Lindsay Watts, R.D.
As a dietitian, I am often asked what I eat and which diet I follow. Am I a vegetarian? Do I eat 6 small meals per day? Take shots of kale juice? “Cleanse”? I’ve been asked each of these questions along with plenty of others. As many of you may know, there is not a specific diet or magic food that keeps me (or anyone else) healthy—it is the overall pattern of what we eat. While true, this answer disappoints people—they want specific advice. So instead, I speak to lifestyles disguised as “diets” that make eating well and getting regular exercise a priority. My favorite “diet” to recommend? The Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet, is not a prescriptive eating plan, instead, it is a combination of dietary patterns that researchers first noticed in the 1960’s along the Mediterranean Sea where people have lower rates of chronic disease, especially heart disease1. While diverse, eating patterns throughout this region are traditionally rich in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and olive oil with smaller amounts of dairy, poultry, and meats2.
I was glad to see that the U.S News & World Report Best Overall Diets of 2015 ranked Mediterranean diet 3 out of 35 diets reviewed. The review looked at factors like how easy the diet is to follow, safety, and protective health benefits3. Healthy, easy to follow, and safe? Count me in! My favorite part about this lifestyle is that it doesn’t exclude foods, it simply focuses on the nutritious ones. This type of advice is easy to follow whether I am busy, managing multiple food preferences, or entertaining friends and family.
1. When I am busy
The Mediterranean diet is rich in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. I love produce, and work hard to eat plenty of it, but when my schedule is hectic, it is easy to skip this food group. How do I make this Med diet pattern work for me? I make fruit and vegetables as convenient as possible. I keep vegetable juices on hand like V8® Veggie Blends (Find a coupon offer here). For lunches, I like to keep reduced sodium soups that provide at least ½ cup of vegetables like Campbell’s® Healthy Request® Homestyle Spicy Vegetarian Chili (it is extra delicious with a squirt of fresh lime juice).
2. When I am juggling multiple food preferences
3. When I am entertaining
The best part of the Med Diet is that it isn’t a diet at all—it is a lifestyle that focuses on enjoying nutritious foods and leading an active lifestyle with friends and family—something I can easily maintain. So, calling all dietitians, foodies, and health nuts, how do you incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your eating style? Share how on Twitter with the hashtag #FTNMedMyWay.
- Mediterranean Diet Review. Best Overall Diets of 2015. US News and World Report. Accessed on March 27 2015 at http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mediterranean-diet.
- Med Diet and Health. Oldways Heritage Preservation Trust. Accessed March 2015 at http://oldwayspt.org/resources/heritage-pyramids/mediterranean-diet-pyramid/med-diet-health.
- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. “Building Healthy Eating Patterns.” United States Department of Agriculture. Pgs 44-45 accessed March 2015 at http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/dietaryguidelines2010.pdf.
- Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. The American Heart Association. Updated May 14, 2014. Accessed March 2015 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids_UCM_303248_Article.jsp.