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Mediterranean Diet for Beginners

By Winter LeBlanc
Updated July 8, 2022
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Starting the Mediterranean Diet? Here’s a good place to start. Learn all about the Mediterranean Diet for Beginners!

Mediterranean Diet for Beginners

The Mediterranean Diet is a plant-focused diet centered around the traditional cuisine of people living around the Mediterranean Sea. The diet is fueled by olive oil as a healthy fat source and whole foods like fruits, vegetables and legumes. Generally, the Mediterranean Diet is a high fat, moderate protein, moderately high carbohydrate diet but the carbohydrates don’t come from processed foods, but instead whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. The main protein in the Mediterranean Diet comes from beans, nuts and seeds whereas the main protein in the typical American diet comes from meat, chicken and pork. The greatest health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet can be seen over long term adherence to the diet.

The Basics of a Mediterranean Meal

A well-documented case of a traditional Mediterranean Diet was laid out in a study done in 1949 on the Greek island of Crete. At this time, Cretans had the lowest rates of heart disease in the world and scientists were curious about what they were eating. 

Based on the data recorded in the study, Cretans were eating 40% fruits and vegetables, 28% whole grains, 12% starchy vegetables, 6% unsaturated plant oils, 5% plant protein, 5% animal protein, 3% dairy, and 2% added sugars. In comparison, a typical American eats almost 10 times the amount of dairy, twice the amount of meat, and three times the amount of added sugar. A study found that 42% of a typical American’s calories come from refined grains, starchy vegetables and added sugars. So what does a typical Mediterranean plate look like? 

Here’s a simple infographic to guide you. 

Image Source: Mediterranean Diet and NAFLD: What We Know and Questions That Still Need to Be Answered

But, even more useful, are some real examples of a Mediterranean meal. Here are some from our Mediterranean Diet for Beginners video. You can see there’s a lot of variety but each meal is totally aligned with the Mediterranean Diet. 

Mediterranean Plates

All in all, the basics of a Mediterranean meal includes lots of fruits & vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and higher amounts of plant protein (i.e. beans) compared to animal protein. So now you know what a Mediterranean meal should look like, let’s talk about finding recipes that will have you eating some of the healthiest and most delicious foods in the world.

Finding Immaculate Mediterranean Recipes

For some, hunting for authentic, healthy Mediterranean recipes can be super enjoyable! There are thousands of cookbooks by Mediterranean chefs and home cooks that have awesome recipes. There are also plenty of websites, Youtube channels and other online resources that can provide you with recipes. I personally love discovering recipes and trying something new. If this is you, amazing! Here is a list of Mediterranean guidelines you can follow so when you are finding recipes you can make sure they align with all the healthy principles of the traditional Mediterranean Diet.

Download the Mediterranean guidelines here for free!

If you’re looking to make a Mediterranean meal as soon as possible and/or less interested in finding new recipes yourself, here are some of our favorite Mediterranean Diet recipe sources.

Spain on a Fork

Created and hosted by Albert Bevia, Spain on a Fork is a Youtube channel and food blog that shares Spain’s famous dishes, as well as other Spanish influenced recipes that Albert’s has created. Albert is a self-taught home cook. He was born in Valencia, Spain, raised in southern California and now lives back in Castellon, Spain.

Diane Kochilas

Diane Kochilas is one of the world’s foremost experts on Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. She is the host, creator and co-producer of My Greek Table, the award-winning 13-episode per season cooking-travel show about Greece that airs nationally on Public Television. The series is in its third season.

You can find Diane’s recipes here!

Oldways

Image Source: www.oldwayspt.org

Oldways is a nonprofit that shares recipes from traditional diets from around the world including the Mediterranean Diet. They also have great resources about eating well and programs that focus on helping you adopt a healthier diet.

Check out Oldways here!

Mediterranean Living

Tapas Spread

Oh look it’s us! Of course we are biased but Mediterranean Living has hundreds of Mediterranean Diet recipes that have been individually tested and enjoyed here in our kitchen. Many of these recipes we make every week and have become family favorites. From the Mediterranean Diet for beginners to a seasoned Mediterranean diet lover we got you covered. 

Okay, so you found some recipes you are excited to make. Now, it’s time to go shopping for ingredients. Here’s what you need to know…

Food Shopping on the Mediterranean Diet

On the Mediterranean Diet, we strongly recommend you try to buy fresh, good quality ingredients. This means building up a Mediterranean pantry and buying organic when feasible. 

Unlike, “all natural”, organic foods need to be certified by the USDA through approved methods. Organic meat for example requires that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones. Plant products need to be grown without using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. An organic label is one you can trust and feel confident that the food you are buying is of good quality. 

One of the common questions we have about the Mediterranean Diet is how to save money while eating Mediterranean. Shopping is a big part of that. We are currently developing a whole Youtube series around the Mediterranean Diet on a Budget. Check out the first video if you are interested!

Enjoying your Food with Good Company

The Mediterranean Diet is more than a diet, it’s a way of eating that celebrates food, togetherness, and well being. Give it a shot. You might just end up eating this way forever.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed check out our Mediterranean 30 program, a 30 day clean-eating challenge that will transform the way you’re feeling and get you on the right track with the Mediterranean Diet all while eating some of the healthiest and most delicious foods in the world.

Med30

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The Mediterranean Way 10 Week Diet & Lifestyle program teaches you everything you need to know to easily and deliciously get the benefits of the proven healthy Mediterranean diet. Meal Plans, Recipes, Shopping Lists, Weekly Challenges and Lessons, Private Facebook Support Group, Cooking Videos and more!

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“This program is a way of life, one which I have adopted successfully, and more importantly one which I have sustained for over one year now. My weight remains steady at 160 pounds (down from 216). My energy levels rival that of someone 20 years younger than me (I’m now 57), enabling me to exercise in any way that I desire, from lifting weights to intense cardio sessions.”
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Foods of Crete Cookbook

"The scientifically acclaimed “Mediterranean Diet” is presented at its best here, with the liberal use of olive oil and plenty of vegetable and fish dishes in addition to mezedes (appetizers), meat dishes, desserts, and pretty much every Cretan dish you can think of." - Mary

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