Calories and Portion Control
Most of your calories will be from fruits and vegetables so start purposefully eating the recommend amounts each day. The good news is that you get to eat a lot more vegetables than you do meat, so make sure you experiment and find recipes with vegetables you know will enjoy. The Mediterranean Diet Facebook Group is an excellent resource for these recipes; I and others are posting delicious recipes on it daily. Pinterest is also a popular place to find great recipes that fit within the guidelines. Initially calorie reductions can come quite easily by eliminating sweet drinks, making healthy desert, portion control and sticking with the recommended ingredients.
Using the recommended ingredients is really the best second step to adopting this Way of Eating. The change really comes down to gradually or all at once eliminating processed foods. There was a question in our Facebook Group recently about a prepackaged but very Mediterranean Diet dish which people were discussing. The primary question was, since all of the ingredients are Mediterranean Diet, does this frozen and more convenient food meet the guidelines? There were several points of view which reflect the degree to which each contributor has embraced or adopted the diet. I think the consensus was it is better to use these frozen prepared veggie bites than to go off the diet altogether, but don’t make them a staple because your ingredients should not be processed food. Time, budget, available ingredients, cooking skill, cooking utensils, your taste and others taste are all factors in finding what is right for you and yours.
Ingredients then should come from local organic farms if possible and affordable. Remember that the Mediterranean Diet is mostly plant based so you will need to stock up on plant and plan meals to eat or drink them before they spoil. Once you have removed temptations and replaced them with the staples recommended by the Grocery List shown here, you will have many options for meal preparation. As mentioned elsewhere the perfect place to start is with roasted vegetables. This will boost your consumption of olive oil, provide a staple that goes with many other dishes, and reduce meal preparation time and effort. Moving away from processed food and eating a more plant based diet is a vital step to fully adopting this Way of Eating.
Bean and Legumes are inexpensive, wildly varied and can easily be kept on hand and stored for use when you can’t shop. These should also become your staples and primary source of protein. The variety of dishes that can be made with food from these families is inexhaustible; really these should be eaten every day if not every meal. Grains area close second and can be used frequently, however where bean and legumes can generally be eaten without restraint, the carbohydrates from grains should be unprocessed, whole grain and part of the portion control recommendation. For example a meal of bean soup with vegetables can be supplemented some bread and cheese, but those ingredients should be smaller sides rather than the focus of the meal.
How about Protein
Eating the right amount of protein increases your metabolism and the number of calories you burn. Target twenty five percent of your daily calories, at that rate of consumption your metabolism with burn as much as eighty to one hundred more calories daily than with light protein diets. As an added bonus higher protein consumption reduces your appetite, making it easier to exercise restraint and keep your portion size down. Introducing exercise, particularly exercise that build muscle is another way to increase your metabolism and burn more fat, protein and exercise together are a formidable combination for losing belly fat.
Ways to Eat Protein
In addition to beans and legumes the Mediterranean Diet provides the right balance of protein through occasional meat, seafood or fish twice a week, nuts and seeds, super foods, and some eggs and dairy. Much like with pasta and breads, using meat, seafood and fish as a side dish instead of the main caloric intake of a meal will provide plenty of protein without encouraging you to overeat. Vegetable protein sources include sweet potatoes, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, spinach, asparagus, and broccoli. Further protein options are seiten which can be grilled, sautéed, or fired; tofu, tempeh, and their source bean, edamame. What are known as ancient grains, amaranth, teff, and spelt are excellent alternative to commonly used grains. They can be substituted for rice and wheat in a wide variety of dishes, again boosting your protein intake.
Vegetarian or Vegan
Some people suffer from anemia when reducing or eliminating meat, while others cannot tolerate diets free of animal protein. First of all there are approximately one and a half billion vegetarians and vegans worldwide, although not all are by choice. It works well for many folks and with increased protein from the sources noted above; it is a good way to encourage weight loss. Anemia is a risk when animal fats are eliminated from your diet, with some planning and effort anemia can be addressed with the Mediterranean Diet. As noted above when you move to a plant based diet you can actually increase portions while maintaining or even lowering calories consumed. High fiber foods also aid with blood sugar regulation which can help diabetics.
Portion control is important to reduce your calorie consumption but other factors help determine your weight loss, overall health, how you feel, and your ability to maintain your Way of Eating. Combining higher protein, exercise that builds muscle while increasing plant based food will multiply the benefits and help you rapidly lose weight, depending of course on your current habits, physique, and goals. The feeling of fullness that helps you feel satisfied with smaller portions is easier to attain with a plant based diet and especially with higher protein foods. With a little effort protein calories are pretty easy to consume by using some of the alternatives to common proteins like ancient grains, beans, legumes, and high protein vegetables. Start where you are and move toward fully adopting the Mediterranean Diet, you will look better, feel better, and be better!