The magic of the "flexible" Italian Mediterranean diet

The magic of the

The Mediterranean diet has always been considered one of the healthiest diets in the world. Over the years, several international studies have shown that eating the way people around the Mediterranean have traditionally eaten will allow you live well and longer because you eat in a balanced and complete way. But that’s not all. The Mediterranean diet is also an excellent way to watch your figure and keep slim. Hollywood stars are well aware of this with a new version of the Mediterranean diet, called the “flexitarian” diet, having been popular for a few years now. It’s a flexible, mostly vegetarian meal plan which allows for the moderate and occasional consumption of meat.

“One of the strengths of the Italian Mediterranean diet is that your palate is never bored. It satisfies taste without sacrificing the pleasure of good food, because it lets you eat in a healthy and varied way,” says nutritionist Valentina Schirò. “Based mainly on vegetables and fruit, as well as grains and their derivatives, including pasta, legumes, meat, fish, milk and eggs, it does not entirely rule out those foods that are often banished from other diets, such as pizza, desserts and cheeses, which can be consumed occasionally, at most once a week,” continued the expert.

Green light for vegetables

In the Italian-style Mediterranean diet, vegetables are the protagonists of every meal. “They have a lot of fiber, which has a high satiating power. In addition, they promote bowel regularity, which is essential for keeping fit and healthy,” Schirò explains. At breakfast, lunch and dinner you have to give precedence to fruits and vegetables, especially the latter. “They are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and precious antioxidants for the body. The best way to stock up on them, however, is to vary the types and color often,” the expert suggests. Daily menus should also include nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts) and seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower). “They are excellent snacks to keep hunger at bay. They have fiber and ‘good’ fats that hold down the appetite between meals. In order to benefit from their properties, be careful about how much you eat. The advice is to consume at most 1 or 1 1/2 ounces per day. They have a high calorie content: 4 ounces can have more than 600 calories,” Schirò says.

Yes to pasta

Pasta is one of the symbolic dishes of the Italian Mediterranean diet. It’s really good at making you feel full. “It provides complex carbohydrates that slowly release energy into the body,” Schirò adds. “Moreover, it’s very digestible and if combined properly and consumed in the right amounts can also be eaten every day. Say yes to a good plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce or with seasonal vegetables, seasoned with extra-virgin olive oil. Pasta is also excellent along with legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils). Consumed in the same meal, they supply the body with all the essential amino acids it needs for the synthesis of proteins in muscles.”

Easy on the animal-based foods

“Yes to milk and yogurt, which can be consumed every day. Fish and eggs are okay two to three times a week. Whereas meat, preferably lean, and cheeses should be eaten once or twice a week. Foods of animal origin provide valuable protein for muscle health,” Schirò says.

How to season dishes

“The most preferable dressing by far is extra-virgin olive oil. It is the primary ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, but it should be consumed in small doses. The advice is to limit yourself to two tablespoons a day to avoid making overly caloric dishes.” Herbs and aromatic plants are also great. “Basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano, bay leaves are all good substitutes for salt. They flavor dishes without adding fat and calories,” the nutritionist concludes.