Tips to making the Mediterranean diet work for you … so you can feel better and live healthier

Submitted by Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center

When is a diet not a diet at all? It sounds like a riddle, but the answer is easy: when it’s the Mediterranean diet. A more accurate name might be the Mediterranean lifestyle since a significant component of making this diet work is how you approach life. There are no strict dietary restrictions. A balanced social life and enjoying meals with others are key components. Laughter, reducing stress, and living are recommended.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on the quality of your food rather than a single nutrient or food group. It’s been proven to reduce the risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A recent National Institute on Aging study reports that it may even help protect the brain from damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Many of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are likely due to the rich blend of essential vitamins, minerals, fats, fiber, and phytochemicals packed into every meal. For example, abundant vegetables, fruits, spices, and herbs provide crucial disease-preventing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamin C. Phytochemicals, including lutein in green vegetables and lycopene in tomatoes, also help fight disease. The fiber in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans keeps blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check while supporting healthy gut bacteria. Added sugars are limited, which tends to raise triglyceride and blood sugar levels. Healthy fats, which improve blood cholesterol and reduce inflammation, take center stage.

Here’s how you can get started:

  • Slowly increase your daily intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), and unprocessed whole grains, such as oats and barley.
  • Learn about fragrant fresh herbs and spices and how to incorporate them into your meal prep.
  • Limit whole-fat dairy products, red and processed meats, and sweets.
  • Incorporate lean sources of protein like fish, poultry, and legumes.
  • Get acquainted with healthy fats found in avocados, walnuts, and olive oil.

Thankfully, Mediterranean diet recipes are abundant on the web. Creativity is key, but here are a few easy ideas to get you started:


  • Greek yogurt with berries and low-sugar granola
  • Whole-wheat toast topped with smashed avocado
  • Omelet with diced spinach, peppers, and onion
  • Oatmeal with almond milk, cinnamon, and blueberries


  • Hummus or salsa with carrots, cucumbers, or jicama sticks
  • Canned chickpeas mixed with diced parsley, onion, and a lemon-juice/olive-oil vinaigrette
  • Frozen grapes
  • A handful of strawberries or blueberries
  • A quarter cup of pistachios
  • Avocado on whole-grain crackers

Lunch and/or dinner:

  • Grilled salmon or shrimp with a side of quinoa or brown rice
  • Greek salad with tomatoes, peppers, spinach, and other veggies
  • If opting for bread, choose whole grain and dip in olive oil instead of butter

The Mediterranean diet includes incorporating daily lifestyle practices as well. In addition to eating more mindfully, set aside time daily to move. A walk outdoors, stretching throughout the day, and daily yoga are a few examples. The important thing is to find something you enjoy and will look forward to doing.

Eat your meals and snacks slowly and relaxedly, paying attention to the pleasure you get from your food. Enjoy meals with others if you can. When we slow down, our brain and body relax, promoting better digestion, healing, and immune function. While eating, eliminate distractions like your phone or television and pay attention to the food and people around you.

Finally, remember to talk with your healthcare provider. They may have valuable suggestions specific to you and your condition that will be helpful as you start any new diet.

Even if a trip to Italy or Greece isn’t in your future, you can still embrace a few tips from the Mediterranean culture and cuisine that will help you feel better and live a healthier life.