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Mediterranean Eating Pattern for the WIN.

We are bringing the PLANT back to PLANT-BASED menus.

Did you know that the Mediterranean eating pattern is currently considered one of the most healthy dietary models worldwide? It is generally based on the daily intake of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, white meats, and olive oil. It may also include moderate consumption of fermented dairy products, a low intake of red meat, and red/white wine during the main course.

POP QUIZ! Take my 10-QUESTION Self-Assessment Tool (below) to see if you are following the Mediterranean eating pattern. But WHY? For this month’s blog, I am here to share with you all of the reasons why the Mediterranean is the way to go. I am not saying to switch cuisines, but what I am saying is to build principles of the Mediterranean pattern into your food routine. 



1. Do you eat more than 4 servings of vegetables per day?

1 serving is:
1 cup of raw vegetables (e.g. cucumber, bell peppers, celery, lettuce)
½ cup of cooked vegetables (e.g. steamed broccoli, sauteed spinach)
2 medium carrots
8 medium spears of asparagus

▢ 1 point for 4 or more servings per day 
▢ 0 points for less 4 servings per day 

2. Do you eat more than 3 servings of fruit per day?

1 serving is:
1 cup of raw fruit (e.g. strawberries, cantaloupe, blueberries)
1 medium sized fruit (e.g. apple, banana, orange)
2 small fruits (e.g. apricot, kiwi)

▢ 1 point for 3 or more servings per day
▢ 0 points for less than 3 servings per day 

3. Do you eat more than 1 serving of legumes per day?

1 serving is:
½ cup legumes, cooked / canned / roasted (e.g. chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans)
3 tbsp hummus 

▢ 1 point for 1 or more servings per day 
▢ 0 points for less 1 serving per day 

4. Do you eat more than 2 servings of nuts or seeds per day?

1 serving is:
¼ cup nuts or seeds (e.g. walnuts, pecans pistachios)
2 tbsp nut / seed butter (e.g. peanut, almond, walnut)
1 tbsp hemp or chia seeds
¼ cup almond or coconut flour 

▢ 1 point for 2 or more servings per day
▢ 0 points for less than 2 servings per day 

5. Do you eat less than 2 servings of dairy per day?

1 serving is:
¾ cup of yogurt (dairy-based)
1 cup of milk (dairy-based) 
¼ cup of cheese (dairy-based)

▢ 1 point for less than 2 servings per day
▢ 0 points for more than 2 servings per day

6. When choosing grains or starches, what types do you choose most often?

Whole grain flour / starches:
Crackers, bread, cereals, bars with >4g fibre per serving
Low-glycemic index score; sweet potato, quinoa, barley, steel cut oats, All-Bran Buds

▢ 1 point for choosing whole grain flour / starches most often (> 75% of the time) 
▢ 0 points for choosing whole grain flour / starches less often (< 75% of the time) 

7. Do you eat more than 2 servings of fish per week?

1 serving is:
75 grams of fish, approximately the same size as a deck of cards
1 small tin of canned fish (e.g tuna, salmon)

▢ 1 point for 3 or more servings per day
▢ 0 points for less than 3 servings per day

8. Do you eat less than 2 servings of red meat per week?

1 serving is:
75 grams of beef, pork or lamb, approximately the same size as a deck of cards
75 grams of processed meat (e.g bologna, salami, kolbassa)

▢ 1 point for 2 or less 2 servings per week
▢ 0 points for more than 2 servings per week

9. What is the main type of fat used in your menu for cooking / sauces / dips?

Olive oil (or avocado oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, soybean oil)
Butter, margarine, ghee, lard, vegetable shortening

▢ 1 point for olive oil (or avocado oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, soybean oil)
▢ 0 points for butter, margarine, ghee, lard, vegetable shortening

10. Do you drink more than 1 serving of alcohol per day?

1 serving is:
5 ounce glass of wine
1 ounce shot of spirits
12 ounce beer

▢ 1 point for 1 or less servings per day 
▢ 0 points for more than 1 serving per day

Final Score: ______ / 10

8-10: You are successfully following a mediterranean dietary pattern and are benefiting greatly from this menu approach
5-7: You are partially following a mediterranean dietary pattern and are partially benefiting from this menu approach
0-4: You are not likely following a Mediterranean dietary pattern and would benefit greatly if you adapted concepts from this menu approac

Let’s begin by learning a bit more about this Mediterranean Diet, what does it consist of? 

A Mediterranean diet primarily refers to a plant-based diet first described in the 1960s. General features include:

  • High consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, cereals and whole grains (note: lower intake of whole grains for those looking for weight reduction) 

  • Moderate-to-high consumption of olive oil (as the principal source of fat)

  • Low-to-moderate consumption of dairy products, fish and poultry

  • Low consumption of red meat

  • Low-to-moderate consumption of wine, mainly during meals  

Here is a pictorial representation of the Mediterranean Diet, as it depicts the portions of the different food groups we should be focusing on – from low to high volume foods consumed!

Let’s dive into the world of research, what does Diabetes Canada have to say? (Reference LINK)

Research findings: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomized controlled feeding trials have shown that a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern improves glycemic control, and improves systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol (TC), HDL-C, TC:HDL-C ratio and triglycerides in type 2 diabetes.

