Healthy eating: Make way for Mediterranean

The Mediterranean diet has long been recognized for its health benefits.

It has been highly researched, dating back to the 1940s, when it was discovered that people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet (based on the diet commonalities of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea) had very low rates of heart disease and were living longer than people in Northern Europe.

Yes, it can.

Actually, the Mediterranean diet isn't a diet at all, it's an eating pattern, a lifestyle approach to healthy eating, not a structured diet. Since it is an eating pattern versus a strict diet it's easy to follow and very flexible.

The Mediterranean pattern of eating is characterized by abundant plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and legumes). Olive oil is the primary source of fat. Fish and seafood are eaten at least a couple of times a week. Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt is consumed in moderation.

Red meat and sweets are consumed in small amounts, for special occasions. Fresh fruit is typically used for dessert. Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals. Stay physically active and maintain a healthy body weight and you're set.

Use these tips to eat more Mediterranean:

• Base meals on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, herbs and spices

• Choose lean protein sources like fish, poultry and beans more often than red meat

• Choose healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, avocados and fatty fish

• Enjoy yogurt and small portions of cheese daily

• Drink wine in moderation, if you choose to drink (up to two glasses a day for men and up to one glass a day for women)

Eating a Mediterranean diet is also environmentally friendly.

Shifting to eating Mediterranean versus a meat heavy traditional Western diet could cut:

• Greenhouse gas emissions by up to 72%

• Land use by up to 58%

• Energy consumption by up to 52%

• Water use by up to 33%

This information provided by Environmental Health, 2013.

With so many health and environmental benefits, why not start making some changes toward a Mediterranean eating style today.