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1,200-Calorie Mediterranean Diet

author image Anne Danahy
Anne Danahy is a Boston-based RD/nutritionist who counsels individuals and groups, and writes about healthy eating for wellness and disease management. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master of Science in food and nutrition from Framingham State University in Massachusetts.
1,200-Calorie Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy, plant-based way of eating. Photo Credit: Metkalova/iStock/Getty Images

The Mediterranean diet is a suggested way of eating to promote better health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. "U.S. News & World Report" listed it as one of the top plant-based diets because it’s safe and nutritionally sound. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and herbs and spices; fish and seafood several times a week; poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation; and sweets and red meat only on special occasions.

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Going Mediterranean

Fruits, nuts and whole grains are healthy breakfast choices.
Fruits, nuts and whole grains are healthy breakfast choices. Photo Credit: LDProd/iStock/Getty Images

On a 1,200-calorie diet, a healthy breakfast helps control calorie intake throughout the day. Some options for a 300-calorie breakfast that fits a Mediterranean diet include a slice of whole-grain bread, which averages 80 calories, spread with a tablespoon of nut butter or 2 ounces of an avocado, for about 100 calories, and a cup of sliced strawberries with a 1/4 cup of fruit yogurt for another 100 calories; or a two-egg spinach and tomato omelet with whole-wheat toast for a total of 300 calories.

Lunchtime Choices

Vegetable-based meals are low in calories.
Vegetable-based meals are low in calories. Photo Credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

To get the most food for the fewest calories, fill up on low-calorie vegetables at lunch and dinner. Lunchtime choices can include a tossed salad for about 50 calories with one-half cup of beans for 95 calories and 1/2 ounce of nuts for about 90 calories. Use a 120-calorie tablespoon of olive oil mixed with some vinegar or lemon juice and fresh herbs, and you’ll be right around 350 calories. Another low-calorie option might be a cup of vegetable soup for about 100 calories, with six whole-grain crackers and 3 tablespoons of hummus for another 200 calories.

Fish Dinner

The Mediterranean diet encourages fish for protein and wine in moderation.
The Mediterranean diet encourages fish for protein and wine in moderation. Photo Credit: photopalace/iStock/Getty Images

Grilled or baked fish makes for a healthy Mediterranean dinner. To keep it under 400 calories, limit the portion size of your protein to about 3 ounces and use a teaspoon of olive oil to grill. Include a large, half-plate serving of vegetables, and about 1/2 cup of whole grain like brown rice. Alternatively, you can skip the fish and go vegetarian for fewer calories. Make a grilled vegetable salad tossed with the cooked rice for about 150 calories, and drizzle it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil plus lemon juice and herbs, and you'll be closer to 300 calories. If you want to enjoy a glass of red wine, be aware that a 5-ounce glass contains about 125 calories.

Smart Snacks

Fruit and yogurt is a low-calorie Mediterranean snack.
Fruit and yogurt is a low-calorie Mediterranean snack. Photo Credit: nikitos77/iStock/Getty Images

It’s a good idea to include a healthy snack, especially if you’re counting calories. Snacks help to hold you until the next meal and prevent overeating. Sweet snacks should be eaten infrequently on a Mediterranean diet. Healthier snack options for about 200 calories include an 8-ounce cup of plain Greek yogurt plus 1/2 cup of blueberries and a drizzle of honey, a 1-ounce handful of nuts plus a plate of raw vegetables or 2 tablespoons of hummus with five whole-grain crackers and a cup of cut-up vegetables.

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