New research coming from the now known PREDIMED study, a long-term nutritional intervention study aimed to assess the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet in the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases, showed that people lost slightly more weight when following a Mediterranean diet, compared to a low-fat diet. They also had the least increase in waist circumference compared to the low-fat diet. Of course this is not the first time the Mediterranean diet has been associated with weight loss, another study in 2008 published in the New England Journal of Medicine also showed that there was greater weight loss with the Mediterranean diet compared to a low-fat diet. Other studies have also associated the Mediterranean diet with a healthy weight in children as well as in pregnant women.
So it is not something new. Now, to clarify, many people associate the Mediterranean diet with lots of pasta and olive oil. That is a misconception, the traditional Mediterranean diet that had as a prototype the Cretan diet is mainly plants and olive oil with some carbs interspersed, it is a moderate to high fat diet with a moderate amount of carbohydrates.
If you want to lose weight following a Mediterranean diet here are my 5 tips that work.
1. Eat your main meal early in the day
Traditionally within a Mediterranean diet, lunch is the main meal , it being consumed between 1 to 3 pm. By moving a larger meal early in the day, you reduce the risk of overeating later. In fact a Spanish study showed that people who ate their largest meal before 3 pm lost more weight.
2. Eat vegetables as a main course cooked in olive oil
I cannot stress this enough but this type of dish is the magic of the Greek diet. By eating a vegetable dish cooked in olive oil and tomato not only are you satisfied, but you are consuming 3-4 servings of vegetables in one sitting. These dishes are of moderate caloric level and low in carbs. Accompany it with a piece of feta cheese and you are set. Another benefit of eating vegetables as a main course is that because it is not a carb rich meal you will avoid the sleepiness that follows. For some Greek basic vegetables based main courses click here.
3. You should drink water mostly and sometimes tea, coffee and wine (for adults)
Yes, it is standard in some countries (like the US) to drink milk with meals, but is it really necessary? No. With the Mediterranean diet most dairy comes from cheese and yogurt, so save your calories and use them by eating solid food rather than liquid calories. The same goes for juice. Nobody really needs juice, eat your fruit. They are filling and you get all the fiber and nutrients. As for coffee and wine, each has its place in the Mediterranean diet, but they do not replace water. Traditional Greek coffee has been associated with several health benefits and so has wine.
4. Consume the right amount of olive oil
More and more research is confirming what we here in the Mediterranean already know: good fat does not make you fat. Yes, calories count, but in order to sustain a vegetable based diet you need something to provide satiety and flavor; and that is olive oil. Olive oil not only makes all those vegetables delicious, it makes the meal filling. That does not mean, however, that you should be pouring olive oil mindlessly on everything. A good amount that is also associated with all the health benefits is about 3 tablespoons a day.
The Mediterranean diet is not only a diet, it is a lifestyle, so moving around is imperative. Walking is fine, but general movement throughout the day is key. It’s not enough to go to the gym for an hour in the morning and then sit at your office or on the couch the rest of the day. Take walking breaks, do some stretches every hour, do housework and if you can walk somewhere, do that instead of driving.