Keys to the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is heart healthy and based on typical foods and recipes found in Mediterranean cooking. There is research to support that the Mediterranean diet helps to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) which decreases the risk for heart disease. More than 50% of the fat calories in this diet comes from unsaturated fats, specifically monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, fish and nuts. In addition, the Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Med Diet

The Mediterranean Diet

  • Plant based foods – this includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Making these foods the main stay of this diet introduces extra vitamins, minerals and fiber. Try to eat 8-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Eat nuts in small amounts. Legumes include beans and lentils which adds protein and fiber.
  • Healthy fats – olive oil, fish and nuts are all high in unsatruated fats. Use olive oil instead of butter to cook with. Fish is a lean protein to be eaten once or twice a week.
  • Herbs & spices – cooking with fresh herbs and spices in place of salt. This naturally creates a low sodium diet. Dried herbs are also used. Look for salt-free herb and spice mixes. Garlic, onions and citrus can also be used to give food flavor.
  • Lean proteins – this includes chicken, turkey and fish and limits red meat to once or twice a month. Avoid high fat red meats such as sausage, bacon and other high fat cuts. Choose low fat dairy such as 1% milk or skim milk and nonfat or low fat yogurt.
  • Red wine – this is clearly my favorite part of the diet. Drink red wine in moderation. It has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease if consumed in moderation meaning 5 ounces of wine daily.
  • Exercise – lifestyle factors such as exercise and social support also play a role. Savor the time you have with friends and family and making eating a social experience. Make sure to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise per week.


Get Glowing

The sun is starting to shine brighter and it’s time to start showing some skin and healthy hair is always in season. Vitamin E and biotin are both keys to get glowing. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant. It protects cells against damage caused by free radicals and boosts our immune system against viruses and bacteria, as well as plays a role in red blood cell formation. Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for growth and also assists with metabolism. Biotin is found in foods that are good sources of B vitamins. While you can get both of these as supplements I prefer to get my vitamins and minerals from real food! Check out how you can get plenty of both below.


Vitamin E Sources

  • Almonds – the perfect snack or salad and oatmeal topper
  • Avocados – a creamy addition to salads, sandwiches, and sides
  • Spinach, kale, broccoli aka green leafy vegetables – take your pick as a side or salad
  • Sunflower seeds – sprinkle on salads or as a snack
  • Vegetable oils, such as sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean oils – cook with these on occasion

My favorite vitamin E-rich snack: half an avocado drizzled with one teaspoon of honey and topped with one tablespoon of sunflower seeds.

Biotin Sources

  • Avocados – rich in vitamin E and biotin so the perfect excuse for guacamole
  • Chocolate – a one ounce snack with some added antioxidants
  • Eggs – breakfast (duh) or hardboiled for a snack
  • Legumes – beans and lentils as a side or on a salad
  • Milk – drink 8 ounces with breakfast or use in a smoothie
  • Nuts – a handful is always a perfect snack
  • Nutritional yeast – sprinkle on oats, granola, yogurt, salads, or in a smoothie
  • Pork and salmon – both can be the star of your dinner


How To: Add More Protein

What is protein? Protein is a class of organic compounds that are made up of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms. It makes up the structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, and collagen and as enzymes and antibodies. There are nine essential amino acids that we must get from our diet because our body does not make them. Bonus: there are some foods that are “complete” proteins which contain all of the amino acids. Proteins derived from animal foods including meats, fish, poultry, milk and eggs are complete. Complete proteins that are vegetarian are quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, and edamame.

How much protein do you need? The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein/kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams of protein/pound of body weight. On average this equates to 56 grams of protein for men and 46 grams of protein for women.


There are four main categories of foods that are high in protein. Add these to your diet throughout the day and you’re well on your way to reaching your protein goals. There are some vegetables that are higher in protein than others, but this list contains the most bang for your buck.

One: animal protein. This includes beef, pork, chicken, turkey, game meat, seafood, and dairy and eggs. Choose lean cuts of these choices to decrease the fat and calories while getting the same amount of protein. Do use the egg yolk however you enjoy eggs because that is where most of your protein is! Two: legumes. This includes lentils, peas, beans, such as black beans, kidney beans, white beans, chickpeas, and edamame. One cup of black beans or lentils provides about 18 grams of protein! This is almost half the amount you would get from one cup of animal protein. Plus, as mentioned before, edamame is a complete protein containing all of the essential amino acids. Three: nuts and seeds. All nuts contain at least 4 grams of protein per 1 ounce. Pumpkin seeds have 8 grams per 1 ounce and sunflower seeds have about 5 grams of protein per 1 ounce. Also, hempseed is a complete protein that contains 9 grams of protein in three tablespoons. Four: grains. Quinoa, buckwheat, and wild rice top this list. Both quinoa and buckwheat are complete proteins and wild rice contains 7 grams of protein per one cup. Combine grains with animal protein or legumes to create a high protein meal.

How do you add more protein? Adding more protein throughout the day is essential. Being aware of adding more servings of protein at each meal and snacking smart is simple. Consider adding eggs, milk, or yogurt at breakfast. For lunch and dinner choose an animal protein plus legumes or a high protein grain. Sprinkle salads and other dishes with hempseed or nuts. When snacking think nuts and seeds, yogurt, or cheese along with your regular snacks. If exercise is a large part of your lifestyle consider using whey protein or vegan protein powder after a work out. For a quick and easy protein boost choose a protein bar that has less than 10 grams of sugar and at least 8 grams of protein. Adding one or two more servings of protein a day will help you reach your goal.


Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Lemon Dressing

Lentils are a type of legume. They come in many different varieties including brown, green, and red. Half a cup of lentils provides 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. Due to the amount of soluble fiber lentils can help lower cholesterol, aid in digestive health, and helps with blood sugar control. Also, they can help reduce your risk of heart disease with 179 ug of folate and 36 mg of magnesium per half cup. Folate helps to lower homocysteine levels, an amino acid which has been associated with hardening and thickening of arteries. Magnesium improves blood flow and movement of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

This light salad is a delicious side dish that is packed with protein and flavor. There have been plenty of occasions that this has become a main dish for lunch. It is a quick addition to your menu for the week made possible by Trader Joe’s. These ready-to-go steamed lentils can be used in dozens of ways. Of course uncooked lentils can also be used, but I’m all for convenience when it comes to legumes.

Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Lemon Dressing


  • 1 package TJ’s Steamed LentilsDSC_0488
  • 1 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint
  • Juice 1 1/2 lemons
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper


In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper. In a large bowl stir together the chickpeas, radishes, and fresh mint. Add the dressing and set aside. Heat the lentils according to package directions in the microwave or on the stove. Once warm add them to the other ingredients. Stir and enjoy warm or cold.

Serves: 6 | Serving size: 3/4 cup
Calories: 261, total fat: 6 g, total carbohydrates: 38 g, dietary fiber 27 g, sugars 7 g, protein: 14 g


This is my favorite lentil dish! Do you have a favorite? Tell me below!