The ingredients that are common in Greece, Italy or Spain are not easily accessible to everyone. Plus, a lot of people may not enjoy eating them and prefer foods that are traditional to their culture and region. The important thing to realize is that just because you don’t eat fish and olive oil every day doesn’t mean that you can’t reap the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
Helping you stick with the Mediterranean diet
The more flexibility you have with a diet, the easier it is to follow it long term. If you focus on the principles that make the Mediterranean diet so healthy, you will have a much broader range of foods to choose from. This can also make your diet more affordable. Those on a budget should be able to find alternatives if they can’t regularly include seafood, specific fresh fruits and vegetables, and cold-pressed olive oil.
Other cuisines enjoy a lot of veggies and legumes too
The core principles of the Mediterranean diet can be summarized in three main points.
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, spices, nuts and legumes
- Include plenty of fish and seafood and use olive oil as your main source of fat
- Limit highly-processed foods such as sweetened beverages, processed meats, refined grains
As you can see, this leaves you with plenty of options. Many non-European cultures follow similar rules. Here are just a few examples.
- Vegetable curries are a mainstay of Indian cuisine
- Stir-fries rich in vegetables are a staple in Southeast Asia
- Guatemalan stews are made with lots of veggies and only a little bit of meat
- Ethiopian food relies heavily on legumes
None of these are typically Mediterranean dishes but they all contain many of the same foods rich in nutrients.
Ditch the olive oil for avocado
The Caribbean is another great example where a few simple changes can make following the Mediterranean diet really easy. Olive oil is imported here, which makes it pricey and not easily accessible. On the other hand, avocados are abundant here when in season and they are the perfect replacement. Many of the benefits of olive oil are attributed to its high monounsaturated fatty acid content and low saturated fatty acid content. And it turns out that avocados contain a very similar ratio of these types of fatty acids.
Eat tubers in place of whole grains
Another great option for people who enjoy traditional Caribbean dishes are tubers. Tubers are a category of foods that include sweet potato, cassava (yucca), taro, yam, and white potato and they are staples in the Caribbean diet. They are eaten with saltfish and as a complement to game-meat dishes. Tubers are gluten-free and fibre-rich sources of complex carbs, just like whole grains. They are also good sources of essential micro-nutrients, sometimes in even greater amounts than some whole grains in the Mediterranean diet, such as brown rice.
No matter where you live in the world and which cuisine you prefer, you can apply the principles of the Mediterranean diet to improve your diet. Finding a way to eat healthy that you enjoy is the best recipe for following a long-term diet.