These days, the word “diet” is most commonly associated with losing weight and counting calories. However, let’s not forget the other meaning of “diet” – the food and drink we regularly consume. That’s exactly what the Mediterranean Diet is for the people of Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco and other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the “diet” they use to nourish their bodies that also happens to be a “diet” full of health benefits.
Get ready for a long-term commitment
The Mediterranean Diet is not something you stick to for a few weeks and then go back to your old ways. It’s more of a lifestyle than a diet and requires a serious commitment to have a significant effect on your health. You will need to change how (and maybe even where) you shop for food, how you plan and prepare meals and even how you eat them.
The Mediterranean Diet encourages sharing meals with your family, as well as engaging in a good deal of physical activity. The climate and geography of the Mediterranean region certainly helps make it easier to enjoy long walks, al-fresco dinners, boating, hiking and plenty of other outdoor activities.
Weight loss is not the goal
It’s important to point out that weight loss is not the goal of the Mediterranean Diet, but rather a welcome side-effect. This well-balanced diet doesn’t require you to give up any specific foods entirely or starve yourself between meals. You still get your daily fats, carbs and sugars, but in a healthy and balanced way. Any pre-made, packaged meals and processed foods should be avoided, as the focus is on fresh, seasonal produce. Cutting out frozen dinners and salty snacks alone can have a great impact on your weight and body in general. The Mediterranean Diet will help you develop healthy eating habits, which in turn may bring about many other positive changes in your health and well-being.
So, what can I eat?
You don’t have to import food from Greece to follow the Mediterranean Diet. Most of the foods consumed in the Mediterranean region are available, and sometimes locally grown, in many parts of the world. Because of the proximity to the sea, frequent consumption of fish and seafood is an important part of the Mediterranean Diet. Seafood is consumed more frequently than red meat, which is limited to 1-2 times a month.
Extra-virgin olive oil is the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean Diet, followed by fish, nuts, seeds and avocados. These foods offer “good” (monosaturated) fats that actually help reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The Mediterranean diet offers plenty of variety and flexibility, allowing you to find foods and meals that are not only healthy and nutritious, but also make your taste buds happy. You don’t have to like hummus or olives – there are plenty of other foods that meet the diet requirements. And you can still dine out or grab lunch at your local cafe, just watch what you order. At Cafesano, our menu is based on the Mediterranean diet and Italian cuisine, so you can go all out! And we offer a similar catering menu to our customers in Reston and Northern Virginia too, for the days when you don’t feel like cooking.
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What are some of your favorite Mediterranean foods?