A word about salt
As part of a heart-healthful meal plan, the Mediterranean diet is fairly low in sodium. Limit the use of table salt and rely on fresh herbs and a variety of spices to flavor your food.
As you can see, there’s plenty to eat in the Mediterranean diet, and few things are offlimits or even dramatically limited. You’ll be able to satisfy your appetite while improving your health and even losing weight.
Your Mediterranean Shopping Guide
While you can do all of your shopping at your favorite supermarket, getting at least some fresh items from your local farmers’ market, seafood shop, and butcher is an enjoyable way to source your food as well as a better bet for getting the freshest ingredients.
When you do shop at the grocery store, try to stay in the perimeter of the store as much as possible. This means getting the vast majority of your food from the produce, seafood, bulk foods, meat, and dairy aisles.
The center aisles of the grocery store are generally filled with processed foods and unhealthful snacks, although you’ll need to venture into them to purchase some of your grains, condiments, oils, pasta, spices, and other staples. Keep your shopping list in hand so you don’t stray!
The produce section or the farmers’ market is where you really want to fill your cart. Choose organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible and get a wide variety of colors into your cart each week to keep things interesting and maximize your antioxidant intake. Opt for in-season produce more often than out-of-season, as those items have been picked too soon and shipped too far to be at peak flavor.
In the seafood section or at the seafood shop, get to know the fishmonger. He or she will be able to tell you what is freshest, help you choose the most heart-healthful varieties, and even give you cooking tips. Look for cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, cod, haddock, and sardines and fresh shellfish such as mussels, clams, oysters, shrimp, crab, and lobster. Frozen fish is fine if it’s more affordable or more readily available, but skip the breaded or fried versions.
At the meat counter, choose skinless poultry and lean cuts of red meat such as those from the loin. Organic, grass-fed meats are preferred as they’re free of harmful chemicals and hormones and higher in omega-3 fats. Have the butcher trim any visible fat for you.
In the dairy aisle, choose low-fat or fat-free versions of cheese, yogurt, and milk. (You’ll be getting plenty of healthful fats from olive oil, nuts, and seeds.) Try to do without butter as much as is possible, but butter is preferable over margarine, which contains hydrogenated oils and trans fats.
In the freezer section, you can supplement your fresh produce and seafood supplies if there is something you’d like that is currently out of season. While fresh is best, frozen peaches picked at the peak of ripeness are far better than canned peaches or those picked green and shipped for thousands of miles. Again, when buying seafood, skip the fried, battered, or buttered preparations. The same goes for chicken.
In the center of the store, you’ll want to focus on staples and leave the majority of the shelves alone. Whole-grain flour, oats, unsalted and unsweetened nuts and seeds (especially walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds), olive oil and olives, rice, pasta, spices, and whole-grain cereals and pastas are some of the products you’ll want to stock up on.
You may need a few weeks to get used to shopping the Mediterranean way, but once you do, you’ll find that circling the store and avoiding the processed-food aisles will actually cut down on the time it takes to purchase your weekly groceries—and will probably lower your bill as well.