For decades, studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is probably the healthiest diet in the world. Coming from the regions around southern Italy, France, Greece and Spain, this way of eating has a history of proven benefits.
Rich in fibre and vitamins, mono-unsaturated fats and omega-3 foods, the Mediterranean diet not only is proven to help preventing heart attacks and significantly reduce blood pressure, but it has also specifically been shown to help ward off diabetes as well as bowel and prostate cancers.
If that wasn't enough, if you're looking to lose some weight, this is definitely the right plan for you. Eating the Med way, can help you manage weight and reduce fat intake naturally and in a sustainable way, due to eating so many nutrient-rich and wholesome foods.
Being half Italian and half Greek, I grew up on a 100% Mediterranean diet. When I moved to London, 10 years ago, I made sure to bring the principles of this healthy diet along with me. So, I can guarantee that is possible to benefit from one of the most appraised diets in the world, wherever you are. It doesn't have to be difficult, time-consuming or expensive to follow the Mediterranean lifestyle, all it takes is a little bit of effort and a few changes in your daily foodie routine. To help you along your Mediterranean journey, I've put together some helpful easy tips you can follow whenever/wherever you are, no matter how busy your life is.
Mediterraneans use very simple common ingredients, and often the recipes don't call for more than 10. The main secret behind this, is that they use fresh, seasonal local ingredients. So when it comes to making the most of your dishes, try to source the best available produce. Opt for organic vegetables and fruits as much as you can, even though they're a little more expensive, you'll be amazed on how much they will impact the final flavour of your dishes. Try to buy organic tomatoes, they're super versatile and you can make all sorts of simple recipes from scratch - from marinara sauce, to tomato tart, to baked tomatoes, or a simple mozzarella and tomato salad.
Heritage Tomato Phyllo Tart, The Petite Cook
Use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, as your primary fat for cooking, seasoning and baking. You don't need to use large amounts of oil when cooking/baking, a glug of good olive oil goes a long way and flavours your dishes deeply.
For a healthy lunch idea, opt for Greek or Italian salads with added grains such as couscous, bulgur or quinoa. Light, refreshing, and healthy, the only condiment you need to dress these simple salads is good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If you really want to indulge, make your own dressing (and avoid the added fats and preservatives found in store-bought brands), by simply combining olive oil with balsamic vinegar, a bit of lemon juice, and a hint of honey.
Legumes are an often-underrated super food, but there's so much to love about them. Inexpensive, easy to source and loaded with protein and fibre, there are endless ways to enjoy beans, chickpeas and lentils, and they are guaranteed to fill you up faster and prevent overeating later on. Add your favourite legumes to soups, salads, or use to make healthy falafels and shakshuka.
In addition, make sure to add extra grains to your diet, such as super-nutrient quinoa, freekeh or barley. Try new recipes that are perfect both for a light dinner and a quick lunch (so you can bring leftovers to work the next day), such as barley Greek salad, spicy freekeh buddha bowl, or stuffed courgettes with quinoa and pico de gallo.
Spicy Chickpea Shakshuka, The Petite Cook
Mediterranean folks eat very small portions of meat in their weekly foodie routine, instead they have plenty of healthy fish, simply grilled or roasted. Eat at least two servings of fish per week and make sure to include oily fish: wild salmon, sustainable tuna, cod, swordfish and mackerel, are all great options that won't break the bank but will ensure a good source of omega-3 in your diet.
Fresh fruit is the best way to indulge your sweet tooth and is a million times better than store-bought desserts. Fruit are a great source of fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants. You can of course keep it plain and natural, but to make things more interesting try new creative ways to increase your fruit intake, such as this nectarine parfait: simply mix fresh chopped nectarines (or any other fruit!), with healthy Greek yogurt and extra crunchy granola, for a nutrient-packed breakfast or dessert option.
Granola Nectarine Yogurt Parfait, The Petite Cook
Incorporating some vegetarian recipes into your diet is not only budget-friendly, but also an easy way to boost your intake of extra vitamins, minerals and fibre. You'll probably be surprised, but the most popular Mediterranean recipes do not call for meat of any sort. Think about spaghetti with tomato sauce, Greek salad, eggplant parmesan, tortilla de patata, ratatouille, the list goes on. They are all wonderful, fulfilling and absolutely meat-free delicious dishes.
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