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How to Start the Mediterranean Diet

This Healthy Diet Is So Easy, You'll Wonder Why You Haven't Been Eating This Way For Years

Smoked chicken and fig salad

Known for its wide range of food options (you are even allowed to drink red wine while on it!) and amazing health benefits, the Mediterranean diet has definitely become a fan favorite. If you haven't yet given this healthy lifestyle a go and are interested in trying it out, look no further. POPSUGAR spoke to expert Laura Yautz, RD, a registered dietitian and owner of Being Nutritious in Pittsburgh, PA, to get helpful advice on how to kick off your Mediterranean diet journey seamlessly.

What Is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is not just a diet, but more a lifestyle. Modeled after the eating patterns of those who live in the Mediterranean region, this way of living is said to have a healthy effect on both your heart and gut. The best part? You can enjoy a wide variety of foods while choosing this eating plan, as its main pillars include plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, a moderate amount of fish, chicken, healthy fats, and some red wine. The consumption of red meat, highly processed foods, and sugary snacks are kept to an absolute minimum, though — so that means you may have to try to keep your sweets cravings at bay if you have a sweet tooth.

How Can I Ease Into the Mediterranean Diet?

Starting any new diet may be tricky. Thankfully, Yautz has some simple tips to follow to make the switch into this healthier lifestyle much easier. "To make the transition from a standard American diet to the Mediterranean diet easier, it's helpful to identify foods you already eat that are Mediterranean-approved, and build from there," Yautz said. For instance, if you typically have a side salad with dinner, you should try increasing your portion and including a protein on top so it becomes an entree salad, or try swapping out white bread for whole grain bread when eating a sandwich.

"Another strategy is to identify foods you eat that are excluded on the Mediterranean diet or that you should eat less of, and substitute foods that are approved," Yautz said. This means that if you usually top your baked potato with butter, sour cream, and bacon, you should instead swap those extras for plain Greek yogurt, chopped fresh chives, a sprinkle of smoked paprika, and a drizzle of olive oil. Also, don't forget about snacks — being unprepared when it comes to snacks may cause you to hastily make unhealthy decisions. "If you find yourself hitting the vending machine mid morning, try packing a half sandwich made with whole wheat bread and natural peanut butter," Yautz advised. No matter how you begin to integrate this diet into your everyday, a good strategy is to start by taking small steps — make one or healthy two changes each week, adding them as you go along.

What Are Some Easy Meals I Can Make While on This Diet?

What is so great about the Mediterranean diet, which has already been named the best diet of 2019, is that the list of foods that you are limited from eating is pretty low. This means that you do not have to worry about having to run to the grocery store every day or getting tired of eating the same thing over and over. To help you get better acclimated, Yautz has shared with POPSUGAR some of her favorite Mediterranean diet-approved meal ideas that are both delicious and convenient to make:

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal with frozen berries and nuts
  • Whole grain toast with natural peanut butter and a banana
  • Plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, chopped nuts, and a drizzle of honey

Lunch

  • Sandwich with whole grain bread, a smear of avocado, lettuce, cucumber slices, and chickpea salad (chicken salad but with smashed chickpeas instead)
  • Large green salad with lots of vegetables, a spoonful of sunflower seeds, grilled chicken, olives, fresh herbs, and oil and vinegar dressing, with whole grain pita on the side
  • Lentil soup with whole grain crackers and fresh fruit

Dinner

  • Baked salmon with brown rice and roasted broccoli (roasting brings out a natural sweetness in vegetables), and a fruit salad for dessert
  • Whole grain spaghetti with marinara sauce and a side salad (toss cooked lentils into the sauce for extra protein); fill half your plate with the salad to keep the spaghetti portion in check
  • Homemade pizza — whole grain crust, pizza sauce, lots of veggies (like roasted red peppers, tomato slices, spinach, and mushrooms), fresh herbs like basil, and a small amount of feta or mozzarella cheese; or go bold with no cheese, and finish with dollops of Greek yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil
Image Source: Getty / luchezar
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