your guide to the mediterranean diet plan — 479-03

Shannon Clark, SATI STAFF

When it comes to fat loss nutrition, there’s one thing that you can know for certain: there are no shortage of diet plan options to choose from.

If you walk into a book store at any given moment, you can literally find hundreds of different diet books to choose from. Venture online and you’ll find even more.

How do you know which to choose? Arming yourself with some background info on some of the most popular diets is the best place to start. This will help ensure that you are going in well prepared and not just following a plan mindlessly with no idea of how it will result.

One particular diet that’s received a lot of attention over the years for the health benefits it provides is the Mediterranean diet plan. Let’s go over what you need to know about this diet and give you a sample meal plan so you can see if this is the one for you.

Always remember: no diet is a good diet unless you will stick with it. If you aren’t following the diet, it isn’t doing you any good so always be sure that any diet you are considering is one that you could see yourself on for the long haul.

The premise of the mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet plan is based off the way that people used to eat in countries such as Greece back in the early years of around the 1960’s and onwards. It was noted that people of this area tended to have lower levels of inflammation, heart disease, and stroke, so it was thought that their diet was a leading cause of this.

As your nutrition plan can definitely impact these health factors, if you can get your nutrition in proper alignment, it’s safe to say that it will influence whether these are becoming an issue for you.

Note that while the Mediterranean diet plan does give you some loose guidelines as to what you should and should not be eating, it’s not a very specific and defined plan that tells you to eat a certain number of calories and grams of proteins, carbs, and fats each day.

Because of this, it is going not give you some flexibility in choices, making it ideal for further customization based on the needs you happen to have.

Let’s take a look at the Mediterranean diet pyramid and what it essentially tells you to be eating on a daily basis.

The mediterranean diet pyramid

When looking at the pyramid for the Mediterranean diet, at the heart of the pyramid is fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, potatoes, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs, and spices.

These are the foods that you should be focusing your diet on, eating them multiple times per day. From this, we can immediately gather that this is not a low carb plan. Because of the fact that fruits, potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta are highly encouraged, it’s clear to see that this is actually the opposite. One could assume that this diet set-up is actually relatively high carb in nature.

Note that despite the fact that carbohydrates are encouraged in this plan, that doesn’t meal all carbohydrates are encouraged. It’s a good idea to avoid consuming any sort of processed and highly refined carbohydrates such as white bread or baked goods. Stick to whole grains whenever possible.

Fats are also not shunned as is obvious by the high recommendation for oils and nuts as well. As such, consider this to be a relatively balanced approach. Obviously if you are using this plan for fat loss, you’ll probably focus more on the fruits and vegetables side of things, cutting back on how much bread, pasta, and rice you consume.

After that base level of the pyramid, the next level is fish and seafood. The Mediterranean people are well known for including lots of salmon in their diet, which is possibly one reason they have the healthy hearts they do. Salmon is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids that are so critical for promoting optimal heart health, so this will go a long way towards boosting your overall health status.

Other seafood varieties are also rich in protein and relatively low in fat as well, so this plays a key role in ensuring that you are getting your protein needs met as best as possible.

It’s recommended that one eat fish and seafood at last two times per week, if not more. To ensure you get your protein needs met, you might consider it a daily requirement. Most people will do best eating at least one serving with their main lunch or dinner meal. As you select your fish, your best bet is to choose wild cause fish, which will have the healthiest nutritional profile and also choose varieties that contain the lowest amount of mercury. This means choosing varieties such as salmon, tilapia, cod, and perch and staying away from fish such as king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, aha tuna, and canned albacore tuna. While those may be eaten once in a while, they should not be consumed multiple times per week due to their higher degree of contamination.

The third level of the pyramid is poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. The nice thing about this diet plan is that it doesn’t shun dairy, which many diet plans out there too. As long as you don’t suffer from lactose intolerance (in which case you’ll likely want to omit dairy), you’ll reap the benefits from including it in your plan.

Not only does dairy help to provide a solid dose of calcium to promote strong bones, but studies (1) have also illustrated that those who include low fat dairy as part of their meal plan tend to show lower overall BMI’s and especially tend to lose more fat from the abdominal area. If you want a lean midsection, dairy may actually help get you there. Note that when selecting your dairy however, you’ll want to choose lower fat sources that are as natural as possible. Ice cream for instance is not a good choice. Greek yogurt or cottage cheese however would both be far superior options.

The poultry and eggs are also great for ensuring that you get your protein needs met as both of these provide excellent sources that are highly versatile so will help keep food boredom at bay. You are to eat poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt on a daily to weekly basis. So you may not include them each and every day, but these foods should all be eaten at least a couple of times per week for best results.

The second highest level of the pyramid is sweets, which you should only eat in moderation – think once per week or less. Sweets are not encourage don this diet plan so the more often you can avoid them the better. This is like any other fat loss diet out there, so there’s not much difference there.

Finally, red meat is at the top of the pyramid and is a food type that you should only eat in very limited amounts. Think once every couple of weeks or even less frequently. Red meat is very often shunned by people of this area, which may explain in part their low rates of heart disease. Red meat and the cholesterol it comes with is often associated with higher frequencies of heart attacks according to research published in the Circulation journal(2), so if you are looking to avoid this, it may be wise to keep your red meat intake at bay.