My interpretation: By following the Mediterranean Diet, it can improve your blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Research findings: Compared with a diet based on the American Diabetes Association recommendations, both traditional and low carbohydrate Mediterranean-style diets were shown to decrease A1C and triglycerides, whereas only the low carbohydrate Mediterranean-style diet improved LDL-C and HDL-C at 1 year in persons with overweight and type 2 diabetes.

My interpretation: Making it a lower carbohydrate Mediterranean diet (30% carbohydrate, 30% protein, 40% fat) helps to further improve your cholesterol levels. 

Research findings: PREDIMED study, a Spanish multicenter randomized trial of the effect of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or mixed nuts compared with a low-fat American Heart Association control diet, was stopped early due to significant benefit with reduction in major cardiovascular (CV) events in 7,447 participants at high CV risk (including 3,614 participants [49%] with type 2 diabetes). Both types of Mediterranean diets were shown to reduce the incidence of major CV events by approximately 30% without any subgroup differences between participants with and without diabetes over a median follow up of 4.8 years. Both the extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts arms of the PREDIMED trial also reduced risk of incident retinopathy. No effect on nephropathy was detected. 

My interpretation: The Mediterranean Diet significantly reduces your risk of cardiovascular events, which includes heart attacks.

Moving on, what does Obesity Canada have to say? (Reference LINK)

Research findings: Several interventions using specific dietary patterns have shown advantages for weight loss and maintenance with improvements in cardiometabolic risk factors and associated reductions in obesity-related complications. The Mediterranean dietary pattern is a plant-based dietary pattern that emphasizes a high intake of extra virgin olive oil, nuts, fruit and vegetables, whole grains and pulses; a moderate intake of wine, fish and dairy; and a low intake of red meats. This dietary pattern has shown weight loss and improvements in glycemic control and blood lipids compared with other dietary patterns in people with type 2 diabetes. 

Research findings: PREDIMED investigated a calorie-unrestricted Mediterranean dietary pattern, supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts, compared with a control diet (calorie-unrestricted low-fat American Heart Association) in 7447 participants at high cardiovascular risk. The researchers concluded that the Mediterranean dietary pattern reduced major cardiovascular events by ~30%, diabetes incidence by 53%, and increased reversion of metabolic syndrome by ~30%, with little effect on body weight over a median follow-up of 4.8 years.

My interpretation: Obesity Canada is reporting similar findings as Diabetes Canada, with an additional emphasis on weight loss benefits from the Mediterranean diet compared to other dietary patterns. And they elaborated on the percentage of risk reduction for cardiovascular events, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Essentially following this eating pattern has HUGE HUGE health benefits, and it would most definitely be an eating pattern we should all at least entertain. 

Of great importance, what about MOOD - does the Mediterranean Diet have any effect on our mood? (Reference LINK

Parletta et al. tested the effects of a Mediterranean diet (MD) supplemented with fish oil on mental health among 152 people self-reporting depressive symptoms (30.9% males). The intervention group received Mediterranean diet cooking workshops for 3 months and fish oil supplements for 6 months. 95 people completed assessments at 3-months and 85 people completed at 6-months. At 3 months, the MD group reported higher MD adherence (p < 0.01), consumed more vegetables (p < 0.01), fruit (p = 0.04), nuts (p = 0.02), legumes (p = 0.02) wholegrain (p = 0.01), and vegetable (p< 0.01); less unhealthy snacks (p = 0.04) and red meat/chicken (p = 0.04). The MD group also reported a greater reduction in depressive symptoms (p= 0.03) and improved mental health QoL (Quality of Life) scores (p= 0.04) at 3 months. Improved diet and mental health improvements were confirmed at 6 months. In addition, reduced depression was significantly correlated with an increased MD – adherence (p = 0.01), more consumption of nuts (p = 0.01), and vegetable (p= 0.01). Mental health (QoL) improvements significantly correlated with increased vegetable and legumes consumption. 

My interpretation: YES, YES, YES! By following the Mediterranean diet (i.e. increasing your intake of vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, omega-3 food sources), research has shown that it can improve your mood and quality of life. Say no more … ! 

Are you SOLD on the Mediterranean Diet yet? I sure hope so, here is how to get started: (Reference LINK)

Food Group / Food Type



Include fruit at each meal

Whole grains 

Include whole grains with meals


Eat vegetables at lunch and dinner every day

Nuts & seeds 

Eat unsalted nuts and seeds every day


Eat olives every day


Eat legumes at least twice a week

Olive oil

Aim for at least 15 mL (1 Tbsp) of olive oil each day

Spices, herbs, garlic, onions 

Flavour food with spices, herbs, garlic and onions instead of salt

Low-fat milk 

Include low fat milk and alternatives daily


Eat at least two servings of fish and seafood (75 g (2 1⁄2 oz) each week


Include up to two to four eggs every week

Red meat / processed meat 

Choose red meat and processed meat less often

Lean white meat 

Choose lean white meat at least 2 times a week


If you drink wine, limit it to moderate amounts with meals


Limit sweets

In summary, building components of the Mediterranean Diet into your daily routine can offer many health benefits including prevention of heart disease, healthy blood sugar / cholesterol / blood pressure levels, and supports a healthy body weight. With all of this in mind, are you ready to make olive oil your principle ‘fat’ in your kitchen and layer more colour into your menu?


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