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How to adapt the Mediterranean Diet to the Indian plate

The Mediterranean diet has been crowned the best diet for the sixth year. Here’s how to adopt its principles to the Indian plate

The Mediterranean Diet consists of foods such as olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and seafood
The Mediterranean Diet consists of foods such as olive oil, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and seafood (iStockphoto)

When someone says the words “Mediterranean diet,” I immediately conjure up images of lying on a beach chair somewhere on the coast of Italy, popping olives into my mouth, and drinking Aperol Spritz while on vacation. I may even be devouring a good book while listening to the waves crash and accordion music lightly serenading me in the background. In short, when someone utters the Mediterranean diet in my ear, I’m transported to a relaxed slice of heaven to enjoy dolce far niente - the pleasure of idleness.

If this is a diet, I want it to be my diet. I could use a bit more dolce far niente in my life (and tasty olives).

While the Mediterranean diet, sadly, doesn’t come with beach chairs and sunshine, this way of eating does have tremendous physical and mental benefits. Do you remember the time you visited France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Malta, or Cyprus, and how you came back de-stressed and raving about their cuisines? The best thing about this diet is that it is delicious and incredibly full of richness and flavour. When it comes to dieting, this is unexpected. Goodbye, to cardboard-tasting food and awful-tasting shakes, and hello to delicious, homemade food.

However, it’s not just the taste of the local foods which has the world gravitating towards this diet. It’s the studied health benefits of eating this way. According to the Seven Country Study (referencing the Mediterranean region), in the 1960s, a man by the name of Ancel Keys discovered the positive health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and its association with lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, and the world hasn’t looked back since. Finally, a diet that tastes great and has health benefits? Count me in.

Also read: Why small, sustainable goals are the best way to get healthier

A literature review titled Mediterranean Diet Effects of Type 2 Diabetes Prevent, Disease Progression, and Related Mechanisms showed that the Mediterranean diet significantly reduced the risk of Type 2 diabetes, likely by eating more foods that were higher in anti-inflammatory properties. According to the Diabetes Journal, “the Mediterranean diet, by design, affects blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol management, making it an intriguing choice for diabetes clinicians and their patients.” The benefits don’t stop with improving your risk for diabetes. It has been shown to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and some cancers; it is even believed to improve mental health.

Although touted as a fantastic diet for your heart health, it’s difficult to define the Mediterranean diet. For those of us who like food rules and guidelines to follow when it comes to our diets, that’s where we are left adrift. You’ll notice that the cuisine from each region is vastly different, meaning there is no one standard “Mediterranean diet.”

Actually, that’s a blessing in disguise because there is an incredible variety of food allowed in this diet, you can make the diet work for you, no matter where you are in the world.

Precision Nutrition looked at the Mediterranean diet and found that it primarily consisted of high-quality foods such as olive oil, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and seafood. It was low in saturated fat, with almost no trans-fat. It contains moderate to high unsaturated fats, moderate amounts of protein, rich in fibre and complex carbohydrates, and numerous vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. No food group is excluded from the mix; the emphasis is on eating local, fresh, infinite varieties of whole food. Your core meal will consist of heart-healthy, natural foods, so the “unhealthy” foods take the back seat.

The Mediterranean diet accounts for moderate wine consumption and doesn’t exclude treats. Rather, it emphasizes what they are: occasional treats, not the main component of your diet. You won’t see highly processed, packaged foods that are high in sugar, deep fried, or have a long shelf life.

I believe a better way to adopt the Mediterranean diet is not to focus solely on “what” you have to eat. Instead, assume a little more of the alluring Mediterranean lifestyle when you eat. This way, it doesn’t matter where life takes you, whether it’s your home kitchen in India or if you relocate to a new region, you’re able to embody the principles of the Mediterranean diet without the stress of searching for the “correct” foods that fit perfectly into the plan.

For example, in many communities throughout the Mediterranean, groceries were purchased multiple times throughout the week, so food was fresh, harvested from personal gardens, and grown free from pesticides or large-scale farming techniques. Cooking and eating the food was a slow, communal experience enjoyed by family and friends.

Compare this to the hustle and bustle of our busy, city-based lives, where we are more likely to harbour deep resentment at our single potted plant that refuses to grow without water by the sink; we hastily consume our meals over before we run to the next engagement on our calendar. Even if we don’t fully adopt the Mediterranean diet regarding the same foods we must consume, perhaps we can learn a bit from the lifestyle and act a little more “dolce far niente” at home.

Here is how you can adopt the Mediterranean lifestyle behind the diet, allowing you to feel the same benefits.


It’s easy to do one big grocery shop a week to stock up our cupboards; however, that habit may mean subconsciously purchasing more packaged foods with longer shelf lives to enable our food to stay “edible” throughout the week. These foods are high in inflammatory properties and work opposite to the fresh foods found in the Mediterranean diet.

Prioritize multiple food shopping trips throughout the week to buy fresh produce (fruit, vegetables, fresh meats, herbs, spices) in smaller quantities to eliminate waste but also look enticing to eat.


I’m not asking you to turn your house into a hydroponic greenhouse to resemble the family gardens found in the Mediterranean region. Instead, focus your purchases from small-scale producers close to home for the best quality, freshest foods.


Cooking has become a scarce skill, with the rise of food delivery apps that make food preparation feel like ancient technology. However, when you take the time to prepare the food you eat, you become more aware of the ingredients that go into your meals. Perhaps the oil you are using is high in trans fats, which becomes a signal to switch to extra virgin olive oil instead. If our choice of carbohydrates is too refined, with minimal nutritional value, you may be inclined to replace them with whole grains.

Also read: How wellness breaks can help you heal your soul


Make social meals the way forward. By focusing on the conversation and closeness of your friends or family, eating food will be less of a business transaction and more of an occasion. It’s known that when you slow down your eating, you’re better able to digest your food and gauge when you’re feeling full. This is the perfect way to reduce your portion sizes without being hyper-conscious of your food intake. The best part about slowing down your meal is enjoying all the incredible flavours resulting from your hard work in the kitchen.

Jen Thomas is a Chennai-based weight-loss coach

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