I am often asked what the best diet is to follow, and my response is always the same. No short-term diet will lead to long-term weight management and health. And, for the third year in a row, U.S. News & World Report agrees.
What is the best way to eat healthy? Follow the Mediterranean-style eating plan! It again has been ranked Number 1 by U.S. News & World Report in the best overall, easiest to follow, best for diabetes, healthy eating and plant-based diet categories.
People following the Mediterranean diet eat:
- a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains
- healthful fats, such as nuts, seeds and olive oil
- fish, seafood and plant sources of protein, such as beans and lentils
- moderate amounts of dairy
- very little red meat
- few eggs
- red wine in moderation
People on a Mediterranean diet avoid:
- refined grains, such as white bread, white pasta and white flour
- refined oils, which include canola oil and soybean oil
- foods with added sugars, such as pastries, sodas and candies
- deli meats, hot dogs and other processed meats
- processed or packaged foods
The following tips can help you take a Mediterranean-style eating approach to your meal plans:
- Eat lots of vegetables. From a simple plate of sliced fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and crumbled feta cheese to salads, garlicky greens, soups and stews, healthy pizzas or oven-roasted medleys, vegetables are vitally important to the fresh tastes and delicious flavors of the Mediterranean diet.
- Change the way you think about meat. If you eat meat, enjoy smaller amounts, such as small strips of sirloin in a vegetable sauté or a dish of pasta garnished with diced prosciutto.
- Enjoy some dairy products. Eat Greek or plain yogurt and try smaller amounts of a variety of real cheese. Avoid processed cheese products.
- Eat seafood twice a week. Fish such as tuna, herring, salmon and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and shellfish including mussels, oysters and clams have similar benefits for brain and heart health.
- Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week. Build meals around beans, whole grains and vegetables, and heighten the flavor with fragrant herbs and spices. Down the road, try two nights per week.
- Use good fats. Include sources of healthy fats in daily meals, especially extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, olives and avocados.
- Switch to whole grains. Whole grains are naturally rich in many important nutrients; their fuller, nuttier taste and extra fiber keep you satisfied for hours. Cook traditional Mediterranean grains like bulgur, barley, farro, and brown, black or red rice, and favor products made with whole grain flour.
- For dessert, eat fresh fruit. Choose from a wide range of delicious fresh fruits —from fresh figs and oranges to pomegranates and grapes.
Barb Walsh, R.D., is the community nutrition educator in the Tevis Center for Wellness.