Health & Wellness

THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET FOR CLEAN, HEALTHY EATING

by | Health & Wellness

 

Hello my lovely healthy friend

 

There are only two eating plans I have ever really recommended to my friends and family. One is the Keto Low Carbohydrate diet for good weight loss and also to help reduce some serious health issues. (related post) The other is the Mediterranean diet. The sort of diet that’s worthy of being your go-to eating plan for the rest of your life.

 

In this post, let’s discuss why eating the Mediterranean way is considered so safe, extremely beneficial, and how you can get started as a beginner.

 

Why Is The Mediterranean Diet Considered To Be So Desirable As A Lifestyle Choice?

It’s interesting that although people refer to the Mediterranean Diet, it’s not a strict ‘follow it by the letter’ regime, unlike most diets, including the Keto Diet. Just about all diets need you to follow the rules pretty strictly to get results. The Mediterranean way of eating really is considered more of a lifestyle choice you decide to adopt for the rest of your life.

 

It consists more of a range of foods that you can choose from rather than a restrictive regimen. You don’t need to count calories or weigh anything (other than for recipes) and the foods have fabulous natural benefits for your body and overall health. It’s a balanced plan with an emphasis on plant-based foods, but including other items in a moderate way. This is always going to be better for your health. Particularly where there’s a limit on animal-based foods.

 

Portrait of a beautiful, healthy mature woman eating fresh salad on the table indoors with window background

However, in order for maximum health and weight control long-term, portion control is still recommended. Even with super-healthy food, overeating without adequate corresponding exercise is going to result in a weight management issue.

 

When Did The Mediterranean Clean Eating Plan Begin?

Widely considered to be the best eating plan in the world, it all really began in, you guessed it!…the Mediterranean, mainly Spain, Greece, and Italy about 60 years ago. It evolved from the lack of money available at the time. So it was based on what was seasonal and what could be grown easily. This also included what they could make from their goat or cow milk, and what could be caught in the ocean and rivers.

 

In the past, people used to and still do, head to their local fresh market daily to buy their food, so they knew it will be seasonal and super fresh. Freshness is always very important to the people in the Mediterranean and it’s a mindset that’s good to adopt today.

 

Large fresh food farmer's market with healthy stall holder smiling to camera

 

I know it’s not always possible to find a huge fresh food market such as they have in the Med, but a Farmer’s market will usually have some great fresh food. This will be much better than supermarket fruit & veg, which have often been in cold storage and packaged with ethylene absorbers to slow down the ripening and extend the shelf-life.

 

Fresh Is Always Best Wherever Possible

I don’t know about you…but I prefer my food to be genuinely fresh and unadulterated!  This eating plan doesn’t need any supplements. Instead, it focuses on plenty of wholesome foods such as fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, especially leafy greens, herbs, spices, nuts, whole grains, and beans.

 

Including moderate amounts of eggs and poultry, and good quality seafood. Meat is only eaten occasionally more as a treat and in relatively small amounts. Maybe a piece the size of the palm of your hand (as a guideline). It also encourages you to consume good quality fats like olive oil, small amounts of dairy products like unsweetened Greek yogurt, full cream milk (not low-fat or skim, these are not as healthy as they appear), and cheeses low in fat such as goat’s cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, and feta.

 

NO PROCESSED FOOD!…(sorry, just had to emphasize that point)

 

I know you’re thinking this, so yes…this eating plan also includes a moderate amount of red wine! (1-2 glasses per day) they drink water and coffee of course. Try to limit your coffee to 2 per day if possible.

 

It’s worth noting that in the days when the Mediterranean eating style began, people did much more manual labor. In fact, some harvesting processes like grapes and olives are still labor-intensive today. So they naturally burned more calories than the average person does these days.

 

Olive harvest in Sicily Italy. Old farmer with olive net and ladder

 

Back then, people were fishing, harvesting crops by hand, dealing with their animals, often by herding them up and down hillsides. Definitely not the sedentary office-based and tech-based lifestyles we have now. Exercising was a natural part of their day, and it still needs to be today.

Nope…no getting away from it. Moderate exercise is vital for sustainable health, particularly as we age.

 

Amazing Health Benefits Of The Mediterranean Clean Eating Plan

It’s interesting that when I ask people these days about how they think they should really be approaching diet and exercise, they intrinsically know what we should all be doing. But it’s natural to ignore it due to our modern lifestyle and city dwelling. We’re busy, stressed, and time-poor, meaning a focus on health often takes a back seat.

