- The Mediterranean diet is an eating plan that limits meat and focuses on legumes, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Because of this, the diet is well-suited to vegans and vegetarians.
- Beans, tofu, and nuts and seeds are some of the best foods to eat as a vegan on the Mediterranean diet.
Being a vegan can sometimes make it hard to implement a new style of eating into your life – after all, if you’ve managed to figure out the protein and omega-3 sources that work for you, why mess with it? But if you are a vegan, it might be worth giving the Mediterranean diet a try.
This is because, as a vegan, chances are pretty good that you already eat many of the foods considered part of the Mediterranean diet. Dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of “Read it Before You Eat It – Taking You From Label To Table,” told INSIDER that the diet is ideal for anyone who already follows a plant-based style of eating.
“It’s really an easy diet to follow if you are vegetarian or vegan. This diet is based upon a foundation of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit,” she said. “Where it’s different than [the typical American diet] is that meat, poultry, and fish are treated more as a side dish than a main dish.”
Here are the best foods to eat if you’re a vegan looking to try the Mediterranean diet.
Beans are packed with protein.
Beans are a great way to get protein, fibre, and prevent heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. They are also a vital component of the Mediterranean diet.
“Beans are so commonly used in the Mediterranean, yet here it’s almost an underrated superfood,” Taub-Dix said. “They’re in our supermarkets, but a lot of people just pass by them because they don’t know what to do with them. But in most cases, it’s not much harder than opening a can and rinsing them.”
To get your legume fix, try mixing some beans (like chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, or peas) in a salad, soup, or platter of sauteed veggies. Just make sure you do rinse them because this helps to minimise sodium.
Tofu is a good meat replacement option.
The Mediterranean diet relies less on meat than some other diets.
Even fish and poultry, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, should be eaten at least twice a week, in the Mediterranean diet, are often treated as more of a “special occurrence” than a standard component of a meal, according to Taub-Dix.
To ensure you’re getting enough protein, try adding small portions of tofu (which is made of soybeans, making it Mediterranean diet-friendly) to your meals a few times a week.
Nuts and seeds give you the omega-3 you need.
If you don’t eat fish, it can be hard to get omega-3 fatty acids. As a replacement, Taub-Dix suggested implementing nuts and seeds including chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds, all of which provide protein as well as omega-3s.
That said, plant-based sources of omega-3 contain a type of omega-3 that is less active in the body than the type that comes from animal sources, according to Healthline. Because of this, you’ll need to eat a lot of plant-based omega-3s or add a supplement to your diet.
Whole grains add more fibre to your diet.
Taub-Dix also suggested switching from white flour products to whole grains, like quinoa, sprouted bread, and whole-wheat pasta and bread. This will add fibre to your diet and help you stay fuller and more satisfied for a longer amount of time.
Vegetables are an important part of the Mediterranean diet.
One thing that anyone on the Mediterranean diet should use as a staple are vegetables. Any type of vegetable you like should be fine, but you can’t go wrong with nutritional powerhouses you can also find in many Greek restaurants, like onions, red bell peppers, broccoli, and spinach.
Fruit is a good way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Because the Mediterranean diet limits added sugar, Taub-Dix recommends getting your sweet fix from fruit. Try ones high in antioxidants and vitamins, like grapefruit, blackberries, oranges, and raspberries.
Oils like olive oil can be multi-purpose.
The Mediterranean diet also emphasises oils, like olive and canola oil. Try using extra-virgin olive oil to cook with or as a salad dressing or dip.
Think of it as a lifestyle, not a diet.
Vegan or not, Taub-Dix said it’s important to think of the Mediterranean diet not so much as a way to lose weight, but more as a way to improve one’s health and overall quality of life.
“In some respects, I hate to even call it a diet,” Taub-Dix told INSIDER. “Just because the term has ‘ diet’ in it doesn’t mean it has to do with [losing weight]. I would think of it more as a lifestyle.”
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