Three experts decode the popular Mediterranean diet for an Indian's palate

14 January,2024 07:10 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Tanishka D’Lyma

The Mediterranean diet was the runaway winner in the list of best diets in 2024. We invited three experts to decode this popular, healthy diet for an Indian palate

Add dairy products, good fats and colourful vegetables to your diet

The word diet had always sounded restrictive and dull to this writer, until the 30s began to approach and the word got a whole new meaning - nutrition. Growing up, diets were given to actors and senior folk. With youth and good health on our side, we were shielded from it having any connection to a healthy lifestyle. Now, as we make the shift from processed snacks to homemade makhana, and from sugary ice teas to kombucha, or better yet, a vitamin C effervescent tablet dropped into a glass of water, we slowly approach meals mindful of what we put into our bodies. Looking up the Mediterranean diet, which was ranked No 1 by US News & World Report in their top diets for 2024 list, we realised that this diet might not be as restrictive or boring or intimidating. City nutritionists help us understand and incorporate some routines and healthy eating habits into our everyday lives.

Even though the diet includes hydrating fruits, it is important to keep track of your water intake and stay hydrated. Representation Pic

With a focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and healthy fats, and avoiding processed foods and saturated fats, the Mediterranean diet promotes better eating habits. Dr Sneha Luhera, clinical dietitian, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, notes that recent studies show that this meal plan lowers risk factors for heart disease including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. However, individual requirements vary, making it crucial to consult a professional to tailor any diet to specific needs.

For Indians following the Mediterranean diet, Dr Luhera, recommends substitutes. She notes, "A well-balanced diet for Indians typically includes a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy, and lean proteins, with spices and herbs for health benefits. An Indian version of the Mediterranean diet is not only nutritionally balanced, diverse and colourful but can also have varied flavour and texture. It makes the diet sustainable and culturally fitting." Replace olive oil with mustard or sesame oil which are commonly used in Indian households and have unique flavours. Incorporate Indian spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cardamom to enhance dishes. For non-vegetarian options, opt for lean cuts and locally available fish. You can replace bread or pasta with whole wheat roti and rice. Opt for methods like grilling, baking, or steaming instead of frying, to maintain the nutritional integrity of foods.

Ayushi Shah

To this list, Bhavisha Khuman, nutritionist and dietitian, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, adds curd and buttermilk as sources of probiotics and calcium, and other beverages commonly consumed in India like herbal teas and coconut water since it's essential to stay hydrated when on any diet.

Dr Luhera points out, "Healthy lacto-vegetarian diet should focus on grains, lentils, dairy, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats such as coconut oil." She continues that it's important to consider pre-existing dietary restrictions and allergies before beginning a diet. "While the Mediterranean diet includes hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables, it's essential to drink enough water throughout the day to stay sufficiently hydrated."

Ayushi Shah, clinical nutritionist and founder of Nutri.U reminds us, "Indians can opt for a combination of the Mediterranean diet and an Indian diet where you eat according to the season and region." Shah suggests following diets gradually and in a planned and sequential manner.

How to follow it the right way

Incorporate regular exercise into your routine along with a good diet

>> The diet includes a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables like olives, avocados, grapes, and figs that are rich in fibre and antioxidants. Consume as many types of fruit as possible from seasonal to locally grown
>> Include whole grains packed with fibre, antioxidants, and energy
>> Opt for power-packed proteins like milk and dairy products, pulses, nuts, and omega-3-rich fish

- Dr Sneha Luhera

Check list before starting a diet

>> Seek advice from a doctor or registered dietitian to address specific requirements, especially if you have pre-existing health concerns
>> Set realistic goals to maintain motivation and sustain the diet in the long run
>> Implement dietary changes gradually to allow your body to adapt
>> Ensure you get a well-balanced intake of nutrients, and stay hydrated

>> Incorporate regular physical activity as part of your overall health plan
>> Be mindful of portion control to prevent overeating
>> Avoid extreme or restrictive diets that may lead to nutritional deficiencies
>> Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues, and adjust your diet accordingly

- Bhavisha Khuman

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