dish
  • Make a big stir fry filled with veggies like carrots, bell peppers, snap peas, broccoli, etc

2. Enjoy Fish at Least 2 Times a Week

The Health Benefits of Seafood include being a great source of lean protein, low in saturated fat, a source of selenium, zinc, iodine and iron. Not to mention one of the few sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids in the diet.

Fish is encouraged at least twice a week as part of the Mediterranean diet and it’s a great way to reduce your intake of red meat. If you have questions or concerns about the mercury levels in fish, we’ve answered some FAQs.

If you are new to preparing fish, we’ve rounded up 55 Health Fish and Seafood Recipes that include cooking tips.

Some of our favorite, family friendly fish recipes include –

3. Focus on Heart Healthy Fats

Anyone else grow up in the 90’s and remember when everything was “fat free”? Entire brands were making fat free everything from cookies to sour cream. Fat got a bad rap and thankfully it’s reputation is better now. We need fat in our diet. Instead of trying to find fat free products, it’s more important to focus on the type of fat.

Heart healthy fats are found in things like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado. These should be the focus when it comes to Mediterranean diet meals. Using olive oil in place of butter is a great place to start because you are swapping a saturated fat (butter) for an unsaturated, heart healthy fat (olive oil). Healthy fats help us feel full and content after a meal and give our body fuel.

Adding more sources of heart healthy fats to our meals is a great way to make the Mediterranean diet switch –

  • Incorporate nuts and seeds into salads and pastas
  • Use hummus as a protein filled sandwich spread in place of mayonnaise on sandwiches
  • Add nuts and seeds into Greek yogurt Breakfast Bowls
  • Try pistachios in place of breadcrumbs on baked chicken or walnut baked cod for dinner

4. Use Fresh Herbs and Spices for Flavor

how to start the Mediterranean diet tips

We love that the Mediterranean diet takes ordinary ingredients but adds so much flavor with spice based rubs, sauces and dressings.

Since starting the Mediterranean diet in our own home, we have seen our spice drawer grow so much. Some of our most used spices include garlic, cumin, saffron, za’atar, sumac and curry powder.

This Sheet Pan Chicken Za’atar is a great example of how spice can jazz up an ordinary dish. Sometimes something as simple as just adding a squeeze of fresh lemon on top of grilled veggies or fish can add so much flavor.

5. Choose Whole Grains When Possible

Adding whole grains to meals is a great way to feel full, fuel your body and provide fiber to keep things moving. Branch outside of your norm and try some out of the box varieties like faro, barley, couscous, oats, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, spelt, and quinoa.

6. Try New Recipes

Branching out and trying new things is a great way to find new foods and ingredients you enjoy. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying a new cuisine is something fun the whole family can be involved in.

Our Pinterest page has a hundreds of Mediterranean Diet Recipes that range from cuisine, culture and ingredients. It’s fun to search the internet, cookbooks, Pinterest and instagram for inspiration.

Mediterranean Diet cookbook recipe share

Speaking of cookbooks, The Mediterranean Diet Made Easy is our cookbook that is full of delicious and easy to create recipes for the whole family.

Try a new grilled vegetable, add a smoky eggplant dip to your appetizer in place of cheese and crackers, buy a new spice, try a new place for dinner, etc.

7. Make Food Enjoyable

What first drew us to The Mediterranean diet was how much people enjoyed cooking, sharing meals with others and just loving good food. There is no rule that says food that is good for you has to be bland or tasteless. If you aren’t enjoying your meals, then chances are you won’t eat this way very long.

Bring back the joy of cooking a good meal in the kitchen. Share a dish or a recipe with a friend. Throw a Mediterranean inspired inner party. Have fun.

8. Get Active

Daily physical activity is part of the Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid. Moving your body can add years onto your life. Take an evening walk, try a new fitness class, sign up for a dance class, start a challenge with friends, schedule weekly hikes with friends, etc. Make it something you enjoy.

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Tags: Mediterranean diet Last modified: August 24, 2021


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