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Top 10 tips for following the Mediterranean diet!

Top 10 tips for following the Mediterranean diet!

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world – there is a large body of evidence linking it to everything from reduced risk of heart disease to improved gut health, mental health and also increased general wellbeing1-3.  While it is well known to be a healthy eating pattern, many people struggle with how to practically incorporate its principles into their lifestyle.  Or they think if they don’t like Mediterranean food, they can’t follow the diet, but this is not the case!  The diet is more of a lifestyle and doesn’t rely on strict rules about what foods you can and can’t have. Read on to find our top 10 practical tips for incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your daily routine.

1. Embrace extra virgin olive oil (EVOO):

EVOO is the main fat used in the Mediterranean diet – and it is used liberally! Use it as your main cooking oil, but don’t stop there. The research shows the maximum health benefits come from consuming 2-3 tablespoons everyday4, so along with cooking, try drizzling it on your cooked meals, using it as a butter replacement in baking, and of course in salad dressings. There are different flavour profiles of EVOO, so if you aren’t used to using it, try starting with a light/delicate variety.

2. Swap out red meat for legumes:

Legumes like chickpeas, beans, and lentils are a key part of the Mediterranean diet. They are an excellent source of plant protein and should be included at least three times a week.  On the other hand, red meat is eaten less frequently in the Mediterranean diet, so try swapping out the meat for legumes at least a few times a week.

3. Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables:

Make your vegetables the star of the meal and try to fill at least half of your plate with different coloured vegetables.  They are full of antioxidants and fibre and taste delicious, especially when cooked in extra virgin olive oil!

4. Go for wholegrains:

Wholegrains like brown rice, wholegrain bread and oats are another key food group in the Mediterranean diet. They are full of fibre and will help with satiety – keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Some simple swaps include choosing brown rice instead of white rice, and grainy bread instead of white bread.

5. Eat more fish:

Try to have fish a couple of times a week, especially oily fish like sardines and salmon.   Oily fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for both brain and heart health5,6. Remember that you don’t have to only have fresh fish – canned fish is also a great option.

6. Eat seasonally:

Try to buy fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season, as much as you can.  Not only are they cheaper, but they are often tastier!  You could even try looking out for local farmers markets to find seasonal produce.

7. Snack on nuts and seeds:

Nuts and seeds make a perfect snack, or a delicious addition to meals and salads. They add healthy fats, fibre and a delicious crunch!

8. Eat less highly processed foods:

One of the most important aspects of the Mediterranean diet is the lack of highly processed junk foods (like lollies, chocolates, doughnuts, and sugary drinks).  While cakes and desserts can be important parts of an enjoyable eating pattern, it’s best to save them for celebrations.

9. Eat meals with family and friends:

Commensality is a big part of the Mediterranean diet – meals are shared with family and friends, rather than in front of the TV or at a desk.  Eating with others encourages you to appreciate your meal more, and to eat mindfully.

10. Stay active:

While not necessarily diet related, staying physically active is a big part of the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle. This doesn’t necessarily have to be going for a run or lifting weights – instead try to find an activity you enjoy, whether that is walking with a friend, gardening, swimming, or cycling.  Even incidental activity helps – take the stairs instead of the lift/escalator or get off public transport a stop or two earlier. Every bit helps!

View article references

  1. Dinu M, Pagliai G, Casini A, Sofi F. Mediterranean diet and multiple health outcomes: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials. European journal of clinical nutrition. 2017;1:14.
  2. Jacka FN, O’Neil A, Opie R, Itsiopoulos C, Cotton S, Mohebbi M, et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’trial). BMC medicine. 2017;15(1):23.
  3. Choo JM, Murphy KJ, Wade AT, Wang Y, Bracci EL, Davis CR, et al. Interactions between Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Dairy Foods and the Gut Microbiota Influence Cardiovascular Health in an Australian Population. Nutrients. 2023;15(16).
  4. Flynn MM, Tierney A, Itsiopoulos C. Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil the Critical Ingredient Driving the Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet? A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2023;15(13):2916.
  5. Dighriri IM et al. Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Brain Functions: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2022 Oct 9;14(10):e30091. doi: 10.7759/cureus.30091.
  6. Heart Foundation. Fats, oils and heart health [Internet]. Melbourne (AU): Heart Foundation; [updated Oct 2023; cited 22/04/2024]. Available from: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-living/healthy-eating/fats-oils-and-heart-health