Whether the focus is on losing weight, eating heart-healthy or even achieving a healthier gut, the Mediterranean diet continues to make headlines.
Even in the Midwest, adopting a Mediterranean way of eating can be achieved easily with a few pantry substitutions, said Franciscan Health registered dietitian Kathleen Cowden.
What Is The Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating patterns of people who live in the Mediterranean region. While many people associate the Mediterranean with Greece and Italy, the Mediterranean region includes flavors Spain, north Africa countries and the Middle East.
Mediterranean cooking includes healthy fats found in olive oil and nuts and plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fish. Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts.
When you adopt a Mediterranean style diet, you would limit red meats, dairy foods and processed foods.
"The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle – the healthy diet; physical activity – 30 or more minutes a day; and a meaningful mealtime which includes turning off the electronics and thoughtfully eating the meal," Cowden said.
Why Choose A Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet, with its higher emphasis on proteins, healthy fats and fish, has been linked to studies showing improvements to heart health, healthy aging, brain health, lowered cancer risk and more.
But the key is making a transition in overall diet, not just enjoying a night or two of pasta or hummus.
"Just adding 1 or 2 food components from the coastal region isn't going to help much if the diet is still primarily Western," Cowden said.
Sold on trying the Mediterranean diet? Let's learn more about Mediterranean diet staples and how to stock your kitchen.
Mediterranean Diet Pantry Staples
Staples to include in your Mediterranean pantry include:
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh or frozen fish and seafood
- Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruits
- Fresh herbs and spices
- Nonfat Greek yogurt
- Nuts and seeds
- Olives and avocados
- Part-skim milk cheese
- Potatoes and legumes
- Skim milk
- Whole-grain bread and pasta
Download and print our Mediterranean diet shopping list.
Spice Up Your Meals With These Mediterranean Flavors
Herbs and spices to add to your pantry to incorporate Mediterranean flavors include:
Mediterranean Herbs and Spices
- Bay leaves
- Fennel seeds
- Red pepper flakes
Spanish Herbs and Spices
- Bay leaf
Moroccan/North Africa Herbs and Spices
- Red pepper flakes
- Cumin seeds
- Coriander seeds
Protein Sources on A Mediterranean Diet
A diet based on countries near major sources of water obviously includes proteins such as salmon, shrimp, tuna, halibut and other fish.
Not a fish eater? You can still benefit from eating a Mediterranean style diet. Consider these additional protein sources.
- Lentils and Beans
- Boneless chicken
- Ground turkey
- Skim milk
- Feta Cheese
- Goat cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Yogurt, plain nonfat Greek
Avoid fatty cuts of meat and fried foods, and limit your red meat servings to no more than once a week.