What Is The Mediterranean Diet? + The 20 Best Cookbooks & Items To Jump-Start Your Weight Loss

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What Is The Mediterranean Diet? + The 20 Best Cookbooks & Items To Jump-Start Your Weight Loss
Health And Wellness

With people intent on getting their bodies ready for summer, dieting seems to be on the rise. But not all diets are created equally. That's why many opt for the Meditteranean diet when trying to lose weight.

What is the Mediterranean diet? And how can you incorporate it into your lifestyle?

“The Mediterranean diet was voted The Best Diet Overall in 2019, as many studies show reduction in risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, specific cancers, depression, decreased risk of frailty in older populations, and improvement in mental and physical function,” says Chelsea Oarr, Senior Dietitian for NY Nutrition Group. “Because this lifestyle focuses on whole unprocessed foods, it is also possible to see a reduction in weight, especially when incorporating physical activity into your daily routine.”

RELATED: The 10 Biggest Diet Plan Mistakes That Sabotage Your Weight Loss Goals

A traditional Mediterranean diet is based off of the foods available in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

Adds Oarr, “It is a plant-centered diet that incorporates an abundance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes with minimally processed foods. At least fish and seafood twice a week; a moderate amount of poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt, and minimal meats and sweets. Olive oils, avocados, and nuts are the ideal sources of fat. Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts, usually with meals, as opposed to beer or liquors. And water is the drink of choice to ensure adequate hydration is achieved.”

Aside from yummy Mediterranean diet recipes, it's important to keep in mind the simple changes to make to your diet. But making any dietary and lifestyle modifications can be overwhelming at first.

When beginning the Mediterranean diet, choose a new dietary modification each week to incorporate into your lifestyle. Before you know it, you'll be following this diet!

  • Replace saturated fats and trans-fats with healthy fats. “Start by using olive oil in your cooking, and replace a creamy dressing with olive oil and lemon,” recommends Oarr.
  • Base each meal around your vegetables (not your proteins). “Choose a crisp, dark green, and whatever salad is in season. Then, choose a protein that will pair well with it,” says Oarr.
  • Add more vegetables to your food.
  • Choose lean poultry in moderation, and choose red meat no more than once per week. Advises Oarr, “Aim for at least 2 to 3 servings of fish and seafood a week.”
  • Swap your refined grains with whole grains. Not sure which to choose? According to Oarr, “Select fiber-rich, dense loaves of bread with no added sugar or butter, instead of choosing the white bread.”
  • Incorporate at least three servings of legumes a week. Legumes include lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peas.
  • Swap the potato chips, pretzels, and pita chips with a small handful of raw nuts and olives.
  • Replace your sugar-sweetened beverages with water. 
  • Choose the highest quality food. Farmers markets are a great source of locally grown foods from local farmers. 

Now that you know the basics, it's time to put your diet plan into action. Here are some of the best cookbooks, products, and resources to jump-start your weight loss.

Cookbooks

1. The 30 Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: 101 Easy, Flavorful Recipes for Lifelong Health

The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook has both recipes and an explanation of what to eat, why, and how it fits within a low-carb, high-fat diet. The recipes are heart-healthy, combat chronic disease, and cater to allergy restrictions.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

2. The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners: The Complete Guide

Begin with an intro into this diet, a 7-day meal plan, and 40 delicious recipes. With all these meals to choose from, you won't feel hungry and will be one step closer to your weight loss goals.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

3. Mediterranean Diet Meal Prep

This book has a huge range of breakfast and meal ideas. Whether it's for you, your family, or entertaining guests, you'll be well-fed for weeks. Not only that, you'll be using fresh ingredients nobody will be able to resist.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

4. Mediterranean Instant Pot Cookbook: 550 Quick & Healthy Instant Pot Recipes

For people who aren't too keen on cooking every meal on the stove, using an instant pot is a great way to meal prep for the week. And with so many meals to choose from, you will never struggle with creativity.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

5. The Vegiterranean Diet: The New and Improved Mediterranean Eating Plan

For vegetarians, eating meat obviously wouldn't be in their meal plan. Instead, this book focuses on whole-plant foods to add to your diet. It also provides shopping lists, nutrition information, and 40 recipes.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

