U.S News health experts evaluate the most popular diets to determine the best diet overall and best diets for specific health goals. To be a top-rated diet, a diet has to be safe, easy to follow, nutritious, effective for weight loss and beneficial for preventing diabetes and health disease.
Once again, the Mediterranean Diet, scoring 4.2 out of 5 has come out on top as the best overall diet for 2022 along with best plant-based diet, best heart-healthy diet (tie), best diabetes diet, best diet for healthy eating and easiest diet to follow.
The Mediterranean Diet emphasises predominately consuming fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, beans/legumes, nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), herbs and spices and then adding in some fish and seafood a couple of times per week and poultry, eggs, cheese and yoghurt in moderation while limiting sweet foods and red meat for special occasions.
This dietary pattern is high in fibre, high in poly and monounsaturated fats while being low in trans and saturated fats. This regime is considered anti-inflammatory and is also beneficial to support a healthy microbiome which in turn supports overall wellbeing and reduction in chronic disease risk.
We are all busy and there can be a misconception that common dishes eaten as part of the Mediterranean diet are time consuming and require lots of chopping, simmering or baking in the oven. This can deter people from this diet. However, this does not have to be the case and there are many hacks to enable even the time poor to eat according to the Mediterranean diet.
Here I am sharing some simple hacks for common foods consumed on this diet.
- Chop fruit, store in a container in the freezer ready for smoothies
- Make a compote at the start of the week using apple, berries and spices and use to top muesli or serve with yoghurt.
- Roast apple and pears for salads – will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Toss berries or other fruits into salads.
- Grate apple or pear into meatball / patty mixes – especially pork.
Vegetable / herbs Hacks
- Cut veggies small before roasting to reduce cook time and also increase their versatility.
- Store herbs in a container layered with paper towel to increase their storage life and ease of access.
- Use a blender or food processor to chop veggies fast eg onion, celery, carrot, zucchini etc.
- Purchase grape tomatoes, baby cucumbers and carrots for snacks.
- Grate carrot into pre-purchased dips such as hummus for more vege.
- Blend leftover roasted veggies with tomato passata and herbs to create a yummy sauce.
- Batch cook grains and store in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Warm up precooked grains by tossing in a pan with a dash of EVOO. To this you can add 2 eggs, tomatoes and herbs as a quick meal.
- Utilise microwave pouches of grains if needed.
- Purchase bread, cut into slices, free individual slices and take out 1-2 as required.
- Turn leftover wraps / pita into “chips” by drizzling with EVOO and baking in the oven. Serve as a snack with dips or in salads or with soups.
- Experiment with leftover pasta because it is a form of resistant starch, beneficial for gut health. Toss leftover pasta with pesto, fresh tomatoes and tuna/salmon as an express meal.
Beans / legumes Hacks
- Opt for canned beans and legumes – rinse well, choose BPA free packaging, organic and salt reduced if possible.
- Purchase snack size cans or pouches of beans / legumes and toss into salads, eat as a snack, add to wraps or toss through scrambled eggs.
- Pulse ½ can chickpeas or cannellini beans with EVOO, lemon juice, cumin and leftover roasted pumpkin as a quick dip or toast/wrap/sandwich spread.
Nut / seed Hacks
- Sprinkle hemp seeds into scrambled eggs or on avocado on toast.
- Toast nuts/seeds with spices such as turmeric and store in a glass container ready for sprinkling over meals.
- Portion out some nuts and seeds weekly ready for snacks, take on the go.
- Blend nuts and seeds into pasta sauces including the bottled variety.
Quick Mediterranean diet Meal Ideas for Busy People
- Smoothie using plant-based milk/cow, fruit of choice, handful rolled oats, handful of hemp seeds/LSA and optional spoonful of yoghurt.
- Wholegrain toast spread with hummus, tomato, avocado and sprinkled with hemp seeds.
- 2 x eggs scrambled with red kidney beans, tomato, spinach, herbs and feta cheese.
- Oats and 1 tbsp. chia seeds, soaked overnight in milk/water – in the morning add yoghurt, fruit and LSA.
- Wholegrain wrap spread with hummus or avocado, with 1-2 crumbled falafels and salad of choice.
- Chickpeas or cannellini beans tossed with EVOO, cumin, salt, pepper, grated carrot and sultanas + optional protein such as feta, boiled eggs, haloumi, tuna/salmon or chicken.
- Mash a can of tuna/salmon with avocado and serve on wholegrain crackers with tomato and cucumber.
- Fish fillet topped with sliced tomato, herbs, lemon, garlic and EVOO baked in the oven and served with steamed potatoes tossed with cooked peas, herbs, feta cheese and EVOO.
- Fry off chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, finely diced eggplant to make a sauce, add in cooked pasta, shredded cooked chicken/tuna or legumes, spinach, herbs and finish with feta cheese as a simple pasta dish.
- Pre-roast whole sweet potatoes, warm in the oven, cut in half and top with chickpeas mixed with diced avocado, diced tomato, feta cheese and herbs.