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A 5-Step Guide to Starting the Mediterranean Diet

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  • Written By: Baldwin
oil based dressing being poured over a salad

Ready to try the Mediterranean diet? Here are tips to help you get started.

When it comes to diets, none have gotten as much recognition for improving health as the Mediterranean diet. In fact, this style of eating has been ranked as the best overall diet for the last 5 years by U.S. News & World Report. But the Mediterranean diet isn't actually a diet at all, at least in the way that you may think of fad diets. Instead, it's an eating style that promotes the type of healthy foods enjoyed by people living along the Mediterranean sea.

If you've been thinking of giving the Mediterranean Diet a try, here's a 5-step guide to help you get started.

Step 1 – Learn about the Mediterranean diet. Unlike some diets, there is not a specific diet plan to follow. There is no counting of calories, carbs, macros or points. Instead, the diet promotes eating lots of nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil. Seafood, eggs, poultry and some dairy can be eaten in low to moderate amounts. You can also drink wine in moderation. The focus is on eating high-quality whole foods and limiting or eliminating heavily processed foods.

Step 2 – Revamp your pantry. One of the best ways to successfully follow a new eating style is to have easy access to the foods you want to eat and to not be tempted by foods you should avoid. Take inventory of what's in your pantry and do a bit of house cleaning. Get rid of heavily processed food, like chips, cookies, candy and convenience foods. Stock up on foods that will help you follow the Mediterranean style of eating. Buy healthy oil, like extra-virgin olive oil, as well as a variety of herbs and spices. Stock up on shelf-stable items like beans, legumes, quinoa, brown rice, farro, oats, bulgur, barley, nuts and seeds. Fill the fridge and freezer with fruits, vegetables and fish.

Step 3 – Change how you prepare food. The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating healthy fats, so start using olive oil instead of butter. When preparing dishes, don't dump cheese on everything. Instead, use a small amount of minimally-processed and strong-flavored cheese, like parmesan or feta. Choose whole foods over heavily processed ones.

Step 4 – Reconfigure your plate. Fruits and vegetables should make up the bulk of your meals. To do that, fill half of your plate with these foods. Then fill the rest with whole grains and healthy protein sources, such as legumes or fish.

Step 5 – Eat more mindfully. In addition to consuming primarily nutrient-rich whole foods, the Mediterranean diet encourages enjoying meals with family and friends. Rather than grabbing food on the go or eating without thinking of what you're putting in your mouth, sit down to a meal with other people and pay attention to the delicious foods you are eating.

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Date Last Reviewed: March 17, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT

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