Many doctors and dietitians recommend a "Mediterranean diet" for its heart-healthy benefits. Here's what that means:
- Eat whole foods, not processed. That means plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and items in their original form — low-fat cheese instead of cheese dip, for example. Limit sweets, especially packaged ones.
- Don't make meat a main course. Meat should fill just a quarter of your plate. Another quarter should be whole grains — such as whole-grain pasta, quinoa, amaranth, kasha or rice — and the remaining half should be fruits and vegetables. Aim for seven to 10 servings of produce daily.
- Limit red meat. Have it just a few times a month. Get your protein from healthful non-meat sources, such as fish, beans, lentils, chickpeas, seeds, tempeh, tofu and nuts (just watch serving sizes, as nuts in particular are high in calories). Grill fish or saute it in a small amount of canola oil.
- Drink a little red wine. Have a glass a day for the antioxidants and protection against blood clots. If you don't like alcohol or can't drink it, you can substitute purple grape juice.
- Replace butter with healthful oils. Use olive, sesame or canola oil in recipes and dip bread in olive oil instead of using butter. Many people also enjoy hummus (mashed chickpeas) or tahini (blended sesame seeds) as a dip or spread.
- Cut back on salt. Use herbs and spices such as cilantro, dill, basil and mint to flavor food instead.
- Go to low-fat dairy. Avoid whole milk and full-fat yogurts and cheese.
- Enjoy your food. Slow down to eat, preferably with family and friends. Remember that your stomach needs about 20 minutes to register fullness.
- Live healthfully. Drink plenty of water, exercise and get enough sleep.