Do it like a Greek: How to start the Mediterranean Diet

It’s been hard to ignore all the noise going around about the Mediterranean Diet but what is this exotic-sounding meal plan? And what benefits does it have? Well, today we are going to give you a no-nonsense look at the health craze that is actually one of the best diets out there (it was the only eating plan to achieve 5/5 in the ABC Health & Wellbeing guide to weightloss diets).

So what are you waiting for? Here’s all you need to know.


Why it’s so good for you to eat like a Greek

According to La Trobe University Associate Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos, there are “10 commandments” of the Mediterranean diet which can help understand it quickly and easily, as it starting the diet is not as simple as many cookbooks would like you to believe.

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Instead of finding recipes that are labelled as Mediterranean, you can instead follow the commandments from Professor Itsiopoulous:

The commandments are:

  1. Use olive oil as the main added fat (around 60 ml/day);
  2. Eat vegetables with every meal (include 100g leafy greens and 100g tomatoes, and 200g other vegetables/day);
  3. Include at least two legumes meals (250g serve) per week;
  4. Eat at least two servings of fish (150-200g serves) per week and include oily fish: for example Atlantic and Australian salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, gemfish, canned sardines, and canned salmon. Canned tuna is not as high in the important fish oil omega-3, but still a good choice to include in your fish serves.
  5. Eat smaller portions of meat (beef, lamb, pork and chicken) and less often (no more than once or twice a week);
  6. Eat fresh fruit every day and dried fruit and nuts as snacks or dessert;
  7. Eat yoghurt everyday (about 200g) and cheese in moderation (about 30 to 40 grams per day);
  8. Include wholegrain breads and cereals with meals (aim for 3-4 slices of bread per day);
  9. Consume wine in moderation (one standard drink a day, which is about 100 ml), always with meals and don’t get drunk. Try and have a couple of alcohol free days a week;
  10. Have sweets or sweet drinks for special occasions only.

One thing to note is that the Medi diet is low on dairy foods as the traditional Greeks got their calcium and dairy intake up in other ways, through their food. The dairy levels currently advised in the National Dietary Guidelines. Sardines and other small fish with bones and leafy greens all have good amounts of calcium, as does slow-cooked meat with bones.

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Quick tips

If you are still trying to wrap your head around the diet that has people raving, here’s some food swaps you can do today:

If you like chips, biscuits, crackers and french onion dip, eat carrots, celery, broccoli and salsa

White rice with stir-fried or glazed meat, try Quinoa with stir-fried vegetables.

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And if you love your desserts and ice cream, chia pudding plus skim or almond milk is great-tasting and so delicious. Fruit can also help treat a sweet tooth!


Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

  • It can protect against type 2 diabetes: as the diet is rich in fibre, it slows down digestion and prevents swings in blood sugar.
  • Reducing the risk of dementia: Research has found that the diet can improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels and brain health, particularly with those omega-3s.
  • Preventing heart disease and stroke: All the red meat, grains and fish in the diet are wonderful for your heart.
  • Halving your risk of Parkinson’s: High levels of antioxidants prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress, cutting the risk by half.
  • Live a longer life: If you cut down your risk or heart disease and combine a healthy diet with exercise, you can live longer – it’s just science.


Tell us, would you try to Mediterranean diet? What other diets have you tried?