Mediterranean Diet Meal Planning: Things to Keep in Mind
Though Mediterranean diet is the traditional eating habit of the Mediterranean countries, anybody can easily follow this healthy way of eating. You might not be able to find some of the food recommended by this diet, but there are still plenty of foods you can get from your local supermarket. There are a few things that you have to keep in mind when doing your Mediterranean diet meal plan.
1. Fresh Vegetables in Each Meal
Always include plenty of fresh vegetables in each meal. Vegetables are rich in fiber and vitamins which are good for health. You can have it in different way. For morning breakfast, you can have an egg sandwich with sliced tomato and lettuce. For lunch, you can serve some grilled or baked potatoes, eggplant, mushrooms etc. with your main dish. Carrot, celery, or cucumber sticks are great for snack time. For dinner, vegetables can be served in the way of soup, salad, boiled, grilled or sautéed with olive oil. Pumpkin soup, mix-veggies soup, tomato-basil salad with olive oil vinaigrette, boiled okra, grilled eggplant, sautéed green beans, etc. are among the choices that you can have.
2. Fruits as Daily Dessert
Eat plenty of fresh fruits daily as dessert, preferably 3 to 4 servings a day. Go for variety as different fruits have different nutrition. For example, you can have a glass of unsweetened fresh orange juice or pomegranate juice for breakfast. Get yourself an apple, some grapes or berries for snack time. For lunch or dinner, start your meal with a mixed fruit salad with yogurt.
3. Unrefined Whole Grains as Source of Carb
For carbohydrate, choose unrefined whole grain cereal or whole grain products, such as whole-meal breads, whole-meal pasta, whole grain oats, etc. Try to have some grain food in each meal, for example, whole-meal bread for breakfast, whole grain crackers for snack time and whole grain rice or pasta for lunch or dinner.
4. Cooked Legumes: 2-4 Cups a Week
Eat 2 to 4 cups of cooked legumes (e.g. dry beans, lentils) a week. Besides being a great source of vegetable protein, legumes also contain fiber which helps eliminating cholesterol from our bodies. You can serve legumes with salad or as a soup. It is a great idea to have vegetarian meals for dinner twice a week, serving beans, vegetables and whole grains.
5. Herbs and Spices for Flavor
To add flavor to your food, herbs and spices should be the main condiments to use. Garlic, basil, bay leaf, oregano, parsley, rosemary, pepper, anise etc. are some common ingredients used in Mediterranean countries for seasoning.
6. Olive Oil as Main Source of Fat
In terms of fat, olive oil should be your priority source fat used for both cooking and salad dressing. Other healthy fats that you may include in your diet are fat from nuts (e.g. peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.), sunflower seeds and avocados. You can have a handful of nuts for snack time or during your breakfast. Though nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats that are beneficial for our health, you should watch out the portion consumed as they are high in calories.
7. Seafood as Main Source of Protein
Eat seafood and fish more frequent, at least two or three times weekly. Some good choices for fish are salmon, sardines, tuna and herring, which are great sources for omega-3 fatty acids. Besides fish, you may also have mussels, oysters, shrimp, squid, clams, crabs, etc. Always serve seafood in the way of grilled or baked, avoid deep-frying. You may have seafood dishes for your lunch as well as dinner.
8. Up to 7 Eggs a Week
Besides seafood, eggs are also rich in high-quality protein which is beneficial for those who seldom eat meat. You can include eggs in your daily cooking or baking, but limit the amount to 7 eggs a week.
9. Low-Fat Dairy Products
For dairy products, go for low-fat and consume in moderate amount daily. For example, you can have some Greek yogurt with berries and walnuts or some cheese with whole grain toast for your breakfast. You may also add some feta cheese in your salad.
10. Alcohol in Moderate Amount
If you do consume alcoholic drinks, you may include a moderate amount of wine in your daily diet, normally during lunch or dinner. For women, limit the consumption to 5 ounces a day while for men, 10 ounces is the maximum.
11. Small Amount of Lean Cut Meat
If you are eating meat or meat product, go for the lean cuts. Poultry is a better choice than red meat as it doesn’t have high levels of saturated fat. For ground meats, you may include some fat but it should not more than 10% of the total. Limit your consumption of meat to 12 to 16 ounces a month. Have only small amount for each serving, preferably as garnish in pasta or sautéed vegetable.