5 Basics of the Mediterranean Lifestyle |The Mediterranean Dish. The Mediterranean lifestyle begins with a healthy, well-balanced diet, but goes far beyond. Read this Mediterranean girl's perspective to help you follow this healthy lifestyle.

Back in August, a reporter for Neurology Today reached out.  Dawn’s request, “we’re doing a story about the Mediterranean diet and health. I was wondering if I could interview you about your blog and some of the tricks in switching to a more Mediterranean lifestyle?"

Yes, a good portion of our conversation focused on the Mediterranean diet--the food, cooking style and eating habits of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean. And we agreed that while the Mediterranean diet is one of the top 8 most popular diets, it is not a “diet” where the end goal is to simply loose weight. It is more of a lifestyle--a daily practice; a sustainable way of living.  And so that’s where the conversation went. And I will take it a step further here by sharing with you 5 basics of the Mediterranean lifestyle.

Before we go any further, one thing to keep in mind: this is not an expert opinion nor a comprehensive analysis of the Mediterranean lifestyle. This is me, a Mediterranean girl, sharing my own perspective on a lifestyle I practice.  And I am choosing to share only 5 things to help you understand, and perhaps begin to follow the Mediterranean lifestyle. For lack of a more creative title, let’s go with “5 basics of the Mediterranean lifestyle.”

5 Basics of the Mediterranean Lifestyle

Follow the Mediterranean Diet

Growing up, fresh vegetables, a handful of raw nuts, or even a bowl of lentil soup were my regular after-school snacks. Two times per week, my family ate fish or seafood for dinner, often with a side of rice or grains and a fresh chopped salad.  We ate other forms of lean protein like poultry, moderately. Red meats on occasion. I would be lying if I said chocolate, cakes and pastries never made an appearance, I mean hello baklava! But a piece of fresh fruit or dried fruit was a more regular dessert choice.

With all the variety on the Mediterranean food pyramid, it’s really hard to think that my family is following a “diet,” right? There are no food restrictions in the Mediterranean diet. Everything is pretty much allowed.

 

 

The Mediterranean Food Pyramid. Photo credit: Oldways
*The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid courtesy of Oldways

But if you look closely at the Mediterranean food pyramid, you’ll quickly notice that it focuses on grains and vegetables; dairy; fiber and lean proteins from nuts and seafood, and far less on fatty meats. Olive oil is also a main source of fat (almost every recipe here on the blog has olive oil as an ingredient). And yes, thank goodness, we can have a little wine! 

We can certainly dedicate another whole post to the Mediterranean diet alone, but the key is in balancing your meals according to the Mediterranean food pyramid. Eat more of what’s at the wide base of the pyramid; less and less of the items toward the top of the pyramid. Of course, pay attention to portion sizes; there is no “supersize meals” in the Mediterranean lifestyle.

Be with family. Share with loved ones

When it comes to eating and portion size, one helpful Mediterranean habit  is to eat as few meals as possible alone. I grew up eating all my meals at a table full of family and friends, and I try to do the same today. I don’t know about you, but when I share a meal with others, I tend to eat slowly, and I am less likely to stuff myself.

But beyond sharing a meal, the Mediterranean culture cultivates a balanced social life and a certain connectedness to the people who matter. 

Five years ago, when we lived in Iowa, I decided to limit my social life. Sounds contradictory, right? I went back to something I learned growing up on the shores of the Mediterranean. Something you may recognize as ancient Biblical wisdom, “a man with too many friends comes to his own ruin.” I surrounded myself with my family and only a few loyal friends. I surrounded myself with people who care deeply about me; people that will tell me the truth and help me grow. My social calendar, freed. My social life, far richer.

5 Basics of the Mediterranean Lifestyle |The Mediterranean Dish. The Mediterranean lifestyle begins with a healthy, well-balanced diet, but goes far beyond. Read this Mediterranean girl's perspective to help you follow this healthy lifestyle.

Move Naturally 

Here is a big confession from a true Mediterranean gal: Mediterranean folks do not exercise. I realize that I’m making a big generalization, and I know it seems like a bit of a paradoxical thing to add here. But seriously, Mediterranean people do not specifically carve out two hours a day for heavy lifting at the gym. But, that doesn’t make them inactive.

Nothing is too convenient when you live in that part of the world, so moving is a natural practice for people of the Mediterranean. They do a lot of manual labor; they climb lots of stairs; and they walk...a lot. They walk, at least part of distance, to their workplace daily. They walk to the farmer’s market, the bakery, or the dairy shop for a fresh Greek yogurt. They walk to their friends’ homes; and when they want to do something leisurely, they go out for a walk. My dad sold his car a few years ago; he didn’t need one in the first place. 

