Guide to Mediterranean Diet And Weight Loss

Guide to Mediterranean Diet And Weight Loss

Your diet is a significant part of your overall health. Poor nutrition is a factor in many conditions including excess body weight, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, as well as musculoskeletal problems (e.g. decreased muscle strength and poor bone health). 

Poor nutrition is very common in the U.S. and other developed countries. Diets commonly lack fruits and vegetables and contain large amounts of red meat, high-fat dairy products, refined grains, and high-sugar and highly processed foods

Extra Weight

Extra body weight is a risk factor for musculoskeletal problems and it also makes them more difficult to manage. Since poor nutrition contributes to excess weight, it can also negatively impact your musculoskeletal health - for example, with conditions like low back pain or osteoarthritis of the knee

The Mediterranean Diet

There are various diets that can help you to achieve good nutrition and reach a healthy body weight. One of the most effective ones is the Mediterranean diet. Your Goodpath coach will work with you to create your weight loss plan based on this diet. They will help you with quantities, portion sizes, calories, and food substitutions.

The Mediterranean diet is based on traditional eating patterns of countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea, like Greece, Spain, and Italy. 

It has a high proportion of fruits and vegetables (phytonutrients); a moderate amount of chicken, fish, eggs, and low-fat milk products; and minimal red meat and processed foods. It also includes healthy fats (e.g. omega-3 fatty acids), vitamins and minerals (micronutrients), and fiber. 

More Healthful Diet Information

If you can:

  • Eat organic, local, seasonal, fresh food.

  • Eat free-range, grass-fed meat; limit to 1-2 times per week.

  • Have grass-fed free-range eggs; limit to 4 or less per week.

  • Have plant-based protein sources every day

  • Look for minimally processed foods.

  • In-season, locally grown fruits & vegetables are better.

  • Choose organic foods.

  • 100% whole grain breads are best.

  • Select wild-caught seafood.

  • Use monounsaturated oils.

Foods To Include Vs. Foods To Limit

Foods to Include

  • Seafood: Tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, anchovies, shellfish

  • Healthy oils: Flax seed oil, avocado oil, and olive oil

  • Grains, breads, and cereals: Whole-grain bread, pasta, and cereal; bulgar, farro, quinoa, oats, and buckwheat; brown or wild rice

  • Fruit: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, apples, cherries, bananas, grapes, kiwi (preferably organic)

  • Vegetables: Leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, avocados, sweet potatoes (preferably organic)

  • Legumes: Beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas

  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds

  • Herbs and spices: Ginger, turmeric, garlic, chili pepper, oregano, cinnamon, rosemary, cloves, cumin, paprika

  • Tea: Green and herbal teas

Foods to Limit

  • Red meat: Beef, pork, lamb

  • Processed meats: Bacon, deli meats, sausage, hot dogs, ham, jerky

  • Unhealthy oils: Corn, soy, sunflower, safflower, canola, and peanut oils

  • Simple carbohydrates: Sugary breakfast cereals, white bread, rice, and flour

  • High-sugar foods: Desserts, sugary drinks, pastry

  • High-fat dairy: Milk, butter, cream, cheese, ice cream

  • Fried foods: French fries, fried chicken, fried fish, fast foods

  • Excessive salt

Healthy Meal Ideas

When you prepare your own meals, you can include healthy foods and avoid unhealthy ones. Here are some examples to get you started.