6. Vegetarian Mediterranean Cookbook

These vegetarian recipes use fresh fооdѕ that are low іn саrbѕ, have dіѕеаѕе-fіghtіng phytonutrients, as well as аntі-оxіdаntѕ. With over 50 recipes to cook, you'll have all the inspiration you'll need.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

7. The Book of Cheese: The Essential Guide to Discovering Cheeses You'll Love

Since cheese is part of this diet, this book is essential reading! This book is organized by country, milk type, and technical classification, so you'll know all about cheese, even when you stop your diet.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

8. Les Légumes: Vegetable Recipes from the Market Table

Legumes are a big part of the Mediterranean diet as well, and this book has 110 healthy, plant-based dishes. Your mouth will water just from looking at the photos, and you'll be more inspired than ever to whip up a delicious meal.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

RELATED: 6 Ways To Maintain A Healthy Diet (And Get Your Family Involved!)

Foods, Spices & Oils

9. Misfits Market Madness Box 

Fresh fruits and veggies are a huge part of this diet, but Misfits Market gives you the not-so-pretty produce. In an effort to reduce waste, "rescuing" these ugly items means you get affordable whole foods each month. Each box packs contains 18-22 pounds of fresh and organic mixed fruits and veggies.

(Misfits Market, $35)

10. Omaha Steaks Lobster Tail Meal

Fresh seafood is at the center of the Mediterrean diet, and what better way to get yummy food than with this lobster tail meal? This meal pairs cold Water Lobster Tails that are wild-caught from Maine, and come with a warm and creamy Caprese Risotto. 

(Omaha Steaks, $99)

11. Happy Belly Deluxe Mixed Nuts

Nuts and seeds are good for us, and this mix has so many of them. This mixed nuts bag features a mix of almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, pecans, and hazelnuts.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

12. Roland Pitted Baby Kalamata

Olives are delicious and versatile, and can be added to salads, sauces, or even eaten as a snack. Roland Kalamata olives are a large almond shaped olive, purple-black in color with a strong, distinct flavor.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

13. Sanniti Spanish Non Pareil Capers

Get true Mediterranean flavor with these Spanish capers. More than just a garnish, capers have a taste similar to olives. And these come in a brine of salt and vinegar, making them even tastier.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

14. Rao’s Imported Italian Peeled Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are a great part of a healthy diet, and Rao’s are the best! Certified organic whole plum tomatoes are imported from rich and fertile volcanic fields of southern Italy, and come in tomato puree with basil leaf.

(Rao's, $4.49)

15. Sacred Tiger Culinary 20 Herb Starter Kit 

Herbs and spices are essential to any dish, no matter what you're cooking. And since it's a big part of this diet, you'll have meals that are tastier than ever. Included in this pack is 20 commonly used herbs and spices, including celery seed, cinnamon sticks, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and more.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

16. Planeta Frappato Red Wine

Red wine in moderation is part of the Mediterrean diet, and that's something nobody will want to deny. A Sicilian favorite, especially when served chilled, Frappato is perfect for people who prefer a fruit-forward and light-bodied red wine.

(Vivino, $21.99)

17. Chosen Foods Avocado Oil

Another healthy fat with a high smoke point, avocado oil can be used for high-heat cooking and baking, as well as in dressings and sauces. It's free of gluten, canola oil, and is plant-based.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

18. Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomatoes Halves in Olive Oil

Sun dried tomatoes are delicious on their own, but in EVOO, it's even better. The flavor, consistency and quality is something you won't find in a lot of other brands. Use this to add to salads, or as a snack with cheese and nuts.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

19. California Olive Ranch Arbosana Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is an essential part of the Mediterrean diet, and this EVOO uses California olives that are cold pressed and certified extra virgin. It has a subtle nuttiness and floral notes.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

20. A Dozen Cousins Cuban Black Beans, Mexican Cowboy Beans & Trini Chickpea Curry 

Beans are great to keep in the pantry and enjoy in so many ways, especially on this diet. Since they are easy to prepare and are nutritious, they'll be ready to eat in no time. No additional cooking or refrigeration is required; simply warm them in the microwave or on the stove-top.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

RELATED: How To Enjoy Delicious Indulgences Without Killing Your Entire Diet

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.

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