We have written enough about the Mediterranean diet, and by now, you already know that this eating pattern is surprisingly unrestricted. You can still enjoy bread, desserts, and some wine, but in moderation. This post, however, gives you the best Mediterranean diet substitutes to try.
The number one rule of thumb is that you don’t entirely overhaul your favorite recipes for the diet. Having these substitutions, however, will add up to the overall health tomorrow.
Our substitutes may seem simple but the secret is to start small. Although it may seem a lot like a meal plan for vegetarians, there is no denying that veggies make the most of a hearty, healthy meal.
Mediterranean Diet Food Substitutes
1. Mediterranean Diet Substitutes for Red Meat
Excessive red meat, according to experts, is harmful to your overall health. Red and processed meat consumption can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, especially colorectal cancer.
Harvard School of Public published a study that explored the health effects of regular meat intake and it made the following conclusions:
- One daily serving of unprocessed red meat — about the size of a deck of cards — is associated with a 13 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease or cancer.
- One daily serving of processed red meat — one hot dog or two slices of bacon — was associated with a 20 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease or cancer.
Of course, it is okay to eat red meat, but doing so in moderation and choosing the healthier types reduce the risk of heart disease. Too much red meat is not part of a healthy Mediterranean diet.
Luckily, to help you eat red meat in moderation, you can substitute it with fish or poultry. Go with fish on the Mediterranean diet menu and consume it within the dietary aide. If you can’t readily find freshly-caught fish, go with the frozen fillets that aren’t canned tuna.
If you’d rather replace the meat with poultry, make sure that you remove the skin before cooking. Otherwise, grill or steam it appropriately for the best results. And while at it, avoid bacon, sausage, and other high-fat meats.
2. Mediterranean Diet Substitute for Olive Oil
No Mediterranean diet is complete without olive oil. It packs useful fats and is highly recommended by experts as the preferred choice for healthy living.
Olive oil, however, can be quite expensive – especially for a large family. This is why many people would rather use butter.
Nevertheless, olive oil remains the best choice that should remain a substitute for butter. Butter is saturated fat; therefore, it is unhealthy.
Olive oil can be used for salads, Mediterranean diet snacks, Mediterranean-style cooking, and Mediterranean diet desserts among other foods on the list.
Even when you are baking Mediterranean diet snacks, ditch the butter, no matter how much you are used to it. Try the flavored olive oil instead.
Better yet, the Mediterranean diet cakes and desserts baked using olive oil are moist, sweet, and delicious! Other butter substitutes include canola oil.
3. Mediterranean Diet Substitutes for Refined Carbohydrates
Just like in a low-carb diet, refined carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, and rice should be substituted with wholegrains containing lots of dietary fiber. Going with the brown diversity is highly recommended.
In place of a fully refined carbohydrate breakfast, opt for cereal that contains whole grains, including a few nuts or oats, fruits, and garnish with olive oil.
Refined grains contain lots of sugars and empty calories. They practically contain no nutritional value but can leave you vulnerable to certain types of diseases not to mention making you overweight.
The high sugars contained in refined grains are oxidized slowly in the body leading to a slow or a lowered rise in the level of blood sugar. Refined products cause a sharp drop that typically leaves one hungry.
You can also make whole grains at home. You can always choose to use a whole meal instead of white flour for cooking and baking. The result will not only be delicious, but it will make you forget you needed it in the first place.
4. Mediterranean Diet Substitutes for Processed Foods
The best Mediterranean diet substitutes for processed foods are fresh farm produce. Eating plant-based or whole foods is key in this eating pattern. And with a focus on fresh ingredients, you can never go wrong.
Like refined grains, processed foods come with unhealthy fats and too many sugars as well as salt. Consequently, some of them may contain additives, chemicals, or artificial flavors.
The Mediterranean diet is worth following for a healthy body and mind. Make it simple, and you will reach your goals faster. To avoid processed foods, have a menu for the whole week – this is also easy if you already have your Mediterranean diet food list ingredients ready.
Also, remember not to easily resort to frozen vegetables when you can easily hop to the nearest farmers’ market and obtain fresh ones.
True, frozen vegetables might be better than those that have probably been lying on the supermarket shelf for ages, but always be on the lookout for fresh ones.
5. Mediterranean Diet Substitutes for Dairy Products
Dairy products may be quite beneficial thanks to minerals like calcium which makes for stronger bones but one fact remains, they also contain saturated fats.