Breakfast

  • Eggs

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs* with ½ avocado on 1 slice whole-grain bread - rye, barley, or sourdough bread

  • 2 scrambled eggs with turmeric 

  • 2 poached eggs with smoked salmon and avocado

  • Oatmeal** with:

    • ½ cup (120 g) of berries and 2 tablespoons (20 g) of sunflower seeds

    • ½ cup (120 g) of unsweetened applesauce, 2 tablespoons (20 g) chopped almonds, and a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice for extra flavor

    • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon (5 g) of nut butter

  • Cocoa chia pudding with raspberries* 1 cup (240 mL) low-fat plain Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons (20 g) of chopped walnuts, ¼ cup (60 g) blueberries

  • Energizing protein smoothie with 1 tablespoon (15 g) unsweetened cocoa powder, ½ cup (120 mL) almond milk, 2 tablespoons (20 g) peanut butter or almond butter, ¼ cup (60 g) oats, 1 to 2 tablespoons (15-20 g) flaxseed, and ½ to 1 cup (120-240 mL) water or almond milk to blend

*Add 1 teaspoon (5 g) of flaxseed meal or hemp seeds for extra omega-3 fatty acids

**Rolled and steel-cut oats are higher in fiber than quick oats

Lunch or Dinner

You can prepare these meals or prep some of the ingredients ahead of time. You can store it for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze it for later use.

  • Bean chili

  • Healthy soups

  • Mushroom and barley

  • Pumpkin

  • Lentil soup

  • Healthy protein, vegetable, and starch meal

    • Grilled or sautéed fish or chicken breast with roasted, grilled, sautéed or stir-fried vegetables

    • Quinoa, sweet potato, or squash

  • Vegetable curry or stew with a side of quinoa

  • Vegetable ratatouille with a side of bulgur or barley

  • Build a salad

  • Start with a base: arugula, spinach, and/or kale

  • Pick a protein: tuna, hard-boiled eggs, chickpeas, black beans, edamame, cottage cheese, and/or grated cheese

  • Add some color: sweet potatoes, mixed bell peppers, mushrooms, beets, and/or celery

  • Add some crunch: chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, and/or roasted chickpeas 

  • Top with a dressing or healthy fat: avocado, olives, flaxseed, hemp seed, olive oil with dried herbs, and/or pesto 

Snacks

  • 1 serving Greek yogurt

  • 1 serving of fruit

  • ¼ cup (60 g) of raw unsalted nuts

  • Carrots with 2 tablespoons (20 g) hummus or guacamole

  • ½ ounce (14 g) dark chocolate (aim for at least 70% cacao)

  • 1 cup (240 g) cooked edamame 

  • ½ cup (120 g) of cottage cheese with 1 serving of fruit

  • 1 cup goat milk yogurt with live cultures and 7 almonds

  • 1 baked pear or apple with cinnamon, nutmeg, and unsalted walnuts

  • 2 dates with ¼ cup (60 g) of raw unsalted nuts

Sweeteners

To add sweetness use small amounts of dark chocolate, honey, or maple syrup, or stevia.

Sample Recipes

  • Breakfast Ideas:

    • Oatmeal - 1 cup (240 g) cooked *oatmeal can be made with water or any milk of your choice (milk/almond milk/ soy milk/oat milk etc.); ¼ cup (60 g) chopped walnuts or sliced almonds; 1 cup (240 g) berries

    • Egg & Avocado Toast - 2 hard-boiled eggs; 1 slice sourdough bread*; ½ avocado

      • *Try to find a bread/bread product without refined wheat flour, added sugar, or preservatives.

    • Morning Parfait - 1 cup (240 g) Greek yogurt; 1 cup (240 g) berries; 1 tablespoon (10 g) peanut butter; 1 tablespoon (10 g) of flax seeds or ground flax seeds (known as flaxseed meal); 1 teaspoon (5 g) pumpkin seeds

  • Lunch Ideas:

    • Turkey/Chicken Chili (2 cups [480 g] serving size) - Make with lean ground turkey or chicken, kidney beans, onions, celery, red peppers, garlic, seasonings like chili powder, paprika, cumin, and cayenne, diced and crushed tomatoes, tomato paste

    • Tuna Wrap - 1 whole grain tortilla; 1 can tuna in olive oil, drained; 1 cup (240 g) spinach; ½ (120 g) cup cherry tomatoes; ½ avocado

