Exploring the Mediterranean diet

February 6, 2022
Aspire Blog - Exploring the Mediterranean Diet

We’re always looking for a diet that is both healthy and tasty. This is why we want to help you explore the Mediterranean diet; a diet inspired by the eating habits of people who live near the Mediterranean Sea. Many in Monterey County are familiar with Blue Zones, LLC, founder Dan Buettner and the work the Blue Zones Project® is doing locally to support their findings. This diet pairs well with the Blue Zones lifestyle. With the help of our Population Health team, we put together some information about the Mediterranean diet, how it can help you live a healthier lifestyle and some resources to help you do it.

What are the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet?

A healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet aids in weight loss or weight management. Sticking to a Mediterranean diet can lower your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. It also offers protection against asthma cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. In addition, it helps slow the aging process and promotes longevity..”

What are some of the guiding principles of the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet includes lots of vegetables and olive oil, some fish, smaller amounts of dairy and meat products, and moderate amounts of alcohol. When following the Mediterranean diet, try to keep the following guiding principles in mind:

  • Fruit and vegetables at every meal
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil reigns supreme
  • Unrefined and whole-grain products, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Fish as a main protein source (at least 2x/wk)
  • Moderate amount of lean poultry (2x/wk) and eggs (2-4/wk)
  • Small amount of red meat (1-2x/wk)
  • Low fat dairy as a topping or side dish

How do I shop for the Mediterranean diet?

When you’re at the grocery store, read the nutrition label on products. If you’re not sure what to look for, here are a few pointers:

  1. Start by checking the serving size.
  2. Next, check the calories and calories from fat.
  3. Third, limit the following nutrients: total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
  4. Fourth, remember you can’t get enough of the following nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron and dietary fiber.
  5. If you’re confused, the “% daily value guide” can help you determine if there are too many unwanted ingredients. Remember that five percent of something or less is low and 20 percent or more of something is high.
  6. Always read the footnotes at the bottom of the nutrition label for other important information.

Watch out for hidden sugars, added fats and oils and enriched flour vs whole grain.

What are some budget-friendly tips for the Mediterranean diet?

Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Buy plain frozen fruits or vegetables (no added sugar, salt, or sauces) when not in season. See a special discount? Stock up!
  • Limit juice and juice drinks/sports drinks
  • Purchase plain nuts in bulk
  • Buy eggs 18 per carton
  • Purchase beef, pork, and poultry less often. Choose more canned or pouched fish, beans, and lentils.
  • Buy fewer high-priced, lower nutrient snacks
  • Purchase a reusable water bottle
  • Eat out less often
  • Shop store brands

How do I make my meal Mediterranean?

A lot of the meals you eat can be modified to follow the Mediterranean diet. Think about what changes you could make in your recipes. For example, olive oil instead of butter or whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta. When you’re getting ready to cook, ask yourself these five key questions:

  1. What is the primary protein source?
  2. Is there a grain included? Is it whole?
  3. Will my plate be naturally colorful?
  4. Which food component is the “main event”?
  5. Could this meal be shared?

What are some Mediterranean diet recipes?

Meal planning is, of course, important. Why not try some new healthy – and tasty – recipes that follow the Mediterranean diet? Here are a few links to easy recipes recommended by our Population Health team:

What resources are available to help me get started on the Mediterranean diet?

Aspire members have no-cost access to an enhanced care team including health coaches who offer personalized one-on-one telephone support to help you meet your health goals, provide health resources, and reduce risks or complications related to chronic conditions. They also work to develop behavior change strategies and self-management action plans with follow-up based on risk level. Contact Population Health at (831) 644-7490 to request more information.

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