Nutrition Articles

The SparkDiet: Mediterranean Style!

Lose Weight by Adding Color, Taste, and Texture

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Juicy tomatoes growing under the Tuscan sun, oranges that burst with life, the steamy warmth of fresh-baked breads—there are several mouth-watering reasons to treat your taste buds to the flavors of the Mediterranean. The food is magnificent!

The Mediterranean diet approach is a composite of traditional cuisine and dishes from the regions that border the Mediterranean Sea (including Spain, Southern France, Southern Italy, Greece, Crete, parts of North Africa, parts of Turkey, and parts of the Middle East). But fortunately, you don’t have to hop continents to enjoy its fabulous flavors. It’s easy to add a little Mediterranean zest to your SparkPeople nutrition plan.

Besides taste, there are also a wide range of health benefits to this eating style. Reports indicate that people living in the Mediterranean have a lower risk of heart disease, decreased risk for certain types of cancer, and a longer life expectancy. In fact, a 2011 study published in The British Journal of Cancer showed the greater a participant's adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet, the lower his or his overall cancer risk was. While a 2009 study in The Journal of Nutrition showed the diet led to lower levels of abdominal fat, the kind linked to both heart disease and metabolic syndrome. And a major clinical study published this year in The New England Journal of Medicine found that about 30% of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented with a Mediterranean-style eating plan.

To incorporate the healthy Mediterranean way into your own SparkDiet, here are some meal-planning tips. (You can also find delicious recipes here.)

Enjoy Daily:

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables (at least 3 or more servings of each per day)
  • 1 glass of wine with a meal
  • Chicken, fish (not fried) or legumes as a source of protein
  • Olive oil and nuts as a source of fat
Don’t forget to share this dining experience with family and friends. The Mediterranean-style diet is part of an entire cultural package that includes strong social and family bonds, which are often experienced around shared meals.
The British Journal of Cancer, "Mediterranean dietary pattern and cancer risk in the EPIC cohort,", accessed May 24, 2013.

The Journal of Nutrition, "Adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower abdominal adiposity in European men and women,", accessed May 24, 2013.

The New England Journal of Medicine, "Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet,", accessed on May 24, 2013.

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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • I think it should be mentioned that wine is not good for all. Especially those who are alcoholics. - 8/5/2014 7:54:33 AM
  • Great article. - 8/11/2013 5:05:05 PM
  • to SCAPP3LL3, hi I' m italian and it is true all the grains we eat are white! they used to be whole my granny used to eat whole wheat homemade bread but now the whole grains product are kind an old fashion thing, or they are available just for people that are in a diet or for whoever want to change lifestyle for better. the main problem is that a pound of whole wheat could cost somenthing in between 2 up to 4 euro while a pound of plain refined dececco costs about 1 euro O.O.... the good thing is we don't use a lots of butter but we use extra vergin olive oil and we eat a lots of veggie and fruits and beans or lentils and so on... it is sure that the most famous dish are super fat super igh in calories like lasagna pizza, pesto, cotoletta alla milanese, risotto (the real one is made whith butter veggies or fish or meat and broth and cheese a lot of cheese) but it is also true that we enjoy those meal just during big occasion.... i think the last time I eat lasagna at home was during christmas so it is something once in a while..... the only problem is that the whole grains are little bit expensive :( - 6/6/2013 3:58:26 PM
  • Sounds great but its not true. I live in Italy, they eat cookies for breakfast. Seriously. And they NEVER eat healthy whole grains. All the fresh breads, pastas, pastries, etc. are from white, refined, simple-carb flour.
    They are thinner, but not necessarily healthier. They have a huge rate of diabetes in people 60 and older. And all the other human conditions common in America. Except obesity.
    - 2/15/2013 10:05:51 PM
  • Yumm. Sounds wonderful but I always have such a problem with portion control with pasta. - 10/12/2012 8:29:48 PM
    Sounds great , think I'll give it a try - 9/10/2012 8:41:58 AM
  • I would love to go to the Mediterranean and try it from the original source. - 9/10/2012 3:07:27 AM
  • I am going to look for a med. cookbook--all of it sounds delicious and I was reading an article that women 50+ should follow this diet plan. - 7/24/2012 1:10:20 AM
  • I'm trying this out - might be right for me. - 7/23/2012 2:05:42 PM
  • Honestly I was skeptical about this until I lived in Italy for a few months. I lost 20 pounds in 3 months over there. - 12/21/2011 8:56:35 AM
  • This is a great way to eat. I actually eat a LOT less, because of all the new textures and flavors. I love a good citrus salad dressing, too! :-) - 5/10/2011 9:41:12 AM
  • Just wondering why there isn't a Mediterranean Cuisine recipe section on the site? - 1/15/2011 2:43:53 PM
    Sounds really high carb :-( - 12/27/2010 10:29:06 AM
    This is a really good way to eat! I have really had to train myself to eat more vegetables when sometimes I just want bread. But I love my afternoon snack of a fresh apple and almonds or walnuts. Thanks Maddy for the cookbook recommendation--I am going to request that at the library for more ideas. - 12/25/2010 6:44:05 PM
  • The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein is a GREAT cookbook for wonderful recipes influenced by styles from Spain to Morocco to Italia. I wasn't a vegan when I got this book and I felt free to add cheese or chicken to different recipes, but it was also my transition book to becoming vegan. There are no meat substitutes, just excellent, flavorful whole foods. The quick minestrone is still one of my stand by soups 4 1/2 years later. It's a great way to eat especially in the summer when my garden is giving me all that lovely "Mediterranean" produce! - 12/25/2010 10:29:54 AM

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