    • Mexican Grain Bowl - 1 cup (240 g) brown rice; ½ cup (120 g) black beans; 3 ounces (85 g) grilled chicken; 1 cup (240 g) roasted vegetables; ½ cup (120 g) pico de gallo

  • Dinner Ideas:

    • Ginger Salmon and Vegetables - 6 ounces (170 g) salmon, marinated with ginger and garlic; 1 cup (240 g) brown rice OR 1 medium sweet potato; 2 cups (480 g) steamed vegetables

    • Quinoa & Vegetable Stew - Make with cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, celery, onion, garlic, 1 cup (240 g) quinoa, and spices. Use choice of protein, like shrimp or tofu.

    • Chicken and Wild Rice - 6 ounces (170 g) garlic chicken (made with olive oil, minced garlic, and grated Parmesan cheese); 1 cup (240 g) sauteed kale or spinach; 1 cup (240 g) wild rice

  • Snack Ideas:

    • Nuts/Seeds and Dates - 1 ounce (30 g) dry roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds or ½ (120 g) cup raw unsalted nuts; 3 dates

    • Nut butter and Fruit - 1 serving fruit of choice; 1 tablespoon (10 g) of nut butter (almond, peanut butter, cashew, mixed nut)

    • Hummus and Raw Vegetables - 3 tablespoons (30 g) hummus with carrots, bell peppers, and celery sticks

Eating Out

Even though restaurant food may be challenging, you can still maintain your healthy diet. It is easier when you plan ahead. You can call the restaurant to ask questions or review their menu online. 

Here are some ideas to consider, depending on the type of cuisine.

Italian

  • Cioppino, a fish or mixed seafood stew combined with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce. Ask if the base contains heavy cream; if so, request the dish without it

  • Baked or grilled chicken or fish with a side of vegetables. Ask if it can be prepared without butter and cream

  • Whole wheat pasta dish. Ask for olive oil or vegetable (marinara) sauce and the addition of vegetables

Asian

  • Order sushi with vegetables and salmon or tuna

  • Request brown, instead of white rice

  • Try miso soup or seaweed salad

  • Ask for low-salt soy sauce

  • Avoid tempura and sweet and mayonnaise-based sauces

Indian

  • Many spices used in Indian cooking are healthy (e.g. clove, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric)

  • Try curry or dal (lentil- or garbanzo-based dish)

  • Avoid dishes with added cream

  • Order chicken or fish tandoori - tandoori is an Indian cooking method using a traditional clay oven

  • A great side dish is palak paneer (Indian cottage cheese cooked with spinach and spices)

Fast Food And Quick-Service

  • Burgers, chicken, and sides

    • Choose grilled instead of fried chicken

    • Skip the cheese, sauce, and bacon

    • Instead of French fries, choose a side salad with low-fat dressing

    • Have the burger without a bun

    • Avoid soda and milkshakes

  • A taco salad with leafy greens, beans, guacamole, salsa, and a lean protein is a good option

  • Chicken or seafood fajitas are a healthy choice since they have grilled, lean protein and a variety of vegetables

Take-along Snacks

When you’re away from home, take a healthy snack with you. Make sure you check the portion size and ingredient list. Some excellent choices are:

  • Dark chocolate bars (2-3 squares of dark chocolate)

    • More cacao is better - aim for at least 70%

  • Protein, energy bars (choose those with only a few ingredients)

  • Snack-size nut butter packets

  • Snack-size nuts or trail mix 

  • Seeds

  • Popcorn

Think about how you can make your own mixes. You can create combinations of dark chocolate pieces, almonds, sunflower seeds, popcorn, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and so on.

For More Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Healthy Eating Tips. Retrieved 3-31-2021 from  https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/healthy-eating-tips/index.html

National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. Aim For A Healthy Weight. Retrieved 4-14-2021 from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/

U.S. Department of Agriculture (2020). My Plate. Retrieved 3-31-2021 from https://www.myplate.gov/