Mediterranean Diet For Dummies
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Although any diet in which you consume fewer calories than your body needs can result in weight loss, the particular foods that make up the Mediterranean diet, the way the foods are portioned and balanced, and the added focus on how you eat make maintaining a healthy weight — or losing weight — that much easier.

Considering calories without counting them

Calories are the amount of energy in the foods you eat and the amount of energy your body uses for daily activities. At the end of the day, you can’t lose weight if you eat more calories than you burn through daily activity and exercise. To lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit, but you can do so without actually knowing how many calories you burn.

Without having some idea of your calorie intake level, however, you’ll be in the dark about how much you’re eating. That’s where the Mediterranean diet comes into play. Instead of counting calories, you think about the kinds of foods you eat and the portion sizes of those foods.

Serving Size Guide
Food Serving Size
Grains 1 slice bread
1/2 an English muffin, hamburger bun, or bagel
1/3 cup rice
1/2 cup cooked cereal, pasta, or other cooked grain
3/4 cup cold cereal
One 6-inch tortilla
Other starchy carbohydrates 1/2 cup beans or lentils (these also contain protein)
Fruit 1 medium piece of fruit
1/2 cup canned or sliced fruit
6 ounces (3/4 cup) 100 percent fruit juice
Vegetables 1 cup raw
1/2 cup cooked
6 ounces (3/4 cup) 100 percent vegetable juice
Dairy 8 ounces of milk or yogurt
1/3 cup cottage cheese
1 ounce cheese
Protein 1/2 cup beans (beans are also high in carbs)
2–4 ounces beef, poultry, pork, or fish (size of a deck of cards)
1 ounce cheese
1 egg
1 ounce nuts
1 tablespoon nut spreads (such as peanut butter, almond butter, and so on)
Fats 1/8 of an avocado (2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon oil, butter, margarine, or mayonnaise
2 teaspoon whipped butter
8 olives
1 tablespoon regular salad dressing
2 tablespoons low-fat salad dressing

Increasing activity you love

Exercise is an important component to weight loss and health, especially with the Mediterranean diet. Exercise allows you to not only burn calories but also strengthen your heart, manage stress, and increase your energy level.

If starting an exercise program sounds difficult for you, find activities that you actually enjoy doing and look for ways to get out every day for a walk.

Suppressing your appetite effortlessly

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet is not only great for your health but can also work as a natural appetite suppressant to help manage your weight. When you eat the right balance of plant-based foods and healthy fats, your body works in a natural way to feel satisfied. Following are the three main reasons a Mediterranean diet helps to control your appetite:

  • Loading up on fiber: Fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, provides bulk and slows down digestion to help you feel full for a longer period of time. With the Mediterranean diet, you consume much more fiber-rich food with each meal and snack, which can make you feel satisfied all day. These high-fiber foods also make you chew a little longer, helping you to slow down at mealtime.

  • Turning on your fullness hormones: Appetite is controlled by an intricate dance of hormones that trigger the feelings of hunger and fullness. The Mediterranean diet is naturally high in low-glycemic foods, those carbohydrate-containing foods that illicit a lower blood sugar spike. Low-glycemic foods may just help kick in your fullness response.

    One of the first signs of dehydration is hunger, so when you feel hungry, even though you just ate a short time ago, grab a glass of water, wait 15 minutes, and see how you feel.

Controlling food cravings

Keeping your blood sugar stable throughout the day is a good strategy to help manage food cravings. To do so, follow these suggestions:

  • Make sure you don’t skip meals or wait longer than five hours to eat. Eat a meal or snack every three to five hours.

  • Eat protein-rich foods and a bit of fat. Foods such as fish, beans, nuts, or eggs eaten with a bit of fat help slow down your digestion.

  • Eat high-fiber fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes with each meal and snack. You don’t have to eat these foods all at once, but include some combination of them throughout the day.

  • Manage your stress hormones. Stress releases hormones that trigger the “fight or flight” response and kick on your hunger hormones. First, manage stress levels, a priority in traditional Mediterranean life: exercise, get enough sleep, drink water, practice deep breathing, meditate, and relax. Second, when you feel a craving, choose a low-glycemic snack and include some omega-3 fatty acids.

Mastering the art of mindful eating

A traditional Mediterranean style of eating engages regularly in mindful eating, something that many have completely lost track of. With mindful eating, you can manage your weight by paying attention to your internal body cues. Yes, your own body has a very sophisticated weight management system built in that includes hormones that tell you when you should eat and when to stop.

These suggestions can help you refocus on these internal cues and become completely satisfied with what you’re eating:

  • Slow down: A good goal is to spend at least 20 to 30 minutes eating your larger meals. This time frame gives your biological system time to let you know when you’re full. Plus, it allows you to sit and enjoy your food.

  • Enjoy food to its fullest: When you eat, take time to enjoy every aspect of your food. Before you dig into any food, smell the flavors coming from it. Taste each and every flavor: during each bite, let the food sit in your mouth. Chew it slowly and take pleasure in the freshness and the many tastes that roll across your taste buds.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Rachel Berman, RD, a nationally recognized nutrition expert, has helped thousands of clients lose weight and improve their health. She is the Director of Nutrition and an editor at Health. As a contributor to numerous publications, and through appearances on various local and national radio and television health segments, she regularly shares her core philosophy of balance and moderation as well her passion about helping others develop a healthier relationship with food. Meri Raffetto, RD, LDN and Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RD, coauthors of Mediterranean Diet Cookbook For Dummies, share this philosophy and are contributors to this book.

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