The SparkDiet: Mediterranean Style!Lose Weight by Adding Color, Taste, and Texture
-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
Juicy tomatoes growing under the Tuscan sun, oranges that burst with life, the steamy warmth of fresh-baked breads—there are several mouth-watering reasons to treat your taste buds to the flavors of the Mediterranean. The food is magnificent!
The Mediterranean diet approach is a composite of traditional cuisine and dishes from the regions that border the Mediterranean Sea (including Spain, Southern France, Southern Italy, Greece, Crete, parts of North Africa, parts of Turkey, and parts of the Middle East). But fortunately, you don’t have to hop continents to enjoy its fabulous flavors. It’s easy to add a little Mediterranean zest to your SparkPeople nutrition plan.
Besides taste, there is also a wide range of health benefits to this eating style. Reports indicate that people living in the Mediterranean have a lower risk of heart disease, decreased risk for certain types of cancer, and a longer life expectancy. Traditionally, people studied in this region were also more physically active. But a recent research study indicated that the Mediterranean-style diet helps control metabolic syndrome, along with obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar levels.
To incorporate the healthy Mediterranean way into your own SparkDiet, here are some meal-planning tips:
- Whole grain breads and grains: Include whole wheat pasta and couscous, brown rice, polenta, bulgur wheat, potatoes, and other grains
- High quality fruits and vegetables: Try to get at least 5-9 servings daily.
- Small amounts of natural cheeses and yogurt
- Olive oil (instead of other fat and oils, such as butter and margarine). Keep your total fat intake in the range of 25-35% of total calories
- Beans, legumes, nuts and seeds to provide protein, taste and texture to your meals
- Exercise! Try to be active for 20-30 minutes daily.
- Eat Small amounts of fish and chicken
- Limit eggs to 4 per week
- Have your sweets and eat them too—but only a couple times per week at most
- If you choose to drink wine, do so in moderation
- Enjoy lean red meat only a few times each month.
- Sprinkle—don’t shower—your favorite whole-grain pasta dish with olive oil. Sauté your fresh vegetables lightly in olive oil.
- Stretch that pound of fish or chicken to serve six, by offering it as a side dish along with pasta and a spicy tomato sauce.
- Mix lentils with your favorite rice dish and top with a vegetable-tomato sauce.
- For more ideas, check out a Mediterranean cookbook from your local library.