Quick start to a Mediterranean diet

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Easy ways to begin eating for optimal heart and brain health.

As reported in the May Health Letter, we now have the strongest research to date backing up the Mediterranean diet as a way to prevent vascular disease. The diet includes generous quantities of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish; limited portions of red meats or processed meats; and moderate amounts of cheese and wine. So how can you make the switch? "It's often not realistic to make the changes overnight, but you can start with small steps," says Stacey Nelson, a dietitian from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. She suggests jump-starting your effort with these top five tips:

1. Saut food in olive oil, not butter.

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables by having them as a snack, or adding them to other recipes.

3. Choose whole grains instead of refined breads and pastas.

4. Substitute fish for red meat at least twice per week.

5. Limit high-fat dairy by switching to skim or 1% milk from 2% or whole milk.

Try these quick changes to get on the Mediterranean diet today

Instead of this:

Try this Mediterranean diet option:

Crackers, chips, pretzels and ranch dip

Celery, carrot, or pepper strips and salsa

White rice with stir-fried meat

Quinoa with stir-fried vegetables

Sandwiches with white bread or rolls

Sandwich fillings in whole-wheat tortillas

Hamburgers

Salmon croquettes

Full-fat ice cream

Pudding made with skim or 1% milk