The Mediterranean Diet

Grains are carbohydrates, or starches, that our bodies change to sugar. Sugar acts as fuel for muscles and organs. Bread, cereal, pasta, rice, and other members of this group also supply minerals. Most members of the grain group contain very little fat. But not all carbohydrates are created equal. Whole-grain carbohydrates, such as bran and brown rice, have lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Refined grains (that have not been enriched) have had their bran, germ, and oils removed and have fewer vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This makes whole wheat bread and brown rice better nutritional choices than unenriched white bread and white rice (think "good carb" and "bad carb")

Vegetables and fruits are complex carbohydrates that provide fiber and are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other important substances. Vitamin C, plentiful in many fruits and vegetables, may help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, strokes, and other diseases. Beta-carotene, which is found in yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots and yams, is another important substance.

Many nutrition experts suggest that you think of animal protein as a side dish to accompany vegetables and grains, rather than the other way around. In some societies, meat is actually used as a seasoning. Try including small amounts of chicken or beef in a vegetable stir-fry or in sauces for pasta dishes. You can easily get all the vegetable protein you need by combining proteins from several different vegetables in one meal. Dried beans, lentils, and lima beans are excellent sources of soluble fiber and protein. Nuts are another good protein source - snack on them or toss them on salads and vegetables - but remember they are high in fat.

Fats, oils, and sweets make up the tip of the pyramid. These items are usually added to foods during preparation or processing, so you may not need to use as much of them. One option for people with high cholesterols is to take either Benecol or Promise Activ margarines; using these in the doses recommended on the label may lower cholesterol by 10 to 30 points.

A couple of simple rules:

The above general diet applies to those with diabetes as well. A few additional suggestions for diabetics:

 Number of Servings
Food Group1200 cal1600 cal2000 cal2500 cal
Bread, Cereal Pasta, Rice, Starchy Vegetables34710
Meat, Poultry, Fish2222
Eggs, Whole4/week4/week4/week4/week
Milk, Cheese, Yogurt2334
Fats, Oils3468
Desserts, Sweets, Alcohol0222
One serving from the grain group is (but make it whole grain):
  • one-half cup of cooked pasta
  • one-half cup of cooked brown rice (not white rice)
  • one slice of bread (whole wheat)
  • one-half whole wheat bagel or pita
  • one pancake
  • four crackers (whole wheat)
  • one-quarter cup of granola-type cereal
  • two cups of puffed cereal
One serving from the vegetable group is:
  • one cup of raw spinach or other leafy vegetable
  • one-half cup of raw or cooked cut-up vegetable
  • one and one-half cups of mushrooms
  • one six-inch ear of corn on the cob
  • three-quarter cup of vegetable juice (but watch out for the salt)
One serving from the fruit group is:
  • one medium apple, peach, pear, banana, orange
  • one-half cup of fresh cut-up fruit
  • one-quarter cup of dried cut-up fruit
  • one-half grapefruit
  • three-quarter cup of fruit juice
  • Consider getting a Vita-Mixer to make real juice drinks
One serving from the dairy group is:
  • one cup of low-fat yogurt (this is a typical container of yogurt)
  • one cup of skim milk
  • one slice of American cheese (but watch out for the calories in cheese)
  • one one-inch cube of other types of cheese (cheese = calories)
One serving from the protein group is:
  • Any piece of meat, fish, or poultry the size of a deck of cards (about 2 to 3 oz) - but consider "vegetarian" meat-substitutes, like Garden Burgers, Boca Burgers, Quorn
  • one-half cup of cooked lentils or other dried beans - red beans with brown rice is a great meal, and easy to make
  • one egg (health guidelines suggest limiting consumption of egg yolks to no more than 3-4 per week)
  • two Tbsp of peanut butter
  • three slices of luncheon meat (medium thickness, 1 oz each) - we recommend the vege-meats, or the turkey meats; avoid traditional luncheon mmeats whenever possible. Be aware that all of these products tend to contain a lot of salt
For fats, oils, and sweets:
  • one Tbsp of salad dressing
  • two tsp of mayonnaise
  • one tsp of margarine or oil (preferably olive or canola oil)