I'm A Dietitian and I've Always Followed the Mediterranean Diet
And it's worked for 20 years.
The Mediterranean Diet was named by U.S. News & World Report the top weight loss diet for 2019, but to me, it’s just the way I grew up. During my childhood and adolescence, I sent spent many summers in Israel, and my both my parents, immigrants from Israel, continued to serve up Mediterranean cuisine when I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Still today, I feed my three kids the same food as I ate growing up — and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Throughout my life I never realized the way I ate was considered a “diet” until I studied nutrition in college. When I was a girl, I would chomp on fresh radishes as a snack, which my friends thought was strange. And I was eating hummus long before it was a grocery aisle staple. I still follow the Mediterranean diet today. Here’s a look into how I eat on a daily basis.
Mediterranean Diet "Rules"
There are really no true rules on what should be eaten on a Mediterranean Diet, and you’ll find that the diet can vary depending on which Mediterranean country you’re talking about. My parents are Israeli immigrants and fed me a diet based on that regional cuisine, but there are 21 countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Albania, France, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus and Croatia, so many diets are based on the ingredients available in those countries.
During my childhood visits to Israel, I would walk with my mom to the local market and purchase fresh produce, local cheese and olive oil and homemade pita. Fish was definitely on the menu, but so were chicken and beef. We bought nuts and seeds, like sunflower seeds, almonds, and macadamia nuts from sidewalk vendors, which they sell by the gram.
As a registered dietitian and mom of three, I still purchase these Mediterranean foods every time I head to the supermarket. The foods you’ll find in my basket include skinless, boneless chicken breast, salmon, hummus, Greek yogurt, ricotta cheese, fresh herbs, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
Here is what I typically ate in a day — and still do today.
Mid-morning snack: Watermelon and chocolate labne (in the U.S. I pick up vanilla nonfat Greek Yogurt)
Lunch: An array of salads like babaganoush (eggplant salad), hummus, tahini, cabbage salad, olives, and pickles (all placed on small plates on the table); Vegetable soup; Lamb Kebobs with Mint-Yogurt Sauce; Lemon sorbet with fresh mint
Afternoon Snack: Fresh figs and almonds
Dinner: Shakshuka (eggs cooked in tomato sauce) served with Israeli-Style Chopped Salad and pita.
How I Indulge
The Mediterranean-style eating pattern includes all the food groups including fruits, vegetables, dairy, lean protein, grains and healthy fats. There is a wide-variety of foods, no elimination of foods or food groups, and exercise is encouraged. Even though the foods I highlighted are healthy, there are some foods that I love, but only enjoy on occasion. For example, in Israel French fries and schnitzel (breaded and fried chicken breast) are a favorite in my house. I make them for my kids about once a month to enjoy during our Sunday family dinners. This year I made it on New Year ’s Eve as well. I serve this up with my chopped salad, so we get some veggies too.
The way I eat and have taught my kids to eat is something that I am proud of. My teen and tween girl love to cook in the kitchen and I have taught them how to make some of our favorite dishes and continue to do so as they grow up.