One third of the adults in the United States are obese--that is, they have a BMI (body mass index weight/height) greater than 30. It seems these days everyone is trying to diet to lose weight or simply be healthier.
Research has shown that one of the healthiest diets is the Mediterranean diet. This diet is based on the cooking and meal preparation style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Studies have shown that it reduces the risk of heart disease by lowering the LDL or bad cholesterol. It also reduces the risk for dementia and cancers (especially breast cancer), and is tied to overall better health and longevity.
It is not hard to incorporate these diet changes for a healthier eating style. Here are some simple tips:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables, aiming for 5-8 servings a day. (A serving size being ½-1 cup.) During the summer focus on cooking with locally grown produce.
- Exchange white flour products, such as bread and pasta, to whole grain bread and pasta. Also try adding other whole grains to the diet, such as barley and quinoa.
- Use extra virgin olive oil or canola oil in place of butter or margarine.
- For snacking, try sunflower seeds or nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, or pistachios) in place of junk food. Limit to no more than 1 tablespoon, as nuts are very concentrated in calories.
- Eat fish instead of red meat 1-2 times a week. Salmon, tuna, mackerel or herring are good choices. Fish should be baked, broiled, or grilled—not fried.
- Choose dairy products that are lower in fat such as low fat cheese, yogurt or skim milk.
- Use herbs in place of salt for flavor and seasoning.
- Alcohol, particularly red wine, is fine but limit to 5 oz. a day. And if you don’t already drink alcohol, don’t start just to follow the Mediterranean diet.
- Try to make meals a social occasion to enjoy with friends and family, as these connections are also associated with the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Avoid mindless eating/snacking.
Hopefully making these healthier choices will lead to weight reduction and a long and healthy life!