Dietitians Dish: Mediterranean Diet offers way to eat healthily

Dec. 19, 2009 at 6:19 a.m.
Updated Dec. 22, 2009 at 6:22 a.m.

About 15 years ago, the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was introduced in the United States.

It is not a fad diet or a magic formula, but a pattern of healthy eating and exercise that was observed in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

People of this area appear to have the lowest rates of some chronic diseases and enjoy long life expectancies.

Several science-based studies, including the Lyon Diet Heart Study, were conducted along with 50 years of epidemiological research that indicated support of this observation.

What exactly is the Mediterranean Diet?

Since there are some differences in the countries that border the Mediterranean Seas, there is a variable interpretation of the diet. However, some of the simple, basic concepts include the following:

Center your meals around plant sources, including fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and grains, preferably whole grain and minimally processed. These foods should make up the largest part of your diet.

Consume fish and shellfish twice a week or more.

Choose poultry every two days or weekly

Choose lean red meat less often.

Add servings of cheese, yogurt or dairy products, preferably fat free or low fat, daily.

Consume eggs every two days or weekly, including those used in cooking.

Use olive oil as your primary fat source when possible

Regularly exercise and enjoy meals with friends and family.

If you drink wine, use it in small amounts, though this must be discussed with your physician and individualized depending on medications and medical history.

Limit sweets. Fruits are your best dessert choice.

Drink water.

Balance portions of foods chosen with exercise to achieve or maintain a healthy weight since weight control is a key component in managing many chronic diseases.

Portion control is the possibly the least favorite of suggestions received from dietitians when we counsel our patients; however, since obesity is one of the major health problems in the U.S. and growing at an alarming rate, it is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle.

It is indeed interesting and exciting that this way of eating may help reduce risk of heart disease and promote longevity, but, as with all health information, only your qualified health professional can advise you of your specific needs.

For more information about the Mediterranean diet, including the 2009 updated version, go to

Katherine Klingle is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to



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