Chapter 5: Mediterranean Diet

Diets have a reputation for being fads. Every year a new diet comes that claims to cause miracle weight loss or muscle gain. Whether or not these claims are true is rarely tested. And the evidence usually does not exist. Because of this I can only advocate for two diets in good faith. The first diet is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan. This diet is effective, but hard to tailor to Southern cuisine. The second diet is the Mediterranean Diet.  This is the diet we are built upon because it is very versatile, proven, and easy to use.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean Diet is a diet proven to lower weight. It also decreases your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It isn’t a diet that has you cutting out fats or starches. Instead, it tries to balance these nutrition types. This is important because eating a variety of foods is the best way to get everything your body needs. You get all of your vitamins, minerals, calories, and proteins. And, if you reduce your salt intake, you can lower your blood pressure even more. The hardest part is reducing unhealthy fat and sugar.

If you have looked at the recipes, you are probably wondering. “What type of diet is this?” Or “Will this actually work? It looks too good to be true.” Well, it will work. You just have to commit to following it. This diet is proven to lower weight and lower your chances of heart disease or diabetes. If you reduce your salt intake, you can even lower your blood pressure. This is an alternative diet to the Mediterranean diet.

This diet focuses on fat quality instead of fat amount. You may have noticed that when you eat food high in fat you stay full longer. This diet utilizes this idea. But instead of eating any fats, you have to eat healthy fats. This includes vegetable oils, nuts, and fish. In addition, you have to commit to increasing your fruits and vegetables and eating mainly whole grains. Now let’s play a game of “Great, Ok, and No No” to show you how this works.

Great Choices! These are your best friends. Do whatever you can to keep this list close. This list is the reason you don’t have to count calories.

  • Eat 7 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Eat beans and peas 3 times per week.
  • Eat 2 to 3 servings of low-fat dairy per week.
  • Eat 3 or more servings of whole grain food per day. This includes whole grain breads, brown rice, barley, and whole grain pastas.
  • Eat 2 to 4 servings each day of foods that are high in healthy fats. Include nuts, fish, healthy salad dressing, regular mayonnaise, and avocado. Healthy fats are, generally, liquid at room temperature.
  • Eat 3 or more servings of poultry each week. Even the fattier parts of the chicken are good fats, so you can eat the whole chicken.
  • Eat fish 1-2 times per week with little mercury.
    • Examples) canned light tuna, catfish, shrimp, salmon, trout, anchovies.

Ok. These foods are alright to eat. Try to stick to the great options whenever possible. But if you have a craving for something else, you can give these a shot.

  • It is ok to eat 4 to 7 eggs per week. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are ideal for breakfast.
  • Chicken skin is ok to eat. But be careful that you are not frying it and eating it with mac and cheese and bacon grease flavored collards. Eating this much fat is way more than recommended.
  • Cut down on beef or pork high in saturated fats. Aim to eat 5 servings or less per week. Try lean cuts. round, sirloin, or loin cuts of beef or trimmed pork chops)
  • Desserts and sweets that you make yourself. Limit these to one or two times per week.
  • Cut down on bacon and sausage. Aim for once a week or less.

No Nos. These are foods that you should avoid at all costs.

  • Avoid packaged snack and bakery foods.
  • Avoid white flour, white rice, and regular pasta. I know this might be difficult, but whole grain products have more vitamins, minerals and fiber. They take longer to cook, so I recommend making a huge batch of brown rice once a week. You can then reheat it whenever you need it.
  • Avoid food high in saturated fats including fatty meats, processed meats, ice cream, whole milk, and butter.
  • Avoid store bought desserts and sweets. They are loaded with trans fats and saturate fats.
  • Avoid sodas and other sugary drinks.
  • Avoid salt.
  • Avoid “supersized” food and drink portions.
  • Avoid eating more than 4 servings of high fat foods a day. Fats are high in calories, so you could find yourself putting on more weight.

 

Let’s move along to Chapter 6: Healthy Fats!

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