 

Thankfully, more and more people are starting to look for a better way to live. They want a more sustainable approach to eating that will have the health benefits we need, and help to avoid the ever-increasing serious medical issues we’re facing in our developed countries.

 

Even if your main motivation is just to avoid the astronomical cost of healthcare should something go wrong! Whatever the reason, the outcome of changing our lifestyle to one of exercise and healthy eating will be profound.

 

Here Are Some Of The Life-Changing Benefits:

1.  Healthy weight control and good metabolism

2.  Increased energy

3.  Better quality of sleep

4.  Gives you healthy hair, skin, and nails

5.  It encourages correct digestion of your food

6.  Heart and brain health – by lowering blood cholesterol

7.  Cancer prevention

8.  Diabetes control or prevention…particularly Type 2 diabetes as we age

9.  Reduce the risk of stroke in women and men

10.  Help to prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s

11.  Can help people with Rheumatoid Arthritis

12.  Help recovery from anxiety and depression

13.  Help to relieve IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

14.  Helping to prevent loss of bone density and muscle mass

 

Mediterranean Meals Are Social & Often Enjoyed With Family And Friends

 

Mediterranean family gathering to share a meal on a terrace with the ocean in the background

 

One of the wonderful practices associated with the Mediterranean lifestyle is that meals were traditionally shared with family and friends. It’s a social occasion. A time to catch up and chat, and focus on truly enjoying food. This is a healthy practice as socializing, sharing home-cooked meals, and a glass of wine is good for the soul.

 

These days, so many people eat on-the-go or eat alone. Throwing a quick processed meal into the microwave and chugging it down while watching Netflix…not really getting to enjoy or savor it. There’s so much enjoyment to be had by gathering together, chatting, and enjoying each other’s company.

 

Granted, we can’t all eat while looking out on a wonderful vista of grapevines and rolling Italian countryside or the ocean BUT, we can get back to making time for family meals together, and meaningful get-togethers with friends. This social Mediterranean approach has been proven to help lower stress caused by our busy 21st-century lives, improve our state of mind making life feel a little calmer, and allowing us to truly appreciate our food.

 

These Are The Main Foods For The Clean Eating Mediterranean Lifestyle

Selection of various Mediterranean diet products for healthy nutrition

Foods To Eat Regularly – (enjoy these any time)

Vegetables: Spinach, kale, arugula, carrots, potatoes, onions, beets, broccoli, zucchini, lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes, eggplant, any leafy green vegetables.

Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, peanuts (yes they are actually a legume)

Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds

Whole Grains: Oats, rye, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, barley, buckwheat, whole grain wheat. Also, you can include couscous. It looks like a grain but it’s actually a type of pasta made with semolina flour. It’s not included in a traditional Mediterranean eating plan, but it’s so healthy and can also be included in Tabouli (or you can use bulgur wheat) with finely chopped parsley, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, lemon juice, olive oil, and seasoning.

Herbs & Spices: Garlic, basil, thyme, pepper, mint, parsley, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, cinnamon

Fruits: Apples, avocados, melons, oranges, lemons, limes, figs, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, grapes, cherries, pears, apricots, peaches, pomegranates – (the seeds are wonderful in salads)

Healthy Oils And Unsaturated Fats: Olive oil, olives, cod liver oil, sunflower oil, avocados

Fish and Seafood: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, prawns, scallops, mussels, oysters, and trout.

 

Foods To Eat Sometimes – (in moderation 2-3 times per week)

Dairy such as cheese – (Goats cheese, feta, parmesan),  and yogurt – preferably unsweetened Greek. Poultry such as chicken and turkey. Eggs, including chicken, quail, and duck eggs

 

Foods To Eat Very Rarely – 1-2 times per month

Meat including beef, lamb, pork, venison, rabbit, (home-cured meats such as salami – very much in moderation. They’re tasty but very high in saturated fat. As is butter so use sparingly. Olive oil is better.

 

Foods To Avoid At All Costs

All processed foods Fried foods. Anything containing high sugar or high sodium. Refined grains such as white rice, white bread (they’re bleached & have little nutrition)  and ANYTHING containing trans fats – super bad for your health!

