The first step to starting the Mediterranean Diet is to do a little shopping. While you don’t need a pantry full of exotic ingredients, chances are you will need to tweak your shopping habits. Here are a few shopping tips to help you create your very own Mediterranean Diet meals.
1. Fruits and Vegetables
To avoid diving straight into the aisles where most processed foods are sold, start in your grocer’s produce section and work your way around the outside of the store. An abundance of fresh produce is key to Mediterranean Diet meals. Vegetables and fruits that are locally grown and seasonal are your best option. These will be fresher and taste better than the stuff that is picked unripe and shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away. Many people discover a new love of fruits or vegetables once they taste ones that have just been picked and delivered. Buy organic whenever you can to avoid the potential health risks associated with pesticides.
In France it’s common to pop down to the corner bakery for a fresh croissant or baguette every morning. If you’re fortunate to live close to a good bakery, buy your bread fresh and as often as possible. Buy less bread than you need since fresh bread goes stale more quickly. While many grocery stores now have in-house bakeries, their breads are often filled with preservatives, sugars and hydrogenated oils. Just make sure to check the ingredients carefully. Whole grain breads are also healthier and more satisfying and filling, so stock up on other breads besides croissants and baguettes.
Most grocery stores have fresh fish departments that rival the fish mongers in days of old. Wild-caught fish are healthier choices than farm-raised varieties for many reasons. Studies have shown that farm-raised fish contain almost 20 times more toxins like PCBs than wild varieties. Farm-raised fish are also often injected with dyes and colorings to make them look as hearty as their wild companions. The healthiest fish are cold water varieties such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, halibut, herring, sardines and anchovies.
Whole fat dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt and sour cream are part of many good Mediterranean Diet meals. Not only does whole fat taste better than low-fat dairy, it’s also more satisfying which makes it less likely that you’ll overeat. Choose organic whenever you can to avoid the cocktail of chemicals and hormones that end up in conventional dairy products.
Lean meats such as poultry and pork can be eaten regularly on the Mediterranean Diet menu plan, although you should limit beef to only once or twice a month. Many grocery stores offer special sections for natural meats which can cost more than the conventional varieties. Choose free-range meats that have not been treated with hormones or antibiotics. Otherwise you’ll be eating more than you bargained for.