Just 3 Principles To Master The Mediterranean Approach

The traditional foods of the Mediterranean Diet The Mediterranean diet has been recognized as the healthiest diet on earth for 10 years now. You may think that this is totally out of reach for you, because you just don’t live there. You don’t have fresh markets serving you local veg and fish from right around the corner. How are you supposed to get their healthy results on THIS side of the Atlantic? 

The good news is that you don’t actually have to live there, nor do you have to mimic exactly what they do. What you should do is understand the principles that make it work. Once you get these in hand, you can apply that in your own life. 

Principle #1. Eat Food

When you look across the globe, there are so many cultures eating so many kinds of diets. But for the healthiest of them, what stands out is not how many carbs they eat, how much fat, protein, fish or fowl. Those in the blue zones of Sardinia for example, eat carbs in their breads every day; eat their full fat yogurts every day; and enjoy vegetables, starches, and meat. 

But what they all have in common is that everything they do eat is a real food. It was grown. It had a mamma and a daddy. It was alive at some point. It is not some processed food product with a shelf life that will outlast steel belted radials. So if you want to eat what healthy people eat, start with principle #1, and eat food. 

So next time you go to the grocery store, use these tips when shopping:

  1. When shopping on the periphery of the store, avoid meats with nitrites, dairy with added sugars, and and anything that says it’s cheese “food”.
  2. When shopping in the inner aisles, choose foods that have an ingredient list that include ingredients you would find in your kitchen
  3. Avoid low fat foods as they usually include added sugars, and additives.

Principle #2. Eat In Control

There’s an axiom in toxicology: “the dose makes the poison”. That means a little bit of something may be fine for you, but a lot … is not. Some chocolate is healthy for you; a metric ton per day is just not. Those in the Mediterranean enjoy a little wine with their meals, but if you go from 1-2 glasses per day, to 1-2 bottles, that very same thing will become bad for you in a hurry.

To eat in control like those in the Mediterranean region, you have to actually love your food. That means to eat small, taste your food, and take your time with it. By loving their food, taking their time, and tasting it they allow their brain a chance to register fullness before overconsuming the meal. 

Even better, once you start eating in control, your entire physiology adapts. The amount you are hungry for starts to align with the amount your body actually needs. In other words, you eat all you want, you just want less. By eating a little chocolate, or cheese, or … whatever real food you have … you get the health benefits without having so much that the very same thing becomes bad for you.  

Use these tips to help you eat in control:

  1. Put your fork down between bites. 
  2. Serve yourself less than you think you would like. You can always go back for seconds.
  3. Really taste your food and enjoy it. It should take you anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes to finish your meal.


Principle #3. Eat with others

Cartoon of Mediterranean outdoor mealEat with your family, and with your family of friends. When you do this, eating becomes about sharing an event together, which is a common piece of advice for mindful eating. But what does this have to do with your body? 

When you eat with others, you tend to take more time with your food because you’re talking, listening, laughing, and engaging with the group around you. You also tend to take smaller bites because otherwise it makes it harder to speak with pasta alfredo dribbling out of your cheek pockets. 

In a company of friends, this tendency to slow down and take smaller bites works for you by increasing your enjoyment of the food, helping your body register fullness before overconsumption happens, and training your body to enjoy the the amount of food that is right for your physiological needs. Win win win.   


The bottom line 

As you can tell, we call this the Mediterranean approach because its success comes from far more than just the atoms and molecules of the foods consumed. It is about what they eat, but also very much HOW they eat it. And the good news is that we don’t have to live there to enjoy their deliciously healthy outcomes here at home. Just follow the principles that drive the success of their cultural habits: eat real food, do that in control, and return to the family table of friends. 

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