A Dietitian Explains Why Anyone Can Follow the Mediterranean Diet, Even Those Who Like Cake

POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio
POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio

If you've passed up the Mediterranean diet because you just "can't even" with another strict diet plan, we've got good news for you. Named the best overall diet for 2019 by US World and News Report, the Mediterranean diet is one of the best eating plans for weight loss and heart health, but, more importantly, it's one of the most flexible diets. That means that because you can easily modify it to work with your lifestyle, you can hopefully also easily stick to it for years to come (a far cry from that juice cleanse you tried last year).

We spoke with Laura Ligos, RDN, CSSD, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Albany, NY, to find out why a slightly modified version of this diet is exactly what the doctor ordered.

What Is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet, rooted in the way that inhabitants of the Mediterranean countries have eaten for hundreds of years, includes mostly plant-based foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and healthy fats (EVOO, avocados, and olives), but also allows for lean poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and even wine. Laura is a big fan of this approach. "The Mediterranean diet is more of a way of living and less of a restrictive 'all or nothing' approach to food. Unfortunately, many diet plans are far too rigid for people to maintain for more than a few months."

What Is a Modified Mediterranean Diet?

Unlike other diet plans, you don't need 100 percent compliance on the Mediterranean diet to enjoy its benefits. According to Laura, "the Mediterranean diet isn't all that restrictive, so it can be a good base for you to follow 80 percent of the time and that extra 20 percent can be not-so-Mediterranean, and you can still see the benefits." The Mediterranean diet is all about increasing the healthy foods listed above while decreasing foods that are less supportive of health, but that doesn't mean you have to cut them out completely. More important than complete avoidance of your favorite indulgences (we too are weak to a good donut), is enjoying them on occasion and truly savoring them when you do.

How Do I Follow a Modified Mediterranean Diet?

So, what exactly does eating on a modified Mediterranean diet look like? Think veggie-loaded frittatas, fresh salads with chicken and couscous, and roasted veggies with salmon, but don't throw yourself into a shame spiral if you top it all off with chocolate ice cream and a couple glasses of wine with friends once or twice a week. After all, one of Laura's favorite elements of the Mediterranean diet is that it encourages "enjoying meals with family and friends." Wine and dessert with our favorite people . . . now that's a diet we can get behind.