From Paleo to juicing to vegan, "diet" is not exactly a new word to the English language. But the food groups listed on the Mediterranean diet have us thinking this could be the ultimate answer if you're looking for a heart-healthy plan to shed the pounds and keep them off.
A Mediterranean diet is one that's rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and whole grains, low in red meat, and free of refined foods and added sugars. More than just a diet, this is a way of living—by eating wholesome, good-for-you ingredients. There's no counting carbs or eating five times a day; you just have to stick to real food and forget all the artificially-made products out there. This diet has shown to improve the overall quality of life, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and also have a major connection with weight loss. To help you get on board, we've compiled your go-to grocery list for what to buy to get started. And for some helpful tips to purchasing these products on a budget, check out The 46 Best Supermarket Shopping Tips Ever!
Not only are they a natural way to help you lose weight, almonds also taste great as a snack, as milk, or as a nut butter. You can incorporate these power-packed nuts into a breakfast, lunch, or dinner dish, or even bring a handful for a snack. Research has shown that eating almonds prior to working out aids in dropping pounds quicker; they're great to give you energy and super satiating. Nuts, in general, are high in protein but are a healthy fat—which means you should be eating them in moderation rather than mindlessly snacking. To make sure you don't go overboard on the almonds, pre-portion them by divvying up handful-size servings.
Hummus can be a healthy dip or spread made simply by blending cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas), tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices of your choice. Chickpeas are loaded with protein and a surefire craving controller, so hummus is perfect for using as a dip with veggies like celery or cucumber. You can also make a variety of different hummus flavors like roasted red pepper, sundried tomato, or spicy jalapeno. It's also a fun way to give some livelihood to your sandwiches and pitas, too! There are plenty of hummus brands at the grocery store—but with such an easy recipe, we vote that you try making your own at home.
Ordering fish instead of a steak may seem like an effortless swap to help lighten the load, get in some added nutrients, and maybe even save room for that brownie (made using one of these 20 Best-Ever Tips and Swaps for Brownies). But what most don't know is that 99 percent of Atlantic salmon is being farm-raised and soy-fed, reaping nowhere close to the same benefits that wild salmon does. The farm-raised kind is packed with around 1,900 mg omega-6s— a fatty-acid that leads to inflammation. Instead, go to the local fish market and pick up the salmon that's specifically labeled as wild. Wild salmon has around 39 grams of protein per serving and a more reasonable amount of omega-6s, so the heart-healthy omega-3's aren't overwhelmed.
Garlic is a great way to add some much-needed flavor to many dishes. From pasta to vegetables, there's no shortage of how far this little plant can take a meal. And it's not just for warding off the vampires; garlic also wards off bacteria, fungus, and body fat! It's filled with vitamins from manganese to vitamin B6 and super low in calories. Roast some garlic in the oven before combining it with cauliflower to create a soup like this one we love from Sweet Peas and Saffron.
Ezekiel bread is a sprouted ancient grain bread made with absolutely no sugar added. Instead of grabbing the white bread or the 'all-natural' whole grain bread (that's actually made with sugar and processed flours), go for Ezekiel bread. It comes in both classic sliced or tortilla wraps and packs in some extra flavor for your avocado toast or turkey sandwich. One slice has only 80 calories and a whopping 3 grams of fiber!
Whether you're squeezing it into your water, tea, or over your chicken, lemon is a nutritional way to amp up your diet because you'll get a dose of vitamin C and waist-whiting detox benefits.
A vegetable quinoa soup is just one way to enjoy quinoa. It can be used in energy bars, breakfast bowls, and even desserts. It's naturally gluten-free and a complete source of protein, with one cup cooked quinoa having around 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber; this is a definite go-to for picking a grain. It's also low on the glycemic index and high in minerals like magnesium. Because it has a mild flavor, it's easy to make it sweet or savory by cooking it in things like coconut milk or chicken stock, with your choice of additions.
Of course the magical cauliflower is on the list of foods to frequently dive into. This mighty vegetable is blasting with nutrients and minerals that are good for your health and easy to flavor. You can go the sweet or savory and turn this fibrous food into something fabulous! To get some the creativity flowing in the kitchen, check out these 17 Genius Ideas for Cooking With Cauliflower!
These little seeds have more power than appears. They are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3s, with major anti-inflammatory properties and lessen the chances of heart disease. In just two tablespoons of chia seeds, you'll get 11 grams of fiber, which also keep you satisfied. Who knew such a small seed with such a big impact on your health? Try getting chia seeds into your diets by making a chia seed pudding or supercharging your breakfast smoothie. They're also great as a topping for oatmeals and yogurts to give it a little bite you need. They have almost no flavor so you won't be changing any taste—just adding tons of nutrients!
OLIVES & EVOO
There's a reason olive oil used to be a reward to the Olympians—it's valuable benefits are a gift to your health! Extra virgin olive oil has been cold-pressed from olives and it extremely useful in savory cooking. Filled with monounsaturated fats, EVOO is linked to helping reduce the risk of heart disease and may even help in fighting cancer. This kind of fat has also been seen to encourage weight loss by breaking down belly fat.
Eggs have an endless list of good-for-you health properties and can go with just about anything. And don't fall for the 'egg-whites only' option anymore. Research has proven that the taboo of eating the yolk is no longer because the yolk is actually the best part of the egg and its choline will aid weight loss. Make an omelet or bake up some egg muffins to grab on the go. You'll get a healthy dose of protein and get in some of that good cholesterol. And eggs aren't just for breakfast, check out these 10 Awesome Egg Dishes to Make For Dinner!
Similar to Greek yogurt, skyr is Icelandic yogurt, but it has a thicker consistency and even more protein than Greek yogurt! This yogurt is strained an extra time and uses an extra cup of milk to get its great texture and bold flavor. Try Siggi's, which uses only natural ingredients like agave and fruit with milk from grass-fed cows and none of those artificial thickeners. Use a dollop on your soup or sprinkle in some of those chia seeds we talk so highly of. It's sure to make your belly happy, as well as your tastebuds. And to discover more types of yogurt, be sure to check out The 10 Types of Yogurt You Need to Know About.
Whether grilled, baked or seared, chicken is an awesome protein to eat to fill you up without filling you out. Chicken has a light flavor on its own, but adding spices and seasonings means you can really make it your own masterpiece. Top a salad for lunch or make an entire dish by pairing it with a side of roasted veggies. To see how to get the most bang for your cluck, er, buck, check out 5 Rules For Buying The Healthiest Chicken!
We're not saying red meat should be totally exiled from the Mediterranean diet, but it shouldn't be your go-to staple. While it may be filled with protein—a good for you source of energy and weight loss aid—it also has a ton of iron. Yes, iron is good for you; but when too much iron is consumed, it actually increases the risk of weight gain and disease. Have no more than 6 ounces of red meat each week and stick to the grass-fed meats as often as possible for best results.
FOOD TO AVOID
The list of "Mediterranean" foods to steer clear of could go on for pages, with most of them being the packaged, processed, store-bought items that are loaded with additives. For a list of food and drinks to avoid when you're on the Mediterranean Diet or if you're just looking to stay away from weight gain and risk of disease, check out The 50 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet!