May is Mediterranean Diet month, which is a LOT more exciting than you might expect. In case you haven’t heard of it yet, the Mediterranean Diet is one of the healthiest ways of eating on the planet. It’s not a gimmick that involves eating like a cavewoman or denying your love of cheese. Instead, it’s all about eating like some of the healthiest people on the planet: the Spanish. (Well, and the Greeks, Italians, and French as well).
Here’s the deal: The Mediterranean Diet is ranked the #1 Best Diet Overall by U.S. News & World Report (as well as #14 if you’re looking to lose weight and #1 diet for healthy eating). According to Healthline, the Mediterranean Diet has also been shown to prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and premature death. And if that’s not enough to convince you, then you should know that it is also QUITE delicious and honestly not that difficult to follow. Curious? Here are 10 tips and tricks for eating like a Spaniard on the Mediterranean Diet.
1. Try salmon instead of your usual red meat.
One of the main tenets of a Mediterranean Diet is having more fish and less meat. While it’s okay to have poultry once or so a week, you’ll want to cut down on your consumption of red meat. Ideally, you’ll only be having red meat a few times a month and instead switching to having fish a few times a week. But if you’re pregnant, you definitely want to be cautious of your fish intake due to mercury levels that can affect fetus development.
2. Stock up on extra-virgin olive oil.
Down with the butter! You’ll want to switch to extra-virgin olive oil if you are planning to adhere to a Mediterranean Diet, which is full of good fats (and less saturated fat). Although I still indulge in butter occasionally, it’s pretty rare. Instead, try cooking all of your dishes in olive oil instead.
3. Say “no” to soda; say “yes” to wine.
You’ll want to cut out sweet drinks once you go on the Mediterranean Diet, but you CAN instead have a treat by drinking one glass of wine a day. Otherwise, stick to water. And yes, you can definitely have coffee but watch out for that cream and sugar, since it’s important to cut back on those sweeteners.
4. Have more avocados in your diet.
Remember when I mentioned healthy fat? Here’s where you’ll want to incorporate avocados into your diet. Yes, they’re technically from Mexico… but we won’t tell. I try to have them in my breakfast by putting them on the side of my scrambled eggs, then in my salad dressing at lunch, and even sometimes with dinner.
5. Try eating #MeatlessMonday.
Since cutting back on your meat consumption is a crucial part of the Mediterranean Diet, one big suggestion I have is for you to try an all-vegetarian day. Usually, you can participate by doing a #MeatlessMonday type of thing, but I would even suggest you do this throughout the week when possible.
6. Make sure you have all of your favorite spices.
The best tip I can give to anyone who is tackling pretty much any kind of special diet is to stock up on spices. Why? Because spices are a great way to add plenty of flavor to your food without adding up the calories. I especially recommend smoked Spanish paprika, cayenne pepper, and chipotle chili flakes.
7. Switch to brown rice and other whole grains.
The great part about the Mediterranean Diet is that you can still eat your rice, but you’ll have to make a small adjustment by switching to brown rice. You can also try other whole grains such as quinoa (technically a seed, though full of protein), buckwheat, whole grain bread and pasta, and corn.
8. Snack on plenty of fruits.
Fruits are an essential part of the Mediterranean Diet, and can be a great replacement for your usual sugar rush. There’s a lot of melons, berries, and citrus that are filled with sugar but the good kind. Make sure you always have bananas, grapes, oranges, and your other favorites around so that you can easily snack.
9. Eat more beans and legumes.
The best part of the Mediterranean Diet definitely has to be the embracing of beans and legumes. There’s plenty of AH-mazing Latin and Spanish dishes that you can make with these, and even some traditionally meat-centric dishes that you can instead make with your favorite legumes. Try it!
10. Slow down and enjoy your meals.
Other than actual food tips like the ones above, the last thing you’ll want to remember about the Mediterranean Diet is that all of these cultures slow down when they eat. So… slow down. Stop eating food in front of the television or while finishing work. Instead, take a break and listen to your body as you eat.