I know you're probably thinking, "Ugh, another diet I'll think about starting but never will."
But, I'll tell you right now that the Mediterranean diet probably isn't like any other diet you've tried before.
With this diet, you don't have to give up pizza or work out for three hours every day to get results.
It's one of the best diets out there, and for a few good reasons.
The Mediterranean diet encourages people to adopt eating patterns rich in fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (such as those found in fish, seafood and nuts) and whole grains.
But, a lot of fad diets do the exact same thing.
So, here's what makes the Mediterranean diet unique, and a few quick suggestions to make this diet work for you:
It encourages exercise.
Many diets we know and hate try to help us lose weight by restricting calories and cutting out important food groups.
Not many of them have a built-in exercise component to go along with their "healthy eating" suggestions, which is why the Mediterranean diet is a definite must-try.
Its emphasis on staying active is actually what makes this diet special, and it's probably why its results have proven so positive in so many people.
The Mediterranean diet pyramid includes physical activity in its breakdown of recommendations for living a healthy lifestyle.
Experts don't just recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly for the fun of it. Just 30 minutes of fitness five days a week can strengthen your heart, help you lose weight and curb your cravings for your go-to unhealthy snack foods.
Studies have also shown that shorter, higher-intensity workouts are much more effective than longer, lower-intensity activities.
So, you don't have to spend hours at the gym every day to "be healthy." Thirty minutes is really all it often takes.
It discourages eating heavily processed foods.
There are different kinds of processing when it comes to food.
Every food you eat, even fruits and vegetables, goes through minimal processing before it hits grocery store shelves so it's safe for you to eat.
It's the heavily processed foods that are damaging to our health in the long-term (think microwave meals, frozen pizzas and even potato chips).
Experts estimate that over half the calories Americans eat are heavily processed, but the Mediterranean diet can help you knock down your junk food cravings for good.
It lists specific kinds of foods to avoid, all of them in the heavily processed category.
Foods to avoid on the Mediterranean diet include anything containing refined grains (like breakfast cereals), added sugars and processed meats, which are linked to an increased risk of cancer.
It actually works.
The first question you probably ask when presented with a new diet is: Does it work?
Science has a way of disproving fad diet claims with good old-fashioned facts. The good news is, researchers have had their eyes on the Mediterranean diet for awhile, and the results will restore your faith in meal planning.
There have been a number of studies on the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet.
Results show that those who follow the diet over longer periods of time experience healthy weight loss, increased heart health and reduced risk for certain types of cancer.
How to make the Mediterranean diet work for you
1. Start slow.
A healthy diet is pretty much just a series of breaking old habits and replacing them with new ones.
Depriving yourself of all the foods you're used to eating in the beginning is the simplest recipe for failure.
Slowly introduce new foods (and a new fitness routine) into your life over the first few weeks. Give your body and your mind time to adjust.
2. Eat a variety of foods.
The biggest mistake you can make when trying a new diet — even one proven to work — is cooking the same three meals over and over again. It gets boring fast.
A combination of different fruits and vegetables, proteins and whole grains at each meal will also help fill you up faster, which is super helpful when it comes to portion control and avoiding extra calories.
3. Choose fitness activities you love.
Exercise won't happen if you dread all 150 minutes of your workouts every week. Switch it up, too.
Stepping onto the treadmill every time you hit the gym has the same effect as eating salad for dinner every night. Yawn!
Do something different to keep yourself entertained while also working out different muscle groups in the process.
We may be looking at this whole diet thing all wrong. It's not about restriction or over-exercising to lose those last 10 pounds.
It's about figuring out how to make good food and enjoyable exercise happen.
Maybe this diet won't work for you, but you never know until you try.
It could be exactly what you need to slowly learn how you personally can eat healthier and work out more effectively on your own time.