Now, if you are one of the small percentage of people who keep an active gym membership, please don’t quit. But as we know, 80% of the people who newly joined your gym this January will drop off by mid February. Inviting natural movement, a moderate exercise like a daily walk, is an effective and sustainable healthy habit.  I do yoga and CrossFit classes, but never everyday. I can more easily fit in a 30-minute walk.

Laugh Often

Are you familiar with the saying, “laughter is the best medicine?” That has certainly proven true in the case of the Mediterranean people. I can’t say that this is a characteristic of all people of Mediterranean heritage, but it is certainly evident in the many I know.  They are people of big personality. They love to tell stories; their conversations filled with humor. There is certainly a sense of priority-- yes, take life seriously, but to do so with a joyful attitude.

Live (More) Simply

Perhaps this is not completely by choice, but people of the Mediterranean, or at least the many I encountered across the places I've been--Egypt, Greece, Turkey and even France--tend to have far fewer possessions than I do living here in the States. And I've also observed that they make stewardship decisions when it comes to daily needs. Take food for example; Mediterranean folks don’t buy too much of any one ingredient. The whole concept of buying in bulk remains foreign to them. Eating freshly matters, and they don't mind making multiple trips to the market--on foot, mostly. Recipes like fattoush where day old bread is used, or paella where leftovers are turned into a stunning flavor-packed rice dish, are two examples of delicious ways to minimizing waste.

5 Basics of the Mediterranean Lifestyle |The Mediterranean Dish. The Mediterranean lifestyle begins with a healthy, well-balanced diet, but goes far beyond. Read this Mediterranean girl's perspective to help you follow this healthy lifestyle.

One final word, I am certain many cultures across the world share some of these lifestyle practices. And I would love to hear about positive lifestyle practices that you’ve found helpful to you. 

Related articles: How to stock your pantry for a Mediterranean Lifestyle.

 

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. I have diverticulitis and many foods cause bloating, gas, and upset stomach. Do you know if Mediterranean food will aggravate my condition?

    1. Hi Ed, to be honest, not knowing your situation exactly, I think this is a better question for your physician.

  2. I am so pleased to have found this site. I have been told by doctor to go on a Mediterranean diet and have now found the perfect place. Irene

  3. Hi Suzy, I absolutely love your recipes and your Mediterranean lifestyle! I was born in North India but raised in New York. I love Indian cuisine but it’s a bit rich and too heavy especially when your trying to lose weight. I love how you use some Indian spices along with other exotic spices to make such flavorful food that’s still healthy and light. I’m also a registered dietitian and a foodie that loves to try all different kinds of cuisine. I must say Mediterranean food is my favorite by far and the most healthy and satisfying from all the nutrition research that I have done. I’ve made a few of your recipes, they were easy to follow and the meals came out great. This style of eating has so much variety and flavor so you never get bored with the food. Please keep the delicious recipes coming!!!

    1. Thank you so much, Priya! I'm so excited to hear from you, and glad you're enjoying the recipes here. Appreciate you taking the time to leave this thoughtful note.

  4. I recently came across your website while looking for Mediterranean style recipes and signed up for your weekly e-mail. The recipes I've tried so far are delicious and easy to follow ( and easy enough to cut down to 1-2 servings). Still working on some of my personal bugs changing to a Mediterranean-style of eating (good crusty bread, pasta, and beef I could eat daily!?!), but working on them. I need to lose weight but could not wrap my mind around the majority of diets out there, but this style of eating intrigued me. While I haven't lost any weight, at least I haven't gained any so that's a plus.

    Am looking forward to trying more of your recipes while I continue on this journey.

    1. Welcome to The Mediterranean Dish. Glad to have you here, Joanne! Remember, this is a lifestyle for longer-term health benefits. You will see that it does help you manage your weight as well. Thank you for stopping in!

  5. I am so happy I found your site! I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 1 month ago. Wake-up call since I have a 10 year old! No insulin, thank goodness, but meds unfortunately. I have done well in that month, but was floundering because of spices, flavor combinations, and balancing life.

    Not only have your recipes helped me, but the lifestyle of Mediterranean people has intrigued me. What a wonderful way to live! I have started a notebook with things that you have written about and what I have sourced in other areas. Things that mean a better balance with life for my daughter and I.

    So, thank you for posting these wonderful recipes and a way to order spices. But also...thank you for posting about a lifestyle that is just.......life.

    1. Christina, I am so glad you found the recipes and articles here helpful! And I wish you the best on your journey to healthier, balanced life. Many of us struggle, but it's about the day-to-day choices and being kind to our bodies. Thanks for being here and for sharing!

  6. Hi Suzy,

    I was excited to get your e-book and find your website. My husband has mild dementia and although I have cooked some Mediterranean recipes for years I was searching for more as it is an excellent type of eating for the brain. I will definitely be trying some of your low carb recipes. Thank you so much for making them available.

