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The Mediterranean Diet

Nourishing your Body + Mind with The Mediterranean Diet: Everything You Need to Know

The Mediterranean Diet is the foundation of balanced, anti-inflammatory, and health-promoting nutritional habits. It can be modified to suit most dietary preferences, cultural diets, or food intolerances. It even works if you're not great at cooking (but maybe you could learn a trick or two in the kitchen?). Keep reading for Dr.Nicole's Mediterranean Diet Guide tips, tools, and details to get you eating for your health and happiness.

When we learn to love our food and our body, it becomes easier to make good choices for our health. But this doesn’t happen overnight. Foods often have acquired tastes, and as you make healthier choices, your palette will gradually direct your taste preferences. Just because you didn’t like it the first time, or the way it was cooked that one time – doesn’t mean you won’t like it at all. My best advice for embarking on any dietary change is to have an open mind and experiment in the kitchen – with veggies, spices, and other whole ingredients. A balanced diet with high quality carbs, fats, and protein will satisfy both your hunger and your happiness.

“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food” - Paracelsus

The Basics: Nourishing Foods to Focus On

The Pyramid: Structuring your Overall Diet

The Plate: Balancing Your Plate

The Checklist: Keeping Track

The Process: Making Change Sustainable

The Environment: Eating Mindfully

The Basics

Based on how people eat and drink in the 16 countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, we have learned that your body, mind, health-span AND lifespan can be improved by following the Mediterranean diet.

Focus on an abundance of vegetables, including leafy green vegetables. It also emphasizes fruits, whole grains, nuts & seeds, legumes, and extra virgin olive oil. Flavour is SO important to enjoying your food, and many flavourful herbs + spices also have health benefits, so use lots of them!

Given that the Mediterranean is near the sea, seafood is a staple in this diet. Fish provides a great source of healthy polyunsaturated fats and protein. Poultry is also a healthy protein option in this diet. Eggs and dairy are important sources of protein, fats, and other nutrients. These should be eaten in moderation.

Finally, try to limit red meats, processed meats, potatoes, and sweets.

Keep reading for more details!

The Pyramid: Structuring your overall diet

The Plate: Balancing your meals

The Checklist: Keeping track

The Process: Making sustainable change

The Environment: Eating mindfully


The Pyramid: Structuring your Overall Diet

Foods to eat in abundance form the lower levels of the pyramid, followed by foods in moderation and foods to limit in the upper levels of the pyramid.


The Plate: Balancing your meals

A balanced meal with high quality carbs, fats, and protein will satisfy both your hunger and your happiness. Try to portion each meal similar to the image below.

Source: Canada's Food Guide

The Checklist: Keeping Track

Use this checklist to see if your diet is meeting the criteria of a Mediterranean diet, or use it to keep track of your changes and adherence to this dietary style.


The Process: Making sustainable changes

A healthy diet needs to be more than effective – it needs to be sustainable. You can’t expect to completely change your eating habits overnight (unless you’re super motivated!) or else you will quickly revert back to your old ways. Start one meal at a time, one cupboard at a time, one grocery shop at a time to gradually make the move.

Eventually you will see that eating well and nourishing yourself allows you to live life more fully, cravings will disappear, and you will have more energy, emotional stability, improved sleep, less pain, and more.

  • Clean out your pantry – toss/use up anything highly processed (more than 5 ingredients)

  • Focus on increasing vegetables rather than ‘taking away’ other foods

  • Replace your red + processed meats with lean poultry, fish, and/or plant-based proteins like beans, legumes, and tofu.

  • Choose whole grain options over refined grains – whole grain bread, chickpea or whole grain pasta, rice, quinoa, and other whole grains.

  • Get creative with different herbs, spices, and veggies in the kitchen – you may find some ingredients you love but had never thought of before!

  • Fill your sweet cravings with naturally sweet foods – fruit, honey, maple syrup, dark chocolate

  • Replace your processed snacks with whole food snacks like fruit, nuts+seeds, cheese, yogurt, etc. Try to have balanced snacks by pairing a protein with carbs.

  • Choose organic, locally grown vegetables, especially those on EWG's Dirty Dozen list. Frozen fruits & veggies are also an option, and maintain most of their nutritional value.

  • Aim to eat plant-based 80% of the time. Or start lower and work your way up.

The Environment: Eating mindfully

Diet and nourishment is not just about what you put IN your body, but also HOW you eat. To maximize your enjoyment of food, support proper digestion and absorption of food, and to improve your hunger and happiness, implement these strategies into how you eat.

  1. Cook, smell, and look at your food - stimulating these senses will trigger the digestive process to begin by increasing digestive enzymes and stomach acid production.

  2. Chew your food well - 30+ chews per bite or until its fully tenderized

  3. Start with protein - this is the most difficult to break down, and needs the highest acidity to begin the digestion process.

  4. Avoid drinking more than 250ml of water before/during meals. This dilutes stomach acid and impairs food breakdown in the stomach.

  5. Meals are social events - enjoy food with friends, family, coworkers as much as possible.

  6. DO NOT eat meals while distracted with work, TV, phone, etc. - put away all of the stressful or mind-numbing activities and focus on enjoying your food and company in a comfortable and peaceful space.

  7. Eat Mindfully. eating mindfully = when one pays special attention to the act of eating. Try to pay attention with all of your senses - how does the food smell? How does it look? How does it sound as your utensil clinks against the plate? How does it feel in your mouth and as you swallow? And of course, how does it taste? Breathe deeply, chew slowly and finish swallowing a mouthful before you reach for another bite.

  8. After dinner, move your body & avoid laying down. Walk, stretch, clean the kitchen, etc. This movement helps push things through the digestive tract to reduce constipation, bloating, and insulin resistance.

  9. Eat at regular intervals to support insulin sensitivity, digestive motility, mood, and more.

This is a general guide to healthy eating, and may not be right for everyone. This does not constitute medical advice. Consult your naturopathic doctor or other healthcare professional for more specific recommendations regarding your individual health concerns and goals


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