The Mediterranean Diet Shopping Guide (and How to Use It)

The Mediterranean Diet Shopping List

Jamie Vespa, M.S., R.D –Eating Well Magazine (Special Edition)

There is no one Mediterranean diet but many versions, and at the core of any of them is extra virgin olive oil – rich in vitamin E, carotenoids and polyphenols – all rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used in cooking or in dips, spreads, and salad dressings.

FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Look for the colors – green, red, purple, yellow, orange are pigments that have protective functions for the plants they come from. Moreover, they furnish the antioxidants we need to thwart oxidative stress or inflammation with phytonutrients needed for optimum health and disease prevention. Buy them fresh and seasonal when possible but canned or frozen are just as effective.

FRESH HERBS AND SPICES

Aromatic herbs and spices are staples in Mediterranean cooking. These reduce the need to use excess salt in addition to their antioxidant properties. You can count on parsley, basil, oregano, coriander, and bay leaves. Use fresh basil to make a pesto.

FRESH AND CANNED SEAFOOD

Omega -3 fish such as tuna, sardines and salmon are

enjoy ed fresh, canned or frozen. Clams and shrimp can used in pasta or grain dishes. Most can be served with lemon, olive oil and herbs. Most Med diet patterns suggest seafood twice per week.

WHOLE GRAINS

Wheat is the foundation; however, other grains can provide some variety. Farro is one of the traditional grains in dishes in Italy. Another classic grain is bulgur made from cracked wheat berries and used in pilafs. Coucous, pasta and barley are also found in regional cooking. On the ingredient labels. Look for “whole-grain” as the first ingredient.

LEGUMES (DRIED AND CANNED)

The chickpea is predominantly used for making hummus. Lentils are used commonly in soups and stews. Both are good sources of fiber.                               

NUTS AND SEEDS

Nuts are good for snacking thanks for their protein, fiber, and healthy fats. A common condiment is tahini made from ground sesame seeds. Use as salad dressing or over roasted vegetables.

OLIVES AND CAPERS

Kalamata olives are most popular in the region and often tossed with green salads, pastas or as tapenades. Olives of all kinds are rich in heart-healthy fats and phytochemicals as snacks.  Capers are used to perk up flavors of pasta, baked fish and dressings.

CANNED TOMATOES

Tomatoes in any form (diced, whole, stewed, crushed, canned, fresh) are rich in a phytochemical called lycopene which may protect against some cancers. There is a plethora of marinara sauces in cans and jars as well as simply home-made.

GREEK YOGURT AND ARTISANAL CHEESES

The Med Diet favors full-fat dairy in small amounts. Yogurt is fermented and healthy for our microbiomes as gut-healthy probiotics. Cheese are made from milk and natural cultures in contrast to some U.S. processed cheeses.  Feta cheese is used classically in salads. Harder cheeses like Pecorino Romano and Parmesan-Reggiano are often grated into pasta.

RED WINE

Wine is commonly served in moderation with food – Not as part of “happy hour” (a 5 oz. pour is the standard). Red wine contains antioxidant polyphenols and the flavonoid resveratrol may help to increase healthy HDL cholesterol and decrease unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels.

Good Luck and Bon Appetit!!

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