Published on April 01, 2019

Make way for Mediterranean

Teresa Farrell, Registered and Licensed Dietitian at Essentia Health

Teresa Farrell, Registered and Licensed Dietician

The Mediterranean diet has long been recognized for its health benefits. It has been highly researched, dating back to the 1940’s, when it was discovered that people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet (based on the diet commonalities of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea) had very low rates of heart disease and were living longer than people in Northern Europe. Over the years the evidence supporting its healthfulness has continued to grow. In fact, it earned top spots for Best Overall Diet, as well as Best Diet for Diabetes, Healthy Eating, Heart-Healthy Diets, Plant-Based Diets and even Easiest Diet to follow by U.S. News! Wow! “One diet can do all this?”, you may be asking. Yes, it can. Actually, the Mediterranean diet isn’t a diet at all, it’s an eating pattern, a lifestyle approach to healthy eating, not a structured diet. Since it is an eating pattern vs a strict diet it’s easy to follow and very flexible.

The Mediterranean pattern of eating is characterized by abundant plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and legumes). Olive oil is the primary source of fat. Fish and seafood are eaten at least a couple of times a week. Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt is consumed in moderation. Red meat and sweets are consumed in small amounts, for special occasions. Fresh fruit is typically used for dessert. Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals. Stay physically active and maintain a healthy body weight and you’re set.

Use these tips to eat more Mediterranean:

  • base meals on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, herbs and spices.
  • choose lean protein sources like fish, poultry and beans more often than red meat
  • choose healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, avocados and fatty fish
  • enjoy yogurt and small portions of cheese daily
  • drink wine in moderation, if you choose to drink (up to two glasses a day for men and up to one glass a day for women)

Eating a Mediterranean diet is also environmentally friendly.

Shifting to eating Mediterranean vs a meat heavy traditional Western diet could cut:

  • greenhouse gas emissions by up to 72%
  • land use by up to 58%
  • energy consumption by up to 52%
  • water use by up to 33%

This information provided by Environmental Health, 2013.

With so many health and environmental benefits, why not start making some changes toward a Mediterranean eating style today.

A good website to go to for more information is

Chicken, Fennel and Orange Salad
Serves: 4 (side dish servings)

2 - 4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 - tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ - cup bite-sized broccoli florets
2 - small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 - orange, peeled and segmented
6 - cherry tomatoes, halved
1 - avocado, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped chives


  1. Using a rolling pin flatten the chicken breasts to an even thickness. Season all sides with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once heated, sauté the chicken breasts until golden brown. Reduce heat to low and cover for 10 minutes. Remove skillet from the heat and let chicken rest, covered, for an additional 10 minutes. Slice thinly.
  2. Meanwhile, place broccoli in a microwave safe dish with a little water and microwave until the broccoli is slightly softened.
  3. Add the broccoli, fennel, orange segments, cherry tomatoes, and avocado to a large salad bowl.
  4. Mix the dressing ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Add chicken slices to the salad bowl. Drizzle dressing on top and gently toss all the ingredients together.

Nutrition information:
Calories: 270
Carbs: 22 grams
Protein: 16 grams
Fat: 15 grams
Saturated fat: 2 grams
Fiber: 7 grams
Sodium: 117 milligrams

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