Looking at this food guide pyramid, you can assume that the diet will be around 25-30% protein, 30-50% carbohydrates, and then around 20-50% dietary fat depending on how you choose to structure it given these recommendations.

Finally one last note to make about this plan is that it does include one glass of red wine recommended daily. Other alcohol is not mentioned in the plan so should be avoided and anyone who obviously suffers from alcoholism or who has trouble stopping after one glass should also refrain from indulging in the red wine as well.

Beyond that, water, coffee, and tea are also all acceptable beverages to have on this plan however they should be taken in plain without the use of sugar or artificial sweeteners. A little bit of cream is acceptable however.

Who this diet is best suited for

The Mediterranean diet is well suited for most people given the fact it’s providing you with a relatively balanced nutritional profile. You aren’t cutting out any major food groups or macronutrients, which is nice as it’ll help those who are both active as well as inactive.

Young, old, male, female, fit or unfit all can benefit from using this approach. As it doesn’t give you firm macro targets or a calorie intake as well, this makes it very easy to customize based on your activity needs.

Those who engage in exercise more regularly will want to add a few more carbs to their diet plan while keeping fat intake slightly lower and bumping up their fish and seafood consumption while those who engage in less exercise will probably want to favor vegetables, nuts and seeds, along with fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, and some dairy.

It’s a flexible plan that can easily be adapted to any situation, making it a great choice for most. Be sure as you do this plan to track your calorie and macronutrient intake for best results. This way you can monitor what you are taking in and make any further adjustments as needed in order to reach your bodyweight goals.

The only people who would not benefit so well from using this plan is vegetarian eaters as fish and seafood are recommended or those who are strictly looking for a low carbohydrate dietary approach. Due to the heavy recommendation of carbohydrates in this plan, it really wouldn’t fit with those diet specifications all that well.

Pros:

  • Is relatively well balanced
  • Most people should not have a problem sticking with this plan
  • Includes foods from all food groups
  • Should provide sufficient protein as long as you make an effort to eat enough fish and seafood
  • Provides a high amount of healthy fat sources including omega-3 fatty acids
  • Will not likely lead to food boredom
  • Can be used of individuals of all ages, genders, fitness levels, and body shapes and sizes
  • Can help to reduce your risk of disease
  • Is a flexible approach so provides for easy accommodations to your own unique dietary preferences

Cons:

  • May lead to weight gain if calories are not tracked thanks to the high reliance of carbohydrates in the diet plan
  • Does not give specific recommendations for calories or macros, which is something that most people will do best having
  • You may find that you become deficient in iron due to rarely eating red meat
  • Meat lovers will find it hard to stick with this plan

Sample meal plan

Day 1:

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with fresh berries and slivered almonds topped with Greek yogurt

Snack:

  • Banana with natural peanut butter

Lunch:

  • Grilled chicken breast over a large greens salad with peppers, tomatoes, carrots, baby corns, and drizzled with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Snack:

  • 1 cup of grapes and a small handful of cashews

Dinner:

  • Grilled salmon served with one cup brown rice and a cup of steamed broccoli. Served alongside one glass of red one.

Day 2:

Breakfast:

  • Scrambled egg with ½ cup egg whites along with 1 cup of diced vegetables. Topped with salsa and served with 1 cup of fresh fruit salad

Snack:

  • An apple with a slice of cheddar cheese

Lunch:

  • 2 slices whole grain Ezekiel bread with 1 can of tuna mashed together with ½ avocado, ½ diced red pepper, and a little lemon juice. Topped with spinach leaves and served with a cup of watermelon.

Snack:

  • 2 cups melon served with ½ cup low fat cottage cheese

Dinner:

  • Grilled shrimp skewers with shrimp, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and pineapple. Brushed with olive oil and served over a bed of wild rice. Have a glass of wine on the side.

Day 3:

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with sliced apple, cinnamon, and walnuts

Snack:

  • 1 scoop whey protein powder blended with 1 cup raspberries, 1 tbsp. almond butter, and 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk.

Lunch:

  • 1 hard boiled egg, diced, and served over a large greens salad with shredded cheese, tomatoes, olives, and cucumber. One banana on the side.

Snack:

  • 1 cup of melon with a small handful of pistachios.

Dinner:

  • Grilled tilapia served with half a cup of beans and steamed asparagus spears. Have a glass of red wine on the side.

The Sati line

All in all, the Mediterranean diet plan is one that should yield fairly good results for most people that follow it. As long as you are putting in the world to calculate your calorie targets based on your body weight goals and then eat foods that fit in with those calorie targets, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

It’s also nice that this plan is one that you could easily stick with for a lifetime. It’s not a quick-fix solution or one that is so strict, you’ll need an entirely different plan once your goal weight is achieved. You can seamlessly move from weight loss to weight maintenance with this plan by just making a few adjustments to the protocol and the types of foods and how much you are eating.

This plan is also great for encouraging the intake of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which is something that most people are not getting enough of in their diet plan and will definitely be of great benefit health-wise.

If you are looking for a plan that’s relatively easy to follow, doesn’t lead to many food cravings, keeps your energy level high and your body satisfied throughout the day, consider the Mediterranean plan.


References
  1. Zemel, M. B., et al. “Dairy augmentation of total and central fat loss in obese subjects.” International journal of obesity4 (2005): 391-397.
  2. Micha, Renata, Sarah K. Wallace, and Dariush Mozaffarian. “Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus. A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Circulation(2010).