From Standard American Diet to a Mediterranean Diet: Your One-Day Meal Plan
The acronym S.A.D speaks to the Standard American Diet and sedentary habits, which have led to an alarming surge in a rise to obesity, chronic diseases like cardiovascular issues, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and even cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's.1
Amidst these concerning trends, it's crucial to differentiate the American diet from one the world's healthiest eating pattern—the Mediterranean diet (MeDi). Unlike a rigid regimen, the Mediterranean diet offers a flexible eating pattern, informed by the dietary traditions of the blue zones, where the world's healthiest and longest-living individuals reside. It is often promoted to decrease the risk of heart disease, depression, diabetes, dementia, and other health issues.2 Moreover, the Mediterranean lifestyle choice places emphasis on daily exercise and the salutary social aspects of sharing meals together.
To practically incorporate these dietary principles into our lives and cultivate lifelong brain health, we don't have to undertake a complete dietary transformation overnight, which may prove overwhelming for many. However, the key lies in embracing gradual adjustments that can seamlessly become part of our eating routine over time.
Transition to a Healthier Brain Food Journey with Simple Approaches:
- Start by stocking up on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, chia seeds, and walnuts. These can be easily added to salads, oatmeal, or yogurt. Berries, with their anthocyanins, make fantastic smoothie additions or standalone snacks.
- Don't forget leafy greens, which are packed with vitamins and minerals, like lutein and zeaxanthin, that support brain health. Incorporate them into sandwiches, wraps, or even slip them into baked goods.
- Meal prepping on weekends or using slow cookers can also save time during busy weekdays.
- Mixed nuts, seeds, and dried fruits can be portioned into grab-and-go containers for quick snacking.
- Having a well-stocked brain healthy snack drawer or designated snack shelf in the fridge can help everyone in the family make wholesome choices when hunger strikes.
To guide your transition from a Standard American Diet to the Mediterranean diet, take a look at the sample one-day menu below. This plan has been devised to offer you a glimpse into a day of eating following the Mediterranean diet. It aims to show you how you can still enjoy meals you like but with adjustments to make them more tailored to a brain-healthy Mediterranean diet pattern. Easily incorporate a selection from the options below to replace snacks or meals, ensuring you enjoy a beneficial intake of brain-boosting nutrients.
From Standard American Diet to a Mediterranean Diet: Sample One Day Meal Plan:
S.A.D Breakfast: Pancakes with Berries and Syrup
MeDi Breakfast: Oatmeal with Berries and Honey
Refined grains like pancake mixes, are prevalent in the S.A.D, stripped of essential nutrients in the process.1 In contrast, the MeDi places whole grains, like oatmeal, at the forefront, delivering sustained energy, fiber, and nutrients crucial for brain health and maintaining stable blood sugar levels.1
S.A.D Snack: Potato Chips and Fruit Snacks
MeDi Snack: Pumpkin Blueberry Muffin
The S.A.D often features an abundance of processed foods, linked to obesity and chronic diseases.1 Conversely, the MeDi champions a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, providing essential nutrients for brain health including flavonoids from berries, magnesium, kaempferol, and quercetin from vegetables.1
S.A.D Lunch: Cobb Salad with Fried Chicken Cutlet, Bacon Bits, Cheese, and Ranch Dressing over Iceberg Lettuce
MeDi Lunch: Arugula Salad with Baked Salmon Fillet and Lemon Olive Oil Dressing
The S.A.D often includes an abundance of fried foods, which can contribute to unhealthy weight gain and heart-related issues.1 In contrast, the MeDi embraces healthy fats from sources like olive oil and fatty fish, both elements that promote heart and brain health with their sources of omega-3's and polyphenols.2
S.A.D Snack: Crackers and Cheese
MeDi Snack: Hummus with Carrots and Celery
High-fat dairy like certain cheese and heavy cream, is a staple of the S.A.D, often associated with elevated levels of saturated fats which have been linked to negative impacts on brain health.1 On the other hand, the MeDi advocates for limiting dairy intake, instead opting for moderate consumption of healthier options.2 A popular dip from the MeDi diet is hummus, which is made with olive oil, full of brain healthy polyphenols, and garbanzo beans, providing magnesium, a mineral associated with brain health.
S.A.D Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese with Slice of Garlic Bread.
MeDi Dinner: Turkey Bolognese Stuffed Acorn Squash with Fresh Basil
In the S.A.D dinner, Spaghetti Bolognese is often made with ground beef, heavy on red meat and saturated fats. The white bread used for garlic bread is typically refined and lacks essential nutrients.1 In contrast turkey from the MeDi diet is a lean source of protein, and it's lower in saturated fat compared to red meat. One cup of acorn squash contains 25% of the DV for magnesium, which plays a role in normal brain development, memory and learning. Also, acorn squash (like carrots) is rich in carotenoids, plant pigments with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that promote brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Start by making minor adjustments, gradually integrating more as you find your rhythm. Each stride contributes to elevating your brain health and your overall well-being.
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For even more tips and recipes, along with some Mediterranean diet meal plans, download our FREE guide: Learn to Eat the Mediterranean Way.
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols; Wartella EA, Lichtenstein AH, Boon CS, editors. Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Phase I Report. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010. 4, Overview of Health and Diet in America. Available from: Overview of Health and Diet in America - Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- Finicelli, Mauro et al. “The Mediterranean Diet: An Update of the Clinical Trials.” Nutrients vol. 14,14 2956. 19 Jul. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14142956
- Davinelli, Sergio et al. “Carotenoids and Cognitive Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Intervention Trials.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 10,2 223. 2 Feb. 2021, doi:10.3390/antiox10020223