You need help!
Are you starting out on the Mediterranean Diet but confused by the lack of guidance?
Did your doctor recommend you embrace this lifestyle without offering the slightest practical advice?
Have you started this way of eating but are struggling with conflicting advice you are getting from your friends, family, news and social media?
Are you wondering why you are not losing weight even though you are eating more vegetables and you have ditched your butter in favor of healthy olive oil?
We have a plan!
Many of you are on this journey because your doctor suggested you make a lifestyle change and adopt a Mediterranean Diet. This way of eating has been scientifically proven to reverse some existing health conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or pre-diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, and a variety of others.
The problem is the Mediterranean Diet does not exist. There is no such thing as an official Mediterranean Diet. Not in the sense that there is an Atkins Diet, a ketogenic diet or a Zone diet. In fact, the reason the Mediterranean Diet is the most sustainable is that it is not restrictive; nothing is off limits as long as you use moderation and make healthy choices most of the time. There is no prescription for any specific amount of any food group. If you did your own research, the only real guidance you could find was a pyramid.
So, what does it mean for YOU? What are you supposed to eat? While some people do well with general guidelines such as “eat more vegetables” and “eat less red meat”, if you have a medical condition, you are feeling some pressure to “get it right”.
Based on science
Having a strong scientific mind, I had to dig deeper and do my own research into the history and science behind the Mediterranean diet. I covered everything, from its origins in the Seven Countries Studies published in the 60’s, to the Predimed study published in Spain in 2013 and revised in 2018. I studied the history of various Mediterranean Diet Pyramids, from the one first published by Oldways/Harvard University in 1994 and revised in 2009, to the updated version published in 2011 by Cambridge University…
But since I believe in science, I thought it was important to add the perspective of other bodies of research into healthy eating. Along with the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet and the MIND diet regularly top the U.S. News list, based on input from a panel of health experts, of best overall diets, best diets for healthy eating, best heart-healthy diets, best diabetes diet, easiest diets to follow, etc. It made perfect sense to investigate these as their recommendations are very similar to those of the Mediterranean Diet.
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was developed by the NHBLI (National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute). It is also one of the diets recommended by The American Heart Association. It was first introduced in 1997 then further reduced sodium recommendations were put forward in 2001. The Omniheart study later attempted in 2005 to pinpoint the ideal macronutrient intake.
The MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) was developed in 2015 by researchers at Rush University Medical Center and the Harvard School of Public Health. Funded by the National Institute on Aging, their goal was to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by promoting a diet consisting of brain-healthy foods.
All this to say: I’ve done the legwork for you.
What you will find in our guide
We have built for you detailed recommendations for different calorie budgets. With our Mediterranean Diet Serving Guide, you will understand for each food group:
- what exactly is a serving size
- the number of servings recommended daily, weekly or rarely
- specific serving goals for certain food categories
- what foods are included in each group
- some tips on how to incorporate them in your diet.
We’ve tried to be very thorough. There was a lot of information to fit into this document, and the presentation can seem simplistic, but we welcome your comments and input!
How to find the appropriate calorie level for you
You can’t escape the laws of physics
The Mediterranean Diet is not a calorie-counting diet. It focuses on food quality and lifestyle practices. From a biological perspective, however, calories in minus calories out is an inescapable formula.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important for your overall health and can help you prevent and control many diseases and conditions. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. There’s no way around it.
Understand your total daily calorie expenditure
A good starting point is to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is equivalent to the amount of energy that your body needs to function if it were to rest for 24 hours. It tells you how many calories your body uses to function properly, so you never want to eat less than that.
Then, you need to factor in your physical activity level in order to estimate how many calories you actually burn each day (total daily calorie expenditure or TDEE).
The following calculator uses the Harris-Benedict Equation, which is thought to be the most accurate of all the BMR equations. Make sure you select “advanced mode” to factor in your activity level.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure calculator
How to use the result
If you want to maintain your body weight, your TDEE is the perfect amount of calories you should aim for. If you are looking to lose weight, you will need to subtract a reasonable number of calories (e.g., 500 kcal/day) in order to lose weight gradually and steadily. Keep in mind that weight loss will result both from eating less and moving more.
One important thing to remember: as you lose weight, your BMR will diminish. In order to maintain a steady weight loss, you will need to adjust your calorie intake accordingly. Another way to do this is to calculate your TDEE with the above calculator based on your goal weight instead of your current weight. You will lose faster at first but still continue losing without any major adjustment until you reach your goal.
Once you understand what calories level is correct for you, just follow our guide for recommended daily and weekly servings. You do not need to count calories at this point. If you are not seeing the results you are looking for, adjust your servings amounts.
Please remember to consult a medical expert if you want to gain or lose a lot of weight. Remember that calculating your BMR with a calculator is only a rough estimation and may differ from your actual bodily needs.
What you will not find in our guide
Our Mediterranean Diet Serving Guide is not a meal plan with set menus. It is a roadmap to help you design your own meals. Most of the time, meal plans do not work, and even when they do, they are only meant to be temporary. People do not stick to them, do not like the recipes offered, do not have access to the ingredients…
Our guide teaches you how to transform your meals and build lasting habits. You are free to choose the foods that you love, and you will learn how much of them you can eat to meet your goals.
While our goal is to provide science-based wellness information, we are not doctors, nutritionists or registered dietitians. Our guide is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Our guide is not intended for people with special acute or chronic medical conditions. If you have any digestive condition such as Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Food allergies, GERD, IBS, Ulcerative colitis, or Kidney disease, please consult with your doctor or registered dietitian.
You should always consult with a competent, fully licensed medical professional when making any decisions regarding your health.