- The Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of unprocessed foods like fruits, fish, legumes, nuts, poultry, vegetables, and whole grains.
- A Mediterranean diet doesn’t involve counting calories or cutting out entire food groups, and the potential benefits include reducing cardiovascular disease, preventing cognitive decline, and fighting depression.
- I decided to try to the Mediterranean diet for a week, and here’s what happened.
The word “diet” normally puts a bad taste in my mouth. I hate how restrictive most trendy meal plans are, and I’m not convinced they’re actually good for you. When I heard about the Mediterranean diet, however, I reconsidered my stance.
As its name suggests, this diet is based on Mediterranean-style eating. According to theMayo Clinic, a Mediterranean diet involves primarily consuming fruits, fish, legumes, nuts, poultry, vegetables, and whole grains. More broadly, there’s an emphasis on plant-based and unprocessed foods, plus healthy fats. Foods like dairy and red meat are OK, as long as they’re eaten in moderation.
The Mediterranean diet isn’t about counting calories or cutting out entire food groups – two things I hate about many diets. It also accommodates a social lifestyle – drinking wine and enjoying shared meals included – while other eating plans have interfered with my social life.
Would the Mediterranean diet change my mind about diets in general? Would it mitigate some of my depression symptoms? Would it lead me to spend less on food? I decided to find out. Here’s what happened when I committed to a Mediterranean diet for a week.
Day 1: I wasn’t hungry.
For breakfast, I bought one container of blueberries and one container of cashews to graze on over the course of the week. I often eat fruit and nuts for breakfast – just usually mixed with processed foods, like granola – so the transition wasn’t difficult at all.
In fact, I found that a handful of each held me over longer than my normal breakfast.
For lunch, I ate a watermelon, arugula, basil, mint, and feta salad. I’m a perpetually hungry person, so I was surprised to find that between breakfast and lunch, my belly didn’t rumble at all during the workday, which is rare for me.
My boyfriend and I made a modified version of thisartichoke and pea rigatoni pastafor dinner, featuring whole-wheat spaghetti, peas, Greek olives, artichoke hearts, and reduced-fat feta, among other ingredients. The combination was filling and tasty.
I love pasta and cheese, but I’ve been trained to believe they’re bad for me. I appreciated that the Mediterranean diet allowed for both, as long as they were whole-grain and low-fat, respectively.
Day 2: I continued trying new recipes.
For breakfast, I had a few blueberries before I left for work and some cashews when I got to my desk.
For lunch, I ate roasted zucchini, sweet potatoes, and carrots with farro and a sprinkle of reduced-fat feta.
Come dinnertime, we cooked a modified version of cod with fennel, kale, and black olives, using tilapia instead of cod. It was fun to experiment with ingredients we don’t normally use, like fennel. Again, I was amazed to find how full I was by the end of the day.
Day 3: I still didn’t feel deprived.
I ate the same breakfast and lunch as I did on Day 2. For dinner, we baked chicken with sundried tomatoes, onions, and a few other ingredients.The dishwas simple yet delicious. We also indulged in some whole-grain bread dipped in a mixture of olive oil and red pepper flakes.
Almost halfway into the week, I was expecting to feel deprived, but I didn’t. I was eating foods that I truly enjoyed and I wasn’t really left wanting for anything.
Day 4: I kept making simple adjustments.
Another day, another breakfast of cashews and blueberries, plus roasted vegetables with farro for lunch.
We made a modified version of one of our favorite meals –a salmon dish– for dinner. We skipped the premade salsa and topped the fish with avocado, cilantro, red onion, and lime juice. We also usually have white rice on the side, but opted for brown rice instead.
So far, it hadn’t been difficult to adapt my typical eating style to the Mediterranean diet.
Day 5: I’d grown used to the diet.
I ate – you guessed it – blueberries and cashews for breakfast. For lunch, I went back to watermelon salad.
We had an easy pasta salad with whole-wheat fusilli, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, spinach, and reduced-fat feta for dinner. While I normally make pasta salad with premade Italian dressing, we went with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to avoid unnecessary additives.
I worried that the days I skipped meat altogether would leave me less than satiated. The Mediterranean diet proved that plant-based meals can be satisfying, too.
Day 6: I was sick of cooking.
I skipped breakfast and ate leftover pasta salad for lunch.
While my boyfriend and I enjoy cooking and we make the majority of our meals, we go out to eat a few times a week. By Day 6, we were ready for a break from cooking. So, we stopped byNaya, a Middle Eastern fast-food chain.
I ordered a bowl with freekeh, chicken shish taouk, the restaurant’s spicy red sauce, and a mix of vegetables. It was nice to know I could pick something up without really straying from my regimen.
We treated ourselves to a glass of red wine after dinner.
Day 7: I passed my final judgment.
We grabbed bagels with cream cheese on Sunday morning, which probably wasn’t the best choice. My everything bagel was whole wheat, though, and I topped it with a low-fat scallion spread. Unlike with other diets, I didn’t feel as guilty improvising a meal out. That’s probably because the Mediterranean diet doesn’t outright ban any foods.
We had a late breakfast so we didn’t eat again until dinner. My boyfriend took charge of the meal, serving pan-cooked chicken in whole-wheat pita wraps with cucumbers and tzatziki sauce.
I assumed that by Day 7, I’d be excited to finish the challenge, but really, things hadn’t been hard at all. I had to spend more time planning my meals, but that’s standard with any diet change.
I didn’t notice a difference in my depression symptoms, but the trial period was admittedly short. I also didn’t save money on food – my boyfriend and I spent about the same as we usually do in a week. That being said, I did lose two pounds, without changing any other part of my routine.
This might have been because we hadn’t added salt to any of our home-cooked meals – the Mediterranean diet involves using seasonings like herbs instead. Research has found that a diet high insaltmay make us want to eat more, as Business Insider previously reported.
Above all else, it was easy to maintain, which is a major plus in my book. So easy, in fact, that I’ll continue loosely following the meal plan. For example, I’ll keep buying whole-grain pasta instead of regular pasta – I thought it tasted just as good.