Anyone who has tried the Mediterranean diet knows that the dairy products that feature in the pyramid should be used in moderation.
It is, therefore, ideal to switch to low-fat types. Think of the tasty Greek yogurt and cheese taken as part of the meal, though not like the main course.
6. Mediterranean Diet Substitutes for Desserts
Part of any healthy culture, well, at least as it were, is to finish every course with desserts. It takes many forms, and different people have their preferences. Others go with cookies whereas some prefer cakes. Then there are those who are not so far off from a Mediterranean diet – those who have fruits.
Cookies and cakes, although not frequently recommended, should only be spared for special occasions like during a family get-together.
These desserts, nonetheless, should be made using olive oil, that is, if you must have them. Otherwise, use fresh fruits and chosen sweets as desserts.
Pears, bananas, dates, apples, strawberries, peaches, melons, grapes, and figs, to name a few are highly permitted.
It is important, however, to remember that some fruits are high in calories and may add to one’s body weight or spike blood sugar levels. They should, therefore, be eaten in moderation.
7. Don’t Salt, Use Spices and Herbs
Spices and herbs are some of the best Mediterranean substitutes for salt. Yes, it is time to give your salt shaker a break. This particular diet calls for herbs and spices to make the food tastier and delicious.
Best of all is that doing the switch is relatively easy. All one needs to do is season food with spices that contain no calories but are full of sweet flavors that make meals even more sumptuous.
Salt is linked with high blood pressure in some individuals and is a potential risk for heart disease and stomach cancer.
Most American diets use lots of salts due to the ingredients being highly processed. By using herbs and spices, you not only eliminate the need for salt in your meals but also practice healthy eating.
Both fresh and dried herbs will suffice. The herbs allow you to turn even the most typical diet foods into incredible meals. Basil is one preferable herb that can be used in pasta.
Chopped mints add to the flavor of your salad. When it comes to spices, ginger and smoky paprika for occasional stews of fish fillets are hard to beat.
8. Substitute Mayo for Avocado
Using avocado in the Mediterranean diet is the easiest way of starting a weight loss plan that works and is sustainable. Instead of using mayonnaise in most of your meals, use avocado.
Doing so will save you on the number of calories consumed every time you have your afternoon sandwich.
Admittedly, mayo makes your meal even tastier and many people can’t begin imagining their sandwich without it. That creamy texture is just hard to resist.
Nevertheless, keep it on the down-low if you must have it. Avocado also has the same texture, although the two will not taste the same, the latter offers even more health benefits. It contains potassium and fiber, which make part of a heart-healthy eating plan.
Mediterranean Diet for Beginners – More Tips
If you still can’t make up your mind on whether to follow the Mediterranean diet or not, here is a summary to help you know exactly what to go with:
- Focus on consuming whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seafood, use herbs and spices, fish, seeds, and potatoes. Don’t forget to include healthy oils such as olive oil. Some of them are high on calories, limit those.
- Minimize the intake of yogurt, cheese, eggs, and other dairy products. Go with low-fat dairy. Also, spare red meat for special occasions, swap it with fish or poultry or eat it in small portions.
- Ditch processed foods and refined ingredients. This includes refined oils, grains, commercially processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Mediterranean Diet Foods to Avoid
- Ice cream, chocolate, candies, table candies, sweets, soda, commercially made juices, and all the lists of added sugars.
- White bread, bowls of wheat pasta, cereal, bagels, and many refined grains.
- Saturated and trans fats are included in margarine, some animal fats, butter, and others.
- Refined oils such as soybean, cottonseed, and vegetable oil.
- Red meat isn’t the only type of meat to avoid. Ditch hot dogs, processed sausages, or bacon.
- Highly processed foods are generally a no-no in the diet. They all constitute junky and unhealthy diet meals that have more negative effects than benefits. If it comes in a box, don’t eat it. The same goes for packaged foods labeled “low diet” or “low fat” foods. Somehow, they some the highly processed foods.
To effectively ensure that you don’t include these foods in your Mediterranean diet meals, read the label for the list of ingredients. This is especially true if you are relying on a Mediterranean diet shopping list as you go about.
There are lots of Mediterranean diet substitutes you can choose from every day. Coupled with the thousands of recipes available out there, you will only be limited by your effort to prepare the meal or source the ingredients. The trick is to make it simple and to always have a 7-day meal plan. You might also want to invest in a Mediterranean diet cookbook.