5 Food Swaps for Following a Mediterranean Diet

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  • The Mediterranean diet is widely considered one of the healthiest ways to eat in the world.
  • Registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert shared five easy swaps to help you eat Mediterranean-style.
  • Replace butter with olive oil and add more vegetables to your meat-based dishes, she said.

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The Mediterranean diet is often ranked the best diet in the world and is widely considered one of the healthiest ways to eat thanks to its links with heart health and a lower risk of various diseases including Parkinson’s and diabetes.

The Mediterranean diet consists of vegetables, legumes, seafood, olive oil, and wine in moderation, and encourages minimal consumption of processed and fried foods, red meat, refined grains, added sugars, and saturated fats.

“The core focus of this diet is fresh, seasonal produce, plant-based eating, and healthy unsaturated fats especially from olive oil,” Rhiannon Lambert, registered nutritionist and author of The Science of Nutrition, told Insider. “Research suggests this way of eating may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and the onset of various cancers, improved blood glucose control, and a slower decline in cognitive function.”

Lambert shared five food swaps to try if you want to start eating a Mediterranean-style diet.

1. Replace some meat and dairy with beans and nuts 

Lambert recommended swapping animal-based proteins, such as red meat and dairy products, for plant-based alternatives, such as beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. 

This will “help to boost the fiber content in your diet, which is important for digestion and our overall gut health too,” she said.

2. Replace butter with olive oil

Instead of cooking with butter, which is high in saturated fat, use olive oil — particularly extra virgin — which contains healthier unsaturated fats, Lambert said.

“Too much saturated fat is linked to heart disease, whereas the consumption of unsaturated fats may actually help reduce the risk of serious diseases such as heart disease or diabetes,” she said.

3. Replace white carbs with wholegrain versions

Lambert recommended swapping white varieties of bread, pasta, and rice, for wholegrain versions.

“This will help to increase fiber consumption, as well as keep energy and blood sugar levels sustained throughout the day,” she said. “This helps prevent the roller-coaster of sharp increases and rapid decreases in blood sugar levels, which may leave you feeling low in energy, lacking in concentration, or craving more energy-dense foods.”

4. Replace sugary snacks with nuts or fruit

Instead of reaching for sugary, processed snacks like cookies, Lambert recommended having a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit.

“Nuts are a great source of plant-based protein as well as healthy fats, and fruit is a great source of fiber, so you’re not reaching for more snacks in-between meals,” she said.

5. Replace some meat with vegetables

Lambert recommended bulking meals containing meat out with vegetables and plant-based proteins such as beans, thus reducing the amount of meat you’re eating. Try adding lentils to a bolognese sauce, for example.

“Not only will this make your meals go further and be cheaper to make, you will get an increase in essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, fiber, and antioxidants too, which are essential for the optimal functioning of the body,” she said.

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