 

Simple Easy Meals For Getting Started With The Mediterranean Clean Eating Lifestyle

(These meals are all interchangeable…they’re just to give you ideas)

 

Breakfast Ideas

Unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries, oats & crushed nuts  + a drizzle of honey if you like. (This is my personal fave breakfast)

Greek yogurt with oats, nuts and berries in mason jars

 

Baked Avocado and poached eggs, sprinkled with fresh herbs

Avocado baked with egg and fresh salad.

 

Wholegrain toast with smashed avo, spinach, and poached egg

Wholemeal toast with spinach, smashed avocado and poached egg

 

Wholegrain toast with peanut butter, sliced banana, a sprinkle of oats, and a drizzle of honey  (Yum!)

Peanut butter and sliced banana with drizzle of honey on wholemeal toast shown on wooden plate

 

Fresh figs on wholemeal toast with honey

Fresh figs with honey on wholemeal toast

 

Spinach, mushroom, and tomato frittata

Egg frittata with spinach, mushroom & tomato on wooden board

 

Fresh mushroom & herb omelet. You can also add Feta cheese and tomato

Mushroom & fresh herb omelet on white plate

 

Lunch Ideas

Pan-fried salmon fillet with grilled asparagus or other seasonal vegetables

Fried salmon steak and asparagus with cherry tomatoes

 

A hearty vegetable and bean-packed Minestrone soup served with some crusty whole-grain bread

Bowl of Minestrone Soup with Pasta, Beans and Vegetables

 

Char-grilled bell peppers stuffed with a mixture of rice, vegetables, beans, tuna, minced beef – or whatever else you want to use

Stuffed Bell Peppers with minced beef, cheese, vegetables and fresh herbs on long white dish

 

Dinner Ideas

Grilled seafood on skewers with seasonal vegetables or salad if you prefer

Grilled seafood skewer made of shrimps, fish and peppers with chips, carrots and broccoli on the side shown on white plate

 

Pasta with spinach, pine nuts, green olives, basil, dusted with grated Parmesan cheese

Tasty Beautiful Pasta Closeup with Spinach, Cheese, Olives, Basil and Nuts.

 

Classic Greek salad with Feta cheese, black olives, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, drizzled with olive oil  (add tuna or salmon if you like)

Greek Mediterranean salad with feta cheese, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and olives

 

Light Meals Or Snacks

Caprese salad with slices of tomato & mozzarella cheese, plus a touch of pesto

Caprese salad. Tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil leaves and pesto sauce displayed on white plate

 

Bruschetta – crusty bread slices rubbed with garlic, then covered in tomatoes, OR grilled peppers OR olive tapenade, OR pesto & Goats cheese OR Hummus…just about anything!  You get the idea! Don’t forget to drizzle with olive oil.

How to make Olive Tapenade – 160gms kalamata black olives (drained weight), 1 tbsp capers, 2 anchovy fillets (optional), 1 tsp red wine vinegar.  Blitz all ingredients in a small food processor, season with some black pepper and it’s ready to use. It can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator and will keep for 3 days. Bet it doesn’t last that long!

Italian Bruschetta with assorted toppings on wooden board

 

Fresh home-made Hummus dip with assorted sliced raw veggies. There are heaps of recipes for homemade Hummus. Choose the one that appeals to you BUT try to use soaked fresh chickpeas rather than canned if possible.

Fresh Hummus dip with assorted sliced raw vegetables

 

Stuffed & Grilled Portabello Mushrooms. Once again, it’s up to you. They can be purely vegetarian or use some crab meat, tuna, or minced pork cooked with vegetables and topped with cheddar cheese. Don’t forget the herbs. Very tasty bites for a light meal.

Homemade Baked Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms with Spinach and Cheese

 

 

Conclusion

There are so many delicious and healthy Mediterranean dishes for you to try…far too many for me to tell you about here. But I hope these have given you some ideas to get started. Think of this less as a diet, and more of an eating style. It’s adaptable and the meals are interchangeable, so view it as a lifestyle-choice for helping to promote the best health for the rest of your life…and keep you glowing!

 

Close up portrait of smiling & healthy mature woman with hat against white wall

 

Remember, always fresh, never processed. Use seasonal produce where possible and focus on mainly plant-based recipes with dairy, meats, and fish used to complement the meal rather than always be the focus of it. Drink plenty of water, a little red wine, AND…use that fabulous extra virgin olive oil for your health.

Once again, I really hope you found this post helpful. I would love to hear from you so please drop a comment below.

To your most healthy life always…

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Hi, I'm Amanda

My passion is helping 50+ women live their best life possible and follow their dreams.

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