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Incorporate The Mediterranean Diet Into Every Meal With These Tips

When ranking the top diets in the world, US News & World Report declared a tie between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. I must admit that I’m not surprised at all, since the Mediterranean diet doesn’t encourage a super strict meal plan, counting calories and macros or omitting whole food groups from your diet. Instead, it emphasizes a well-balanced eating plan with foods like olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish and moderate amounts of eggs, dairy and red wine. With this stellar combo of foods comes a high consumption of omega-3s, fiber and antioxidants, all of which have serious health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. It seems like a no-brainer to eat the Mediterranean way at every meal, and we’ve got some tips to help you do it.

Breakfast

  • I eat oatmeal every single day. Extreme? Not according to the Mediterranean diet, which encourages consuming plenty of whole grains. Plus, if I’m able to eat an hour or so before a run, oatmeal provides long-lasting energy to sustain me.
  • Don’t skimp on produce at breakfast. If you’re making oatmeal, top it with fresh blueberries or bananas, or try a savory version with mushrooms or zucchini and an egg on top.
  • Not a big fan of oatmeal? Smoothies are a great go-to for a mixture of protein and healthy fats. Not only can you add plenty of antioxidant-rich berries to a smoothie, you can also add some greens, seeds and nuts into the mix.
  • For something super creative, throw a handful of chickpeas into your smoothie for fiber and protein. Pulses (chickpeas, lentils, dry peas and beans) help maintain body weight, contribute to gut health and provide long-lasting energy—something we can all use at breakfast!

Lunch

  • Fish is a big part of the Mediterranean diet. With heart-healthy omega-3s and protein, it’s a great way to stay satisfied and energized through that typical afternoon slump. Salmon cakes make a delicious addition to a salad, or add some tuna to a whole wheat pasta salad.
  • Legumes make an excellent addition to salads, or you can omit the lettuce entirely and make pulses the star of the show!
  • If you’re more of a sandwich person, try a tuna salad or chickpea salad sandwich, made with cottage cheese, instead of mayo.

Snacks

  • In a real rush? Grab a piece of fruit to take with you on the go. If you have a bit more time, you can pre-cut veggies for the week and pair with olive oil and salt or hummus.
  • Nuts and seeds are also great snacking options. Since the Mediterranean diet encourages plenty of fresh herbs, coat your favorite nut with some olive oil, parsley and salt and roast in the oven for 10 minutes on 350 degrees Fahrenheit; it makes a simple and savory snack.

Dinner

  • A good rule of thumb for dinner is to try to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables. There are plenty of yummy and creative ways to get your veggies in! Skewer some on a kebab, use spaghetti squash or zucchini in place of pasta, stuff eggplants and tomatoes with some whole grains. The possibilities are endless.
  • If you are going to include meat with your dinner, such as chicken or beef, treat it more like a side dish rather than the main event. Opt for seafood at least twice each week.

Dessert

  • It may not be common in America, but sliced fruits with cheese can satisfy your sweet tooth while providing added protein and calcium.
  • If you’ve got a hankering for chocolate, try using pulses in your next recipe. Chickpea blondies or black bean brownies, anyone?

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Natalie Rizzo

Natalie Rizzo

Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition communications expert, specializing in sports nutrition. Natalie has written for many food and nutrition publications, such as Eating Well, Spright and Food & Nutrition Magazine, and she has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. Natalie received her Masters of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. When she’s not writing, she’s creating delicious recipes, running and helping other runners reach their peak potential through food. To learn more about Natalie and read about sports nutrition topics, visit her blog, Nutrition à la Natalie or follow her on Twitter.