Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 6, 2019. Links and content have been updated to reflect recent data. The U.S. News & World Report has released its top diets for 2020. The Mediterranean diet has been ranked the #1 diet for the third year in a row. Their panel of health experts define “best” as easy to follow, nutritious, and effective for weight loss as well as diabetes and heart disease prevention. The Mediterranean diet also won in other categories, including “Best Plant-Based Diets,” “Best Diabetes Diets,” “Best Diets for Healthy Eating” (tie), and “Easiest Diets to Follow.”
If you haven’t heard of the Mediterranean diet before, the image of delicious Greek and Italian food may spring to mind. While many of these foods are part of a Mediterranean diet, there’s much more to it than tucking into a plate of pasta. With a focus on whole foods, the Mediterranean approach to eating emphasizes vegetables, fruit, fiber, whole grains, lean meats (like fish and seafood), legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. This plan steers away from red meat, sweets, and dairy (though some yogurt and cheese can be okay in moderation). Rather than flavoring food with excess salt and sugar, the Mediterranean diet encourages using herbs and spices .
We’re inspired by the Mediterranean diet because it’s more of a lifestyle than a classic “diet plan.” It uses a holistic approach to nutrition, exercise, and social eating. What it isn’t is a quick fix for guaranteed weight loss—it’s a long-term strategy to lower your risk for disease and disorders like heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. To explore what a Mediterranean diet is all about, read on!
Eat Plenty of Vegetables and Whole Grains
The Mediterranean diet pyramid shows plant-based foods as the largest component of the Mediterranean diet. Plant-based foods include fruits and vegetables, but also whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. A diet rich in vegetables and whole grains is a diet rich in fiber, which slows digestion and helps regulate blood sugar. Since the Mediterranean diet suggests limiting sweets, we recommend crushing any cravings with a piece of (naturally) sweet fruit, which will also help you round out your eating with antioxidants, potassium, fiber, and vitamins.
Selecting Fish and Plant Protein Over Red Meat
The Mediterranean diet suggests eating two servings of fish or seafood a week while limiting consumption of red meat and poultry. Fish and seafood are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and provide ample protein. Studies show many Americans are over-consuming meat. Embracing a Mediterranean approach to eating involves treating meat like more of a garnish than the main event. You can also put more of a plant slant on your eating habits by rounding out your meal with nuts. Our new Ginger Miso noodle bowl features sliced almonds and edamame, and it’s a great example of how delicious and satisfying a plant-based meal can be.
Spice Things Up With Herbs
If you think reducing sodium and sugar in your cooking will mean bland, lifeless food, think again. Once you get familiar with Mediterranean recipes you’ll notice they’re usually full of bold, bright flavors, helped by herbs and spices. By the way, trying a Mediterranean diet doesn’t mean you have to stick with just Mediterranean flavors. This diet easily extends to experimenting with global flavors like Indian, and Asian cuisine. Check out our South-East Asian-inspired Mie Goreng for a hint of pickled red chiles.
Consume Healthy Fats
Now that the fat-fearing era of the 1990s is over, Registered Dietitians recommend cooking with healthier fats, namely avocado oil, and olive oil, as well as enjoying fatty-acid-rich fish, like salmon, tuna, and trout. Replacing refined fats with these healthier sources of fat can help decrease your risk of heart disease and diabetes. When it comes to cooking at home, consider putting avocado oil in your pantry. At Luvo we use avocado oil in our meals because it’s nutrient-dense, has a high smoke point (doesn’t burn easily), and has a pleasantly neutral flavor.
Treat Eating As An Enjoyable Occasion
It may seem a little odd to suggest that simply enjoying your food is a part of healthy living, but we couldn’t agree more. Mediterranean cultures have long regarded the dinner table as a place to gather with family and friends, to talk and laugh, and of course, enjoy eating. In our busy North American lifestyles we often eat on the go—at our desks, and the kitchen counter. It’s easy to forget to take time out of the day to enjoy our food.
Studies from Harvard show multitasking while eating can actually lead to weight gain. Try to take time during at least one meal per day when you sit down, eat mindfully, and engage with family or friends. This can mean enjoying a home-cooked meal with family or simply eating your work lunch in the break room with a friend.
As you can see, there are many reasons why the Mediterranean diet inspires us, and it recently ranked as the best diet out of 35 possible eating approaches because it is so flexible and easy to follow. It’s also been rigorously evaluated for nutritional completeness, ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss and potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease.
Our newest meals align with this way of eating by including ingredients like black sesame seeds, buckwheat ramen noodles, crushed chilies, edamame beans, sunflower seed butter, avocado oil, and of course, lots of veggies.
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