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Mediterranean Diet & Weight Loss

By Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN, LD

People living in countries by the Mediterranean Sea are known to live longer and be at healthier weights than most regions of the world. [1] But, why? And, can you lose weight on the Mediterranean diet even if you’re not from that region?

One of the commonly cited reasons for their longevity and healthier body weight is their diet. According to the U.S. News and World Report, the Mediterranean diet is the #1 diet among many popular diets including DASH, keto, Atkins, intermittent fasting, and more. [2]

Read on to learn more about the Mediterranean diet, its link to weight loss, a sample Mediterranean diet meal plan for weight loss, and more.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern that focuses on consuming whole, unprocessed ingredients. While there is no single version of the diet, you would typically eat the following foods:

  • Daily: Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats from oils, nuts, and seeds
  • Weekly: Fish, seafood, poultry, legumes, and beans
  • Occasionally: Dairy products such as yogurt or cheese, eggs
  • Rarely: Red meat, sweets made with fruits and nuts

Unlike many other standard diets, there are no set percentages or portions to eat from each food group, making this more of a flexible eating pattern than a diet.

Additionally, it also encourages occasional consumption of wine, drinking plenty of water with meals, and regular physical activity.

Can you lose weight on the Mediterranean diet?

Yes, you can not only lose weight on the Mediterranean diet but maintain a healthy weight! The Mediterranean diet is one of the most sustainable and flexible diets for maintaining weight. 

A review of five randomized-controlled trials showed that a Mediterranean eating pattern was more effective than a low-fat diet and just as effective as a low-carb diet, without many of the limitations those two diet options require. In over a year, those following a Mediterranean diet lost a whopping 9 to 22 pounds. [3]

When you follow a Mediterranean eating pattern, you can expect to:

  • Be on a diet without extreme restrictions. Even a Mediterranean diet meal plan for weight loss doesn’t mean that you starve yourself. Instead, you’ll be nourishing your body with wholesome foods across all food groups. 
  • Eat less junk food and sweets. Goodbye, chips and cookies and sugar-sweetened beverages. Occasional snacks, especially those made with fruits and nuts like baklava or Turkish delights, are often permitted on the Mediterranean diet.
  • Nourish yourself with more nutrient-dense foods rich in healthy fats, lean proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The Mediterranean diet focuses on consuming whole foods instead of heavily processed foods and snacks with added sugars.

Focus on plant-based foods. Rather than the Standard American Diet (SAD) that includes animal-based foods with most meals, the Mediterranean diet consists of many fruits and vegetables and limits meat, egg, and dairy consumption.

Sustaining Mediterranean diet weight loss results over time

Since the diet is relatively unrestrictive and offers flexibility, it’s relatively easy to lose and sustain weight loss over time. 

If you want to see proof, the Mediterranean diet weight loss results from the countries who have been following this lifestyle for centuries speak for themselves. One study that followed Italians over 12 years showed that this may be associated with less weight gain and less increase in waist circumference, even without other interventions. [4]

To sustain Mediterranean diet weight loss results, you don’t have to necessarily continue “dieting”! Instead, try to continue applying some of the healthy principles from the diet: monitor your portions, limit processed foods, focus on eating mostly plants, and treat yourself from time to time.

Sample Mediterranean diet meal plan for weight loss

Following a Mediterranean diet meal plan for weight loss can be both sustainable and delicious. If you’re looking for an easy way to get started, try some of these sample meals and snacks.

Breakfast

  • Whole grain toast with avocado; orange slices
  • Omelet with vegetables of choice, fried in olive oil 
  • Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt with chopped nuts and berries

Lunch

  • Spinach and arugula salad with feta cheese, olives, cherry tomatoes, and hard-boiled egg, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar 
  • Bowl of cooked couscous, black beans, onions, tomatoes, and peppers

Dinner

  • Tuna patties, with Tzatziki sauce on the side; cucumber and tomato salad
  • Whole grain spaghetti with shrimp, cooked with olive oil and garlic
  • Lemon oregano chicken breast with roasted squash, zucchini, and tomatoes

Snacks

  • Fresh berries with Greek yogurt
  • Lightly salted nuts and seeds
  • Sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese

Be sure to consult a registered dietitian for a customized plan tailored to your needs as there is no single meal plan that fits all.

Getting started with a new diet meal plan can be difficult at the beginning. That’s why a service like ModifyHealth can make getting started and staying on track much easier. They provide Mediterranean diet meal delivery and entrees directly to your front door - simply heat and eat in 2 minutes or less.

What about a low carb Mediterranean diet for weight loss?

Many individuals are conscious about their carb intake, especially when it comes to added sugars. Although most versions of the Mediterranean diet are typically high in carbs, most of the carb intake comes from whole grains, which are rich in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals!

However, if you want to follow a low carb Mediterranean diet for weight loss, you could do so by making a couple of modifications:

  • Eat more vegetables instead of fruits and choose fruits that are lower in carbs. Although healthy, fruits contain naturally-occurring sugars that contribute to total carb intake. Some fruits that are lower in carbs include berries, watermelon, olives, and avocado.
  • Monitor your intake of grains and starchy vegetables with each meal. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate method, experts recommend making at least half your grains whole. [5] And, you can use MyPlate to estimate how many grains and starches you should eat at each meal depending on your age, sex, and individual needs!
  • Monitor your intake of dairy products. Dairy products contain lactose, which is a naturally occurring sugar. Carb intake can add up, so keep an eye out for how much carbs you consume!

Limit or eliminate sweets from your diet, especially if they contain added sugars. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest limiting added sugar intake to less than 10 percent of your total daily calorie intake. [6]

 

The bottom line

So, can you lose weight on the Mediterranean diet? Yes – whether you’re looking to follow a traditional or low carb Mediterranean diet for weight loss – there are plenty of healthy choices on this eating pattern to support you. It encourages eating plants, healthy fats, fish and seafood, and whole foods.

Unlike many other fad diets out there, you can also sustain weight loss over time by following the general principles of the diet. With nutrient-dense meal options that are consistent with the Mediterranean diet, ModifyHealth is here to help!

Explore Mediterranean Meal Delivery. ModifyHealth also offers optional dietitian support to coach you through your health journey.


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Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN, LD

 

 

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15482622/ 

[2] https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mediterranean-diet 

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26721635/

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29695712/

[5] https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/grains

[6] https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/