Among the dietary patterns specifically recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) is the Mediterranean-style diet, which has been linked to reduced risks of heart disease and cognitive decline.
A healthy Mediterranean-style diet includes many of the same key ingredients found in MyPlate for Older Adults. The chief difference between a Mediterranean-style diet and other healthy-eating plans is the emphasis on unsaturated fats found in plant foods, especially monounsaturated fat in the form of olive oil. All healthy diets recommend limiting foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy, minimizing added sugar, and avoiding processed foods.
Eating More Like a Mediterranean
To move your diet in a Mediterranean-style direction, try these suggestions:
1 Eat plenty of vegetables.
Try a simple plate of sliced fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, or eat salads, garlicky greens, fragrant soups and stews, or oven-roasted medleys.
2 Change the way you think about meat.
If you eat meat, have smaller amounts – small strips of sirloin in a vegetable saute, for example – or substitute skinless chicken breast or fish for red meat in a few meals each week.
3. Enjoy dairy products in moderation.
Eat Greek or plain yogurt, and include small amounts of cheese in your meal plans occasionally.
4. Eat seafood twice a week.
Fish such as tuna, herring, salmon, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and shellfish including mussels, oysters, and clams have similar benefits for brain and heart health.
5. Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week.
Build meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables, and heighten the flavor with fragrant herbs and spices. Down the road, try choosing meatless meals two nights per week.
6. Use good fats.
Include sources of healthy fats in daily meals, especially extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocados.
7. Switch to whole grains.
Whole grains are naturally rich in many important nutrients, and their fuller, nuttier taste and extra fiber keep you satisfied for hours. Cook traditional Mediterranean grains such as bulgur, barley, farro, and brown, black, or red rice, and favor products made with whole-grain flour.
8. For dessert, eat fresh fruit.
Choose from a wide range of delicious fresh fruits – from grapes and pineapple to pomegranates and apples. Instead of daily ice cream or cookies, save sweets for a special treat or celebration.
To learn more about ways to improve your diet, purchase the Healthy-Aging Diet from Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter.