May 23, 2020

Megan Callahan, MS, RD, LD
Hy-Vee Corporate Registered Dietitian

Chances are you’ve heard of the Mediterranean diet. After all, it has been named as the best overall diet for three years in a row by U.S. News & World Report.

The diet is based on the eating habits of people in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, who have been found to live longer and have a lower risk of chronic diseases. But the Mediterranean diet isn’t so much a diet as it is an eating pattern that can be tailored to fit an individual’s preferences.

Good for You Head to Toe
The American Heart Association recommends this diet for its potential protection against heart attack and stroke. Other benefits may include brain health, prevention of cancer and Type 2 diabetes, and weight loss. And since the diet focuses on a general set of guidelines rather than a strict list of what you can and cannot eat, what’s not to love?

Focus on Fresh
The diet can be grouped into four general categories: foods to eat daily, weekly, infrequently and optional. The overall focus is on fresh, unprocessed foods.

• Daily: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt, olive oil
• Weekly: fish, seafood, poultry, eggs
• Infrequently: red meat
• Optional: wine in moderation, if appropriate

So what does a meal or snack look like on the Mediterranean diet? A typical breakfast could include Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts or a veggie-loaded omelet. Lunch might be tuna salad on whole-wheat bread. For dinner? Grill a piece of fish and serve with whole-grain quinoa and vegetables roasted with some olive oil.

Move at Your Own Pace
If a major lifestyle change seems overwhelming, start incorporating these guidelines into your diet slowly. For example, if you’re not eating fish or seafood at all, try increasing to one serving a week. Or work on increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. For inspiration, you can find recipes on the website by searching for “Mediterranean.” Here’s a simple recipe to get you started.

Mediterranean Turkey Meatballs
Serves 16

All you need:
4 ice cubes
1 lb 85%-lean ground turkey
½ cup Hy-Vee traditional crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 tbsp Hy-Vee plain bread crumbs
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp Hy-Vee Select olive oil, divided
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp Hy-Vee salt
32 fresh spinach leaves
1 orange bell pepper, cut into 1-by-3/4-inch strips
Tzatziki sauce

All you do:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine turkey, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, bread crumbs, parsley, 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Shape into 32 (1-inch each) meatballs.
  2. In a large skillet, heat remaining tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Arrange meatballs in skillet. Cook, turning frequently, until meatballs are brown and internal temperature is 160 degrees. Thread on cocktail skewers alternately with spinach leaves and pepper strips. Serve with tzatziki sauce, if desired.

Recipe source: This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.