28 Day Mediterranean Diet Plan
The Mediterranean diet isn’t a regimented plan, like South Beach, the Blood Type Diet or any others; it’s more a way of eating. After World War II, researchers began studying the eating patterns of 13,000 middle-aged men in the US, Japan, Italy, Greece (including Crete), the Netherlands, Finland and Yugoslavia. They noticed that those in countries whose diets had been restricted by the deprivations of the war had lower rates of heart disease compared to American men. Moreover, residents of Crete enjoyed the best cardiovascular health, leading scientists to conclude that their diet — fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and fish — played a major role.
When you embark on a Mediterranean-style diet, you give preference in your meals to plant foods and eat more fish than red meat. You also take the way you eat into account. Talk to your doctor about whether a Mediterranean-style diet would be right for you.
What Is the Mediterranean Diet? According to the American Heart Association, a Mediterranean-style diet typically includes:
Lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds
Olive oil as an important monounsaturated fat source
Dairy products, fish and poultry in low to moderate amounts
Very little red meat
Eggs (consumed zero to four times a week)
Wine (consumed in low to moderate amounts)
Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet Results of meta-analysis of 12 large studies conducted between 1966 and 2008, covering more than 1.5 million subjects, were published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2009. The authors concluded that the Mediterranean diet is associated with significant health benefits, including lower mortality overall, and reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Recently, there been some controversy surrounding the Mediterranean diet and its potential benefits. In 2013, a landmark study found that people put on a Mediterranean diet had a 30 percent lower chance of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease than people on a low-fat diet. However, in June 2018 it was reported that the initial study was flawed. Though researchers re-evaluated the data and determined the results to be the same, this is something to consider when determining with your doctor whether the Mediterranean diet is best for you.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid The Mediterranean diet pyramid looks different from other food pyramids. Social eating and physical activity sit at the base, supplying the foundational piece of the regimen. Research has shown that, traditionally, people in Mediterranean countries spend more time preparing, eating and savoring their food, and took their meals in the company of others. Contrast this with the American habit of eating fast food alone or on the run, in a car or at a desk. The traditional Mediterranean style of living was also much less sedentary than that of other cultures, including the United States, involving significant physical labor and activity.
Plant foods like fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, olive oil, herbs and spices make up the next largest slice of the Mediterranean pyramid — the nutritional base of the diet. These foods form the core of each meal.
Fish and seafood come next, eaten about twice a week. Poultry, eggs and dairy in the form of cheese and yogurt are eaten in moderate portions on a daily or weekly basis. For example, one review of research on Mediterranean eating suggests about four eggs a week. At the very top of the pyramid -- meaning you eat them only sparingly -- are red meat and sweets. Preferred beverages include water, as well as red wine, in moderation.
How to Do the Mediterranean Diet for 28 Days If you’ve decided to try a Mediterranean diet for four weeks, or 28 days, try a basic rotation of seven breakfasts, lunches and dinners and vary them over the duration of the trial. Once you get a sense of how the diet works, you can add in new foods and dishes to vary your options more.
Don’t think that “Mediterranean diet” means gorging on pasta and pizza, though. People in Mediterranean countries traditionally eat small portions of grains – for example, a side dish of 1/2 to 1 cup of pasta, instead of the full platter of pasta Americans are used to. Fill the rest of your plate with vegetables to fill you up without many calories.
Fiber and protein are your best friends on any diet. These two nutrients provide the satiety you need to stay full and content so you don’t overeat. If your goal is to lose or maintain weight, avoiding excess food intake will be important to your success.
Breakfast on a Mediterranean Diet
Start your day on a Mediterranean diet with breakfast, to fuel you for the tasks ahead and keep you feeling full for hours. Have breakfast with your family, if you’re on the same schedule, and try to avoid watching television as you eat.
On day 1, have a cup of plain low-fat Greek yogurt for breakfast, topped with 1/2 cup of blueberries and an ounce of chopped walnuts. The yogurt gives you calcium and satisfying protein, while the berries are full of antioxidants that protect you against cellular damage, and the nuts supply heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Have yogurt on day 4, too, but try pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios -- or sliced oranges and chopped almonds.
On day 2, cook a cup of oatmeal with an ounce of chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup of sliced apples for a breakfast high in fiber and protein; sprinkle in a teaspoon of cinnamon and maple syrup. Have this breakfast again on day 5, but vary the add-ins -- try 1/2 cup of strawberries with thinly sliced almonds. If you like milk with your oatmeal, opt for unsweetened almond or soy.
Eggs are on the menu for days 3 and 6. Have a frittata made with two eggs, red bell pepper, scallion and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese the first day. The next time you have eggs, break an egg into half an avocado, sprinkle with a little Romano cheese and bake. This not only cooks up fast, but offers you the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats of avocado.
Two slices of whole-grain toast with 2 tablespoons of almond butter constitute your day 7 breakfast; enjoy it with half a grapefruit or a sliced pear.
Lunch on a Mediterranean Diet
If you ate a hearty breakfast, you won’t be hungry until lunch. It’s best to brown-bag it because you can control the ingredients and portions, but if you eat out, look for grilled fish and salad as a menu option. Don’t eat at your desk while writing a report, but go to the park with a friend or join your co-workers in the lunch room. Bringing leftovers is also a good lunch option.
On day 1, lunch is 3 cups of spinach topped with 3 ounces of salmon or sardines; the greens are loaded with vitamins A and K, plus iron, while the fish supplies protein and omega-3 fats. Include some chopped veggies on your salad, like tomato, broccoli and bell pepper for fiber and vitamin C to help you absorb the iron. Have a salad again on day 5, but use romaine lettuce this time, and substitute cannellini beans for your protein and choose cucumber, carrots and asparagus tips as veggies. Opt for olive oil and red wine or balsamic vinegar for your dressing.