    I live in Victoria, Australia so won't be able to buy any of your products but I do appreciate having acccess to your recipes. You have a fabulous website.

    1. Hi LeeAnn, thank you for reaching out! I am glad you enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle, and hope the recipes here will be helpful to you. There is really no specific way to follow the Mediterranean diet. We do tend to eat more grains...rice, barley, quinoa, freekeh, and we do pasta, including whole wheat pasta. But the frequency will all depend on what your body needs and what you are trying to accomplish, and I am not qualified to answer that. My family eats pasta about once a week, but sometimes twice. Here is an article about following the Mediterranean diet that might be helpful: https://www.themediterraneandish.com/7-ways-follow-mediterranean-diet/

  7. I love this article Suzy - such a beautiful example of life lived simply and well! Your shared examples make this an easy lifestyle to embrace!

  8. I started on this lifestyle a few months ago and I found it to be very highly successful in helping me lose about 15-17 pounds. I have noticed that my blood pressure has dropped and I look and feel better. It will probably give me the best health outcomes so far. This lifestyle is effective because it helps people fell full when they eat each meal and can help curb snacking-the biggest culprit or one of the biggest culprit. I find that even though when I went to Greece and consumed more alcohol than I would normally, that my weight didn't go up too much and allowed me to return to my normal eating habits. I think everyone should adopt this lifestyle to the best of their ability.

    1. David, that's wonderful! So glad to hear your success story! I have to agree that eating the Mediterranean way is one of the most effective ways to lose weight and to lead a healthier lifestyle...without even feeling hungry or giving up tasty foods! Thanks for sharing.

  9. I would love to be able to walk to the store, friends, family or church but the nearest grocery store is 16 miles, family - 57 miles and church 52 miles. Kinda makes that impossible for me.. unfortunately. But enjoying your recipes nonetheless!

  10. So happy to have found your website! At 23 years old I've been wanting to find a way of eating and exercising that will keep me healthy and prevent me from "burning out" and when I discovered the Mediterranean diet a few weeks ago I knew it would work for my lifestyle perfectly. So happy I found your site!

    1. Taylor, thank you so much for taking the time to share! From the sounds of it,you are already ahead of most people as far as leading a healthy lifestyle. Happy cooking! And do check in again 🙂

  11. I am so excited to have found your website, I have four children and was trying to completely change our diet to be gluten and sugar free, think Paleoesque. After scouring through recipes and trying multiple recipes I realized along with my children that the food felt forced, made up from variations of American recipes, and as though it cannot withstand centuries of good nutrition. My own thoughts of course, but I couldn't help but think of my days in Spain, France and Italy and how whole the food felt there. I began dreaming up my own recipes and then frantically searching the internet for renditions of these, I came across very few quality websites offering mediterranean recipes. Your website is by far the exception and I believe will be crucial in getting my family healthy and allowing us to enjoy true mediterranean food. Your website is surely a blessing. I appreciate how you talk as well about the lifestyle as this is as important as the food. My deepset gratitude for your cooking endeavors and for sharing these with all of us!!

    1. Ariel, thank you so much for taking the time to write this thoughtful comment. I am so glad you found me! And that you found this blog to be a resource to help you and your family lead a healthy and "unfussy" lifestyle. I am so grateful for you and every reader who spurs me on to continue my work here. Happy cooking! And please stop by and let me know how things are going for you.

  12. Beautifully written and very informative, as usual. I love these ideas...some of which stray pretty far from the typical American lifestyle. So many could benefit from adopting these habits. You do such a wonderful job with this blog.

    I miss being one of your choice close friends back here in Iowa! 😉

    1. Marliese, thank you so much for the kind note, friend. I'm glad you enjoyed this little article. And, you're still one of my choice close friends 🙂

  13. Suzy! what an absolutely fantastic post! Ever since June...I have been experimenting with the vegan lifestyle...I went vegan for 4 months...then I added fish in 1-2 times a week and now I added in eggs so that I can get more protein into my diet while I'm working out. But the best part is that it has been so much easier to stay healthier and in balance by eating this way. Lentils have become a fave! And the entire family is now enjoying this type of lifestyle...I even made the hardcore carnivore hubs vegetarian tacos today and he said they were the best ever. I do hope that the whole world starts moving towards this way of eating...it just seems to be the kindest to ourselves as well as the world 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend love.

    1. Thanks so much, Mila! I am always grateful to hear about people's healthy lifestyle changes; sounds like you've found just the right balance with your diet! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Good Morning!! I just wanted to take a moment to tell you that I think you rock! You write plainly without sounding condescending, and you crack me up. I have made several of your recipes and they were all delish.
    Happy (upcoming) Weekend to you!

    1. Awww, thank you so much, Lynn! Your comment means more to me than you'll know. Have a great one yourself!