What should you be eating for overall health and to drop a few kilos? According to the experts, you should be following the Mediterranean Diet in 2019.
Each year, the US News and World Report ranks the best diets in the world, and this year the Mediterranean diet came out top in many categories, including best diet for healthy eating, best plant-based diet, best diet for diabetes and heart health and the easiest diet to follow.
According to Angela Haupt, assistant managing editor of health for the report, a panel of experts in heart disease and diabetes, nutrition, diet, food psychology and obesity reviewed research about the diets from medical journals, government reports and other resources and then ranked them for, among other things, nutritional completeness, safety and ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss.
How does the Mediterranean Diet work?
“It’s more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle,” dietitian Rahaf Al Bochi told CNN. “It also encourages eating with friends and family, socialising over meals, mindfully eating your favourite foods, as well as mindful movement and exercise for a complete healthy lifestyle.”
The basic tenants of the Mediterranean Diet are:
- Forget kilojoule counting and eliminating food groups
- Choose fresh, whole foods
- Eat mostly plant-based, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Eat legumes and whole grains
- Eat good-quality, lean protein occasionally
- Eat fish, especially oily fish
- Eat dairy products like yoghurt and cheese, but watch portion sizes
- Add a few seeds and nuts, raw and unsalted
- Use herbs and spices liberally to make food flavourful
- Lots of olive oil over other fats
- Very little sugar and processed foods like refined white flour
Why eat plant-based?
Plant-based foods are packed with fibre to keep you feeling full and to help manage your digestion. They are also the best way to get all the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals you need to boost your immune system.
If you were horrified by the thought of Vegan January, yet still want to move away from your meat-at-the-centre-of-every-meal lifestyle, try our tips below to start making plants the power player at mealtimes.
Adopt a simple 2 to 1 ratio: eat 2 plant foods for every 1 animal food and ensure you keep to healthy portion sizes. This will shift your eating away from high-kilojoule foods, such as meat, dairy foods and other animal foods.
At every meal, simply fill up at least two-thirds of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Smaller portions of fish, lean meats, eggs or dairy should make up no more than one-third of your plate – and stick to a maximum of 80g meat per portion. This means you’ll naturally be eating healthier portion sizes.
Find lots of inspiration from our healthy recipe collection, or try one of the easy recipes below to get started today.
Half and half cottage pie with root-veg mash
1 Heat 1tbsp oil in a heavy-based sauté pan, brown 320g beef mince; set aside. Peel and finely chop 1 onion, 1 carrot and 1 stick celery; add to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Return the mince to the pan, add 200g tomato passata and 500ml beef stock, 1½tbsp tomato purée, 1tsp Worcestershire sauce and ¼tsp chilli powder; mix well. Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer for 20 minutes before adding 175g Puy lentils, rinsed in cold water. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
2 Meanwhile, bring 1 to 1,2kg mixed root vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut, but use only 1 potato) to the boil in a pot of cold, salted water until tender. Drain and allow to steam-dry slightly before mashing.
3 Mash the veg until very smooth, season well, and set aside. Heat the oven to 180°C. Place the pie filling in an ovenproof dish and cover evenly with the mash. Drizzle over a little olive oil, sprinkle with 1½tbsp breadcrumbs, and cook for 30 minutes.
Stir-Fried White Cabbage
Soak 400g shredded white cabbage with a pinch of salt in cold water for 10 minutes, then drain. Heat 2tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, add ½tsp mustard seeds. When they pop, add 12 curry leaves, a 1 cm-piece finely-grated fresh ginger, and the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring frequently.