*For those who are new here, please note that you can click here and check the previous days. Also, this challenge is not a strict diet plan but a series of mini-challenges to establish healthy Mediterranean diet habits. I do include links and suggestions for recipes, if you want a menu plan you can go here for a 5-day mix and match plan. For a longer comprehensive 14-day plan along with 100 recipes you can consider my new book.
Welcome to Day#6! It’s time to do a bit of cleaning out today. One of the most important actions you can take to improve your diet, is staying away from highly processed foods. Especially processed carbohydrates. Studies now show that ultra-processed foods regardless of calories can cause weight gain and harm our health. Unfortunately, we see many processed foods promoted as healthy. Just last week I saw an article in a popular website boasting Mediterranean diet snacks and almost all of them were some sort of processed snack in a bag. Sorry to say but these types of snacks did not exist in the traditional Mediterranean diet and aren’t healthy either.
So, for today’s challenge, first I want you to seek out foods I’ve listed below in your refrigerator and pantry and replace them with less processed, healthier choices. Highly processed food offers empty calories in addition to rapidly increasing your blood sugar levels. They also don’t keep you full for very long and as a result you may overeat. Sure, I love a good cookie, but keep them out of the house and have them on special occasions as in the Mediterranean tradition.
- Replace mayonnaise and sour cream with Greek yogurt
- Replace peanut butter with tahini or natural peanut butter
- Replace couscous with bulgur wheat
- Replace ready to eat cereal with oatmeal or barley
- Replace vegetable oils with extra virgin olive oil
- Replace creamy salad dressings with an olive oil-vinegar based dressing
- Replace soda and juice with herbal tea and water
- Replace flavored yogurt with regular Greek yogurt
- Replace ready-made pasta sauce with crushed or stewed tomatoes
The Mediterranean diet depends mostly on fresh food but there are some lightly processed foods that are part of the diet like bread for example. See below my list of processed or preserved foods I do have on hand.
List of Lightly Processed Mediterranean Foods
- Bread: Look for bread that only includes flour, salt, and yeast. It should not have any other additives. Preferably whole grain.
- Rice and pasta: It should be plain with no flavorings.
- Yogurt: It should be plain, click here for buying tips
- Frozen vegetables: There should be no other ingredients in them only the vegetables.
- Crackers: Although not Mediterranean I find whole wheat Wasa crackers a good choice. Additionally, if you are able to find them, Greek whole grain barley rusks (paximadia) they have a very long shelf life. I also have a recipe here.
- Canned sardines and anchovies: Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids and super easy to prepare. Look for fish canned in olive oil not other vegetable oils.
- Tomato paste and canned chopped tomatoes: Much needed for many vegetable casseroles especially in the winter when good tomatoes are not available. Look for those in bpa free containers, also they should not contain added salt.
*For an extensive Mediterranean Diet Shopping List click here