I am a nutritionist who follows the Mediterranean diet. Here are 9 mistakes people make and what to do instead.

Headshot of Elena Paravantes next to a picture of a colorful Mediterranean salad, fork and cup of olive oil salad dressing

Elena Paravantes shares her experience of Greek cuisine.Elena Paravantes/Getty

  • The Mediterranean diet is widely lauded as the healthiest way to eat.

  • Nutritionist Elena Paravantes grew up eating the Mediterranean way in Greece.

  • She told Insider the nine most common mistakes she sees people make when dieting.

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional ways of eating of the southern European seaside countries from which it takes its name, such as Greece, Spain and Italy. The diet is hugely popular and for good reason it has been named the healthiest way to eat for six consecutive years by the US News and World report.

People who follow the Mediterranean diet limit processed foods, focusing instead on vegetables and legumes, seafood, and healthy fats like olive oil. They also eat far less meat than we may be used to in the United States.

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Following a traditional Mediterranean diet is thought to have many health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Elena Paravantes, a registered dietitian nutritionist from Greece, has followed the diet her whole life and fights the myths about it on her website and on social media. She told Insider that the version of the Mediterranean diet she sees some people promoting in the United States is nothing like what she ate growing up.

She shared the top mistakes people make when following the Mediterranean diet and what to do instead.

1) Eating too much meat

The biggest mistake people make when following the Mediterranean diet is eating meat every day, Paravantes said.

Instead, he recommended eating white meat or fish once or twice a week and red meat once a month at most.

2) Consider vegetables as a side dish

In the West, many people see vegetables as a side dish to a meat main course, but the Mediterranean diet tends to center vegetables in its main dishes.

Paravantes said this is an easy way to eat several servings of vegetables in one go, and said her favorite dish is green beans and potatoes cooked in tomatoes and olive oil.

He also recommended eating these vegetable dishes with some bread and cheese to make the meal more substantial.

3) Not eating enough olive oil

You need healthy fats in a Mediterranean diet to make all vegetables taste good, Paravantes said, and to bring out the goodness from them. Olive oil helps you absorb nutrients from vegetables, and vegetables also absorb some of the antioxidants in olive oil, Paravantes said.

4) Drink your calories

As part of a traditional Mediterranean diet, people drank only water, wine, coffee and herbal teas, according to Paravantes. He also said that people rarely had milk in their coffees and recommended Greek/Turkish coffee instead.

She also recommended trying herbal teas that we wouldn’t normally consider, like oregano, because they’re high in antioxidants.

5) Not preparing food

As with all diets, Paravantes said, it’s best to prepare your food ahead of time so you have easy dinners on hand even if you don’t feel like cooking. He recommended vegetable casseroles, which actually taste better the next day, and pies like spanakopita, which you can freeze.

6) Snacking too much

According to Paravantes, the traditional Mediterranean diet did not include snacks, as the main meals would have been very filling. If you must snack, he says, try fresh fruit, dried fruit or nuts.

7) Eat processed foods

The traditional Mediterranean diet has no processed foods and is based on seasonal products.

An easy way to tell if something is ultra-processed is to check if it resembles its main ingredient, he said. But Paravantes said some convenience foods, such as breakfast bars made mostly with nuts and grains, are fine.

8) Trying to follow a low fat Mediterranean diet

There is no such thing as a low-fat Mediterranean diet, according to Paravantes. You need fat, especially olive oil, to absorb nutrients and for energy.

9) Forgetting is a way of life

You shouldn’t feel like you’re on a fad diet, Paravantes said. The Mediterranean diet isn’t about limiting your food intake or cutting out treats, it’s about eating good quality foods and making healthier choices.

Read the original Insider article

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