Quick start to a Mediterranean diet

Photo: Thinkstock

Published: July, 2013

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


Salmon croquettes

Full-fat ice cream

Pudding made with skim or 1% milk

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.