Commentary: Free class offers guidance on the Mediterranean Diet

Commentary: Free class offers guidance on the Mediterranean Diet
June 01
03:52 2017

By Lynne M. Mitchell

Rated as one of the best overall diets by U.S. News & World Report, the Mediterranean diet is a hot topic among nutrition and health professionals.   By following a more Mediterranean-type diet, you can not only reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes but memory-related diseases like Alzheimer’s dementia.  So – what are the components of the Mediterranean Diet?

Going “Med” involves eating more plant-based food like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and nuts.  In addition, when you go Med you increase the amount of poultry, fish and seafood in your diet and limit red and fatty meats and swap out butter and other fats with olive or canola oils.  Additional components of the Mediterranean diet include getting adequate exercise/activity, seasoning foods with spices and herbs instead of salt and drinking red wine in moderation (optional).  Limiting low nutrition, highly processed foods is also encouraged with this eating pattern.

It is important to focus on increasing vegetable intake because they contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals.  Phytochemicals are biologically active compounds found naturally in plant foods that have a beneficial effect on health.  When choosing vegetables, try to eat seasonally and eat a wide variety of veggies.  Because each veggie has specific nutrients, the more variety you eat, the broader your nutrient intake will be.  Try to eat a minimum of 3 to 5 servings of vegetables a day.  A serving is ½ cup cooked or 1 cup of raw vegetables.

Fruits are also an important part of the Mediterranean Diet and you should eat at least 2 to 4 servings of fruit a day.   A serving of fruit is about the size of a tennis ball.  Like vegetables, eat a wide variety of fruits for maximum nutrition and try to eat seasonally.   

Moving to more plant-based, non-processed foods is key to the Mediterranean Diet.  Try consuming more unprocessed whole grains including quinoa, bulgur, whole oats, whole wheat, and brown rice.  When selecting processed foods, choose those made with whole grains.  Ingredients are listed according to weight on the Nutrition Fact label so the first word listed should say 100 percent whole grain or wheat.  Try to eat at least six servings of grains a day.  A serving is a slice of bread or ½ cup of cooked grains, rice or pasta.

One of the most challenging parts of the Mediterranean Diet for many people is reducing the amount of red meat in the diet.  With the Mediterranean Diet, you only want to eat red meat a few times a month.  Try to shift your diet to eat more poultry and seafood with an emphasis on fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon.  Try to eat fish or seafood at least twice a week.  Plant-based proteins such as beans and lentils should also be incorporated into meals frequently.

Nuts are another important component of the Mediterranean diet.  Nuts are packed with protein, monounsaturated fats and fiber and make a great snack or can be incorporated into favorite dishes.  When eating nuts try not to eat them straight out of the can, jar or bag as it is easy to overeat!    All nuts are great to eat so choose your favorites and nut butters can be substituted for whole nuts. 

Olive oil is the main fat used in the Mediterranean diet.  Swap out butter and margarine for olive oil.  You may want to invest in an olive oil spray bottle, which can be found at kitchen specialty shops for toast, seasoning veggies and protein foods. 

The Forsyth County Department of Public Health will be offering a free class on the Mediterranean Diet on Tuesday, June 6, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.  The Health Department is located at 799 North Highland Avenue in Winston-Salem.  There is no charge for the class, but registration is required by emailing or by calling 336-703-3215.  Mature teens and adults are welcome to attend.

Lynne M. Mitchell MS, RD, LDN is Community Nutritionist with the Forsyth County Department of Public Health ( You can reach her at 336-703-3216 (direct line) or

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