This May we are not only celebrating International Mediterranean Diet Month, but also the 30th anniversary of Oldways’ Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.
In 1993, Oldways created the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid – in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and the WHO – as a healthier alternative to the USDA’s original food pyramid. Today, the Mediterranean Diet is more popular than ever, with new research every month documenting its beneﬁts.
Starting at the base of the pyramid, you’ll ﬁnd an emphasis on activity and social connections. Moving upward, you’ll see the core foods that you’ll shop for and enjoy every day: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and healthy fats such as olive oil. Fish and seafood are typically eaten at least twice a week, and dairy foods – especially fermented dairy like yogurt and traditional cheese – are eaten frequently in moderate portions. Eggs and occasional poultry are also part of the Mediterranean Diet, but red meat and sweets are rarely eaten. Water, and wine (for those who drink) are typical beverages.
Taking inspiration from our beloved Mediterranean Diet Pyramid—Here are 10 things you can do this May to live like you’re in the Mediterranean!
#1. Phones oﬀ, eat at the table.
Sharing meals around the table is a great joy of life, and one that’s good for you, too. Eating together can help reduce stress, build family relationships, and improve the quality of food choices. Frequent family meals have also been related to better nutritional intake.
#2. Take a walk during the day.
Traditionally, people were active daily, incorporating walking and movement into their everyday routines. If you love the gym, that’s great! But if you don’t, starting your morning with a walk, or getting outside during your lunch break, is a great way to add more movement to your day.
Dancing, gardening, yoga, and online exercise videos are a few more fun ways to get a little more activity in your day-to-day routine! Find a ﬁtness practice that you enjoy, and you’ll be much more likely to stick with it.
#3. Pre-cook whole grains for easy access
The health beneﬁts of whole grains are far-reaching—and the medical evidence is clear that whole grains reduce risk of stroke, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
You can add whole grains to your meals without cooking, simply by choosing breads, breakfast cereals, and other prepared whole grain foods. If you’d like to enjoy delicious whole grains at home as a side dish, however, here are some guidelines for cooking them from scratch! Doing this ahead of time will allow nutritious meals to come together simply and quickly.
#4. Find creative ways to add extra veggies to your meals
From a simple plate of sliced fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and crumbled feta cheese to stunning salads, garlicky greens, fragrant soups and stews, healthy pizzas, or oven-roasted medleys, vegetables are vitally important to the fresh tastes and delicious ﬂavors of the Med Diet.
There are many simple ways to add veggies into your favorite meals—even if you are a meat lover!
#5 Cook with olive oil
Heritage diets limit saturated fat, which typically comes from animal products like red meat and butter. Instead, they emphasize sources of unsaturated fats. This type of fat can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. It also provides nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells.
Some simple ways to incorporate unsaturated fats in your diet include cooking with olive oil. You can use olive oil for many forms of cooking—sauteing, roasting, grilling, and more. You can even bake with it to boost the nutrition in your baked goods!
#6. Season with herbs and spices
Herbs and spices boost the ﬂavor of your meal, so that you don’t need to rely on a lot of salt. Plus, they have great health beneﬁts! From simply adding as a garnish, to making sauces, dressings, and stocks—there are so many ways to use fresh herbs!
#7. Use canned seafood
With the goal to eat seafood at least twice a week—canned seafood is a simple and aﬀordable option full of nutritional beneﬁts such as Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamins and minerals such as B12, iron, Vitamin D and selenium.
An easy Mediterranean meal with canned seafood is Whole Grain Pasta with Sardines and Swiss Chard!
#8. Try going meatless once a week
Build meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables, and heighten the ﬂavor with fragrant herbs and spices. Down the road, try two nights per week!
#9. Eat fruit for dessert
Daily, whole fruit is a perfect dessert —healthy and delicious. For those special days when more is called for, Oldways Director of Nutriton, Kelly LeBlanc’s advice is to keep some sugar, and also think about adding nutrition to the dessert. By this, she suggests adding fruit, nuts, whole grains, healthy fats, or even vegetables to make a delicious dessert that also happens to be on the healthier side. Or to go one step further, base desserts around the seasonal fruit you love!
This Sicilian Orange Almond Cake makes a delicious citrusy dessert. Plus, it has added healthy elements such as extra-virgin olive oil, whole grains, fruit and nuts. Try it out for your next special occasion.
#10. Change the way you think about meat
If you eat meat, have smaller amounts – small strips of sirloin in a vegetable sauté, or a dish of pasta garnished with diced prosciutto.
If you’re eager to get started, the simplest way is to download our 4-Week Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan! This includes 28 days of breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes to jumpstart your Mediterranean lifestyle.
Plus, follow along on Instagram and TikTok for Mediterranean Diet tips from chefs and experts throughout the month!
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