- The Mediterranean Diet is the number one diet for 2019.
- All of the experts enjoy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, and olive oil on this heart-healthy eating plan.
- Yes, you can have a glass of red wine with dinner. Remember, all things in moderation.
It's no secret that the Mediterranean Diet is one of the most popular nutrition plans of 2019. U.S. News and World Report ranked it number one and gave it the title of Best Diet Overall. Experts swear by the long list of health benefits including weight loss, diabetes prevention and control and dieters flock to the relatively easy-to-follow plan.
With all this positive press, you might be wondering what combination of foods and meal plans make the Mediterranean Diet worth trying. INSIDER asked three dietitians to share what a full day of eating looks like on the Mediterranean Diet.
Rachel Berman, RD, general manager at Verywell
Breakfast: Veggie omelet with whole wheat pita.
"Eggs are a great source of protein and readily available in Mediterranean countries," Rachel Berman, RD, and general manager at Verywell, told INSIDER. Plus, you can fill your omelet with any veggies, but some favorite choices include artichokes, sweet potatoes, onions, and zucchini. For a dose of heart-healthy fiber and minerals, Berman includes whole-grains such as a whole-wheat pita to her breakfast.
Lunch: Mediterranean salad with chickpeas, avocado, pistachios, quinoa, and extra virgin olive oil.
Berman said this lunch brings together many of the principles of the Mediterranean Diet. It's rich in plant foods like legumes, which are a great source of protein and fiber, whole grains like quinoa, and olive oil. "Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and is widely used in the Mediterranean due to its availability from indigenous olive trees," Berman said. The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes foods that are fresh and locally sourced.
Snack: Greek yogurt + figs.
"The way Greek yogurt is processed really originated in the Mediterranean region," Berman told INSIDER. It drains the liquid whey and leaves a creamier consistency yogurt, which Berman said is a great source of protein and calcium. "And figs, whether fresh or dried, adds a Mediterranean flair to any dish," she added.
Dinner: Grilled salmon with spinach, tomato and basil whole wheat pasta.
The Mediterranean Diet is named after the sea, so naturally, Berman said it should include fresh fish like salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Dessert: Baked pear and ounce of dark chocolate.
Like many other people who follow this style of eating, Berman said the Mediterranean diet is about a way of life. "It's not a restrictive plan and should be something you can adhere to for life." That's why she always include a portion of dessert to top off the day.
Emily Wunder, MSCN, RD, LDN, and creator of Healthier Taste
Breakfast: Plain Greek yogurt flavored with fresh blueberries and honey.
Fruit is a staple on the Mediterranean Diet, which is why Emily Wunder, MSCN, RD, LDN, and creator of Healthier Taste told INSIDER that it's a great way to start the day. Since you can enjoy lean, quality dairy on this plan, she likes to mix her fruit in with Greek yogurt. "This helps to add protein while selecting a plain type of yogurt limits added sugar," explained Wunder. For a little natural sweetness, you can add honey.
Snack: Palm of almonds.
Nuts and peanuts, in general, make a great daily go-to snack. Her tip? Have them pre-portioned so you can grab them on the go and not overdo it.
Lunch: Grain bowl with farro, butternut squash, spinach, zucchini, feta cheese, oil, red wine vinegar, and sunflower seeds.
This warm salad/grain bowl is a lunch favorite of Wunder's. "Enjoy whole grains like farro, quinoa, and kamut with your favorite veggies." For grains, she said to aim for a portion size about the size of your clenched fist. And sunflower seeds make a healthy and flavorful topping to add more healthy fats to your meal.
Snack: Handful of Grapes.
"So many people are looking for a sweet in the afternoon, so grapes do a great job to satisfy this craving," exclaimed Wunder.
Dinner: Salmon with sautéed riced garlic cauliflower, a Caesar kale salad with whole wheat croutons, and a glass of red wine.
"The Mediterranean Diet has a big focus on healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, and what better way to get these than with salmon," Wunder said. Plus, since this plan gives fish and seafood the thumbs up, plan to include this healthy protein source at least twice a week.
Wunder said to pair this with some flavorful vegetable sides and include whole grains as a salad topping. To top it all off, Wunder said go ahead and have that glass of wine, in moderation. This is defined as one glass a day for women and two a day for men. That said, water is the best beverage to drink on the Mediterranean Diet.
Rachel Fine, MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, owner of To The Pointe Nutrition
Breakfast: Avocado toast using freshly baked bread, smashed avocado and topped with a poached egg.
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"It's critical to create balanced meals that incorporate all three macronutrients—carbs, protein, and fat," Rachel Fine MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, and owner of To The Pointe Nutrition told INSIDER. Fine said ideal sources of carbs come from plant-based, minimally processed foods such as whole grains (such as faro, barley, oats, wheat berries, buckwheat) and minimally processed bread products (such as Ezekiel bread) OR locally baked bread products (local bakers are not generally using highly refined sugar additives).
Lunch: Grain-based salad that includes farro, leafy greens and colorful veggies, a source of lean protein (like grilled shrimp), an olive oil-based vinaigrette, and feta cheese.
In general, Fine chooses plant-based sources (i.e. quinoa, faro, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds), as these come naturally packaged with all macronutrients: complex carbs (fiber), protein, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
In regards to fat, Fine explained that omega-3 PUFAs (also known as alpha-linolenic acid) are essential to health, and found in flaxseeds, wild fish, and canola oil.
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"Aside from their anti-inflammatory properties, Omega-3's are metabolized into EPA and DHA, which are power nutrients for brain health," she added. Plus, using an olive oil-based dressing provides a dose of omega-9 MUFAs (also known as Oleic Acid), which Fine said protects our hearts and reduces overall inflammation. And you can't forget the cheese. Fine said using a strong-flavored cheese such as feta is a delicious addition to any meal and packs in a lot of flavors.
Dinner: Fish, such as wild salmon or tuna, paired with a complex carb and cooked vegetable.
For Fine, this dinner often looks like fish with lightly fried potatoes, which she quickly sautés using avocado oil with sautéed spinach.
Snacks: Whole fruits paired with nut butter or a handful of nuts.
"Snacks are another essential component as they help to maintain blood sugar levels between meals," said Fine. Often, she chooses a whole fruit (such as an apple) paired with nut butter or a handful of nuts. When pressed for time, she chooses a minimally processed fruit-and nut-bar, like LARA or KIND Pressed Fruit since both provide a nice serving of high-fiber fruit and healthy fats.