Who would’ve guessed that in 2019, the Mediterranean diet would be enjoying it’s time in the sun again?
It’s already been ranked the best diet of the year (goodbye, keto warriors) – and my dietitian-heart is cheering. Here’s why you should say hello to this traditional way of eating.
Hot health benefits
The Mediterranean diet has a lot going for it. For one, research has shown that it is cardio-protective and can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Two, it’s associated with good brain health and has even been linked to reduced risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. And three, the Mediterranean diet can cut your chances of developing diabetes and certain cancers, too.
Mediterranean diet: how-to
If you’re wondering what’s on the menu, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s not what you were hoping for (oodles of spaghetti bolognese, mountains of garlic bread and scoop upon scoop of delicious, creamy gelato).
Instead, there’s a huge focus on plant-based eating. In particular, legumes and wholegrains are heavily featured, along with plenty of fruit and vegetables, especially leafy greens, tomatoes, garlic, onion and herbs. Thanks to the generous lashings of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), as well as nuts and seeds, this diet is high in heart-healthy fats and disease-fighting antioxidants, too. Fish and seafood is also on the menu a few times a week, as is poultry and eggs. Red meat, however, is consumed far less often than the typical Australian diet.
On the Mediterranean diet, there’s even room for the foods you love, like red wine and sweets – but here’s the catch: Wine should be enjoyed with food in the company of friends and family (not guzzled down by the bottle on a Friday night). And sweets are reserved for special occasions (birthdays and weddings), rather than a daily 3pm slump.
Your weekly meal plan
Homemade baked beans (made with EVOO, garlic, onion, herbs, tomatoes and tinned beans)
Poached eggs on wholegrain toast, served with tomato and spinach, drizzled in EVOO
Homemade vegetable omelette cooked in EVOO with wholegrain toast
Sardines on wholegrain toast with tomato, drizzled with EVOO
Bean or chickpea salad with seasonal vegetables, drizzled with EVOO and topped with nuts
Small portion of homemade pesto pasta and extra vegetables on the side
Bean and vegetable stew (made with EVOO, garlic, onion, herbs, tomatoes and leafy greens)
Grilled salmon with simple lentil salad and leafy greens, drizzled in EVOO
Baked fish served with seasonal vegetables and wholegrain bread
Small portion of pasta with chicken and herby tomato sauce (made with EVOO, onion, garlic and plenty of herbs)
Vegetable and chicken casserole served with a small portion of rice
Wholemeal couscous salad made with tomato, cucumber, olives, basil and EVOO
Capsicums stuffed with vegetables, lentils and rice, cooked in tomato-based sauce (with EVOO, onion, garlic and herbs) and served with leafy greens
A small handful of nuts and seeds
Plain natural yoghurt with fresh fruit
Melissa Meier is an online and Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.