The Mediterranean diet is an eating plan based on the way that people in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea eat. It is a heart-healthy way to eat with foods low in saturated fat and sugar. The Mediterranean diet features mostly fresh foods that have gone through minimal processing; it also involves using herbs and spices for seasoning instead of salt.
Fish and Poultry
Two servings of fish or shellfish per week should be consumed on the Mediterranean diet. Fish and poultry should be consumed in place of red meat. Red meat is limited to only 12 to 16 oz.per month. Recommended items include chicken, turkey, oysters, shrimp, salmon, squid, mackerel, mussels, tuna, lobster, tilapia, salmon and flounder.
Butter and margarine are not consumed regularly when following the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is used as the principal fat to season and prepare food items. Canola oil can also be used in place of butter, vegetable oil and margarine. These fats offer health benefits because they contain unsaturated fatty acids -- a type of fatty acids that lowers harmful cholesterol levels.
Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables should be consumed in large amounts when following the Mediterranean diet. Featured foods include artichokes, eggplant, celery, broccoli, onions, peas, peppers, sweet potatoes, lettuce, mushrooms, celery and tomatoes. In place of sweets, fruits are eaten for desserts. Some fruits recommended on the diet are apples, cherries, dates, peaches, grapefruit, melons and strawberries. Seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables should be consumed daily.
Low to moderate amounts of dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese are permitted on the Mediterranean diet. However, low-fat or fat-free versions should be used in lieu of full-fat versions.
The grains that you use on the diet contain little to no saturated and trans fats. Refined carbs are rarely used and most of the foods are derived from whole grains. Wheat, oats, couscous, rice, barley, and bulgur are a few examples.
A glass of red wine per day is permitted on the eating plan. Avoid soft drinks and fruit juices and drink plenty of water instead.
Nuts are another staple of the Mediterranean diet. Like olive oil, they contain unsaturated fatty acids, and also contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts that can be consumed include those that come from trees, such as walnuts and pecans. Because even these nuts are high in calories, they should be eaten in moderation--only an ounce or two a day. When possible, opt for unsalted nuts, and avoid candied nuts, because they are high in sugar.