I’m a nutritionist who follows the Mediterranean diet. Here are 9 mistakes people make and what to do instead.

Headshot of Elena Paravantes next to an image of a colorful Mediterranean salad, fork and cup of olive-oil-based salad dressing

Elena Paravantes shares her expertise in Greek cuisine.Elena Paravantes/ Getty

  • The Mediterranean diet is widely regarded as the healthiest way to eat.

  • Nutritionist Elena Paravantes grew up eating the Mediterranean way in Greece.

  • She told Insider the nine most common mistakes she sees people making when following the diet.

The Mediterranean diet is based on traditional ways of eating from countries on the sea in southern Europe that gave it its name, like Greece, Spain and Italy. The diet is hugely popular, and for good reason – it’s been named the healthiest way to eat for six years running by the US News and World report.

People following the Mediterranean diet limit processed foods, instead focusing on vegetables and legumes, seafood, and healthy fats like olive oil. They also eat far less meat than we might be used to in the US.

Following a traditional Mediterranean diet is thought to have many health benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease and delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Elena Paravantes, a registered dietitian nutritionist from Greece, has followed the diet all her life and combats myths about it on her website and social media. She told Insider the version of the Mediterranean diet she sees some people promoting in the US looks nothing like what she ate growing up.

She shared the top mistakes people make when following the Mediterranean diet, and what to do instead.

1) Eating too much meat

The biggest mistake people make when following the Mediterranean diet is eating meat every day, Paravantes said.

Instead, she recommended eating white meat or fish once or twice a week, and red meat once a month at most.

2) Viewing vegetables as a side dish

In the West, many people see vegetables as a side to a main dish of meat, but the Mediterranean diet tends to center vegetables in its main dishes.

Paravantes said this is an easy way to eat multiple servings of vegetables in one sitting, and said his favorite dish is green beans and potatoes cooked in tomatoes and olive oil.

She also recommended eating these vegetable dishes with some bread and cheese, to make a more filling meal.

3) Not eating enough olive oil

You need healthy fats in a Mediterranean diet to make all the vegetables taste great, Paravantes said, and to extract goodness from them. Olive oil helps you absorb nutrients from vegetables, and vegetables absorb some of the antioxidants from olive oil too, Paravantes said.

4) Drinking your calories

As part of a traditional Mediterranean diet, people only drink water, wine, coffee and herbal teas, according to Paravantes. She also said people rarely had milk in their coffees, and recommended Greek/ Turkish coffee instead.

She also recommended trying teas made with herbs we wouldn’t normally consider, such as oregano, because they are full of antioxidants.

5) Not food prepping

As with all diets, Paravantes said, it’s better to prepare food in advance so that you have easy dinners on hand even if you don’t feel like cooking. She recommends vegetable casseroles, which actually taste better the next day, and pies like spanakopita, which you can freeze.

6) Snacking too much

According to Paravantes, the traditional Mediterranean diet doesn’t include snacks, because the main meals would be so filling. If you must snack, he says, try fresh fruit, dried fruit, or nuts.

7) Eat processed foods

The traditional Mediterranean diet has no processed foods and relies on seasonal produce.

An easy way to know whether something is ultra-processed is to check if it looks like its main ingredient, he said. But Paravantes said some convenience foods, like breakfast bars made from mostly nuts and grains, are OK.

8) Trying to follow a low-fat Mediterranean diet

There’s no such thing as a low-fat Mediterranean diet, according to Paravantes. You need the fat, especially from olive oil, to absorb nutrients and for energy.

9) Forgetting it’s a lifestyle

You shouldn’t feel like you’re on a fad diet, Paravantes said. The Mediterranean diet isn’t about restricting your food intake, or cutting out treats — it’s about eating good quality foods and making healthier choices.

Read the original article on Insider

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