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Trying the Mediterranean Diet: Read This Meal Plan First

Author: Amanda Cofer, MPH

You’ve probably heard about the Mediterranea Diet and know a little bit about what it is. Maybe you know someone that eats this way because they have family roots in Italy or Greece or you have a loved one that needed to make a change for their health and this is what they chose. But what about eating this way for weight loss? Let’s review some of the key components of this diet and how they may (or may not) apply to weight loss!

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Before we dive in, it’s helpful to have an understanding of what this is this “diet” anyway. This way of eating is common in cultures around Italy and Greece and has been research since the 1960’s for its many health benefits. The Mediterranean diet and culture has been shown to prevent ailments like Type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stronk, and premature death. There isn’t really one tried and true way to follow this diet since it is closely tied to a way of life society today has taken it and run with it. The Mediterranean diet’s key components involve eating meals rich in nutrients through plant based items, steering clear of butters for oils, limiting red meats, incorporating fish and poultry, using spices and herbs instead of salt, and enjoying a moderate amount of red wine (this is optional). Exercise is also plays an important role. Basically the name of the game here in antioxidants. So what would you be eating on a daily basis?

What does a Medierannean Diet Meal Plan look like?

These meals consist of a whole lotta whole foods and limit processed or added sugars. While healthy, these plans have their Do’s and Don’ts.

It can take a keen eye to spot some of these Don’ts in the grocery store or in restaurants but over time you may start to find some of your favorite meals and eat something that looks a bit like this each day.

  • Breakfast: Traditional oatmeal with blueberries
  • Lunch: Sandwich in whole grain bread (poultry or hummus) and a side salad with an olive oil based dressing.
  • Dinner: 3 oz. salmon filet with steamed vegetables and whole grain rice
  • Snacks: Apple slices with almond butter, small Greek yogurt

What about the Mediterannean Diet and weight loss?

The guidelines and example meal plan above may feel like your run of the mill healthy eating habits but what about if you’re working on building these habits and trying to lose weight? Just like any change, it can take some time to see results and this way of eating may not be right for everyone. Each of us have bodies that like to be fueled and taken care of differently. An upside to the Mediterannean Diet and losing weight is that is does promote and encourage healthy foods and healthy fats. Some studies have shown that those on an olive oil based Mediterannean plan lost more weight than those who were on a more nut based plan. There are also studies looking at weight loss in those with diabetes and generally all of those participants saw some weight come off. Combined with 30-45 minutes of exercise 3 days per week, these studies showed an average loss of anywhere between 16 and 22 pounds. But can this really be attributed to a Mediterrean eating style or is it more of a result from eating healthier in general (things that make you go hmmm)? It may take more science to give us this answer.

When it comes to losing weight, the Mediterannean Diet offers some holistic options but at the end of the day portions will also be an important factor to consider. This diet is very culturally based so reading up on the ratios for carbs, fats, and proteins will be important. And again, because we are all different, what ratio works for your friend may not work for you. You may also want to consider the sustainability of eating this way as you lose weight. What will you do for long term weight loss success? At the end of the day, approaching your nutrition with a lifestyle change mindset may serve you better than following a specific type of diet with some Do’s and Don’ts.

Mediterranean Diet and Weight Loss: the bottom line

In the end the Mediterranean Diet does have some big heart healthy benefits due to its plant based, lean protein, and healthy fats nature. Research over the years have shown that, for some, it can help prevent chronic disease and a healthy weight. While it’s not necessarily restrictive, it does still come along with guidelines to follow that may feel tough to get used to at first. You may also have a lot to learn when it comes to grocery shopping and looking at nutrition labels. The bottom line really comes down to is including more healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet while minimizing processed items, which could be a little some we all need to strive for.