The Mediterranean Diet is all about adapting a healthy lifestyle and not really worrying too much about which foods to avoid. So yes, it’s counter to that philosophy to talk about which foods not to eat on a Mediterranean Diet 

Likewise, as we’ve mentioned before, it’s not a great idea to be in the habit of counting calories on a daily basis. 

Yet these exercises can be very instructive in the short term to take stock and see where you stand. 

In that spirit, let’s briefly review (not too seriously) which common foods to avoid to start the Mediterranean Diet in 2022. And watch out: some of these fall under the misdirected guise of “health foods.”

Below is a list of 10 types of products that you might easily come across when you go shopping at the supermarket.

Let’s reiterate: Consuming these products sporadically and on special occasions, for a healthy person, is not a particular problem, if the diet is balanced for the rest of the time.

10 Foods to Avoid on the Mediterranean Diet

The whole world is aware of the many positive sides of the Mediterranean diet, so much so that U.S. News & World Reports is consistently named the best diet in the world.

Although, in general, the Mediterranean diet informs good habits and dietary rules that we do not feel the need to contradict (unlike many of the “fad” diets), it is still good to take stock of a few things to avoid. Some are quite obvious, some are not.

Juices and sugary drinks

Avoid: commercial fruit juices, syrups or powders for fruit flavored drinks. Sugar is the main ingredient: we can easily do without it. Not to mention that being liquid, it is absorbed much more easily and quickly than solid food, increasing the risk of insulin resistance and related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

And yes, “healthy” smoothies, more often than not, should be avoided. 

Consume instead: extracts or 100% fruit juices, which you can also find in the supermarket. Better still if you prepare them at home with fresh ingredients and consume them on the spot, in order to maintain the vitamin content of fruit and vegetables.

Candies and snacks, sweets and snacks

To avoid: candies and sweet snacks, packaged sweets and snacks. Here, too, the sugar content is very high, but there is also a large portion of fats, almost never of the healthy type, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Instead, consume: fresh or dried fruit, dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. The sugars in this case will be those naturally present in food but their absorption will be modulated by the presence of fibers. Chocolate and nuts also contain healthy fats and also a certain percentage of protein (in the case of nuts and chocolate).

Fruit “flavored” yogurt

Avoid: fruit yogurt or any yogurt that says “yogurt flavored with ..” on the label. Let’s not get confused: it’s all about sugar and flavorings.

Instead, consume: natural white yogurt, to which you can add fresh fruit, dark chocolate flakes with more than 70% cocoa, dried fruit or cereals depending on your personal preference.

Breakfast bars and cereals

Avoid: breakfast cereals and bars that look “healthy” but are full of unknown ingredients and are abundant in sugar.

Consume instead: cereals in the versions with little or no sugar among the ingredients, perhaps whole. Compare nutrition labels. Or simple oats, to which you can combine dried fruit and dark chocolate or fresh or dried fruit such as raisins, blueberries or raspberries. Even a fresh Italian pastry would be much better.

Did you know that energy bars can also be made at home? All you need is baking paper and the ingredients (whole grains, dried or dried fruit, chocolate, honey ..). You don’t even have to turn on the stove.

Potato chips and salty snacks

Avoid: French fries, packaged popcorn, and salty snacks, where the salt and fat content far exceeds health recommendations, leading to an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Instead, consume: homemade popcorn, unsalted dried fruit, crunchy raw vegetables.

You don’t have to be saddened by the idea of ​​raw vegetables, have you ever heard of pinzimonio? The difference is that the amount of salt is up to you, and it will be much better than a packaged product.

Mayonnaise, ketchup, nuts, and seasonings

To avoid: sauces like mayonnaise, ketchup, seasonings, and nuts; a bomardment of salt, sugar and glutamate.

Instead, consume: oil flavored with herbs and spices, sauce made with yogurt, vegetable or meat broth. To make a simple broth you just need an onion, a carrot and a zucchini: if you let it reduce on the stove, you can freeze it in cubes and store it in the freezer to use it if necessary instead of the packaged one.

Ready-made gravies and sauces

To avoid: ready sauces. Whatever is in it, the quality will never be that of a fresh product, and the content of preservatives (even sugar and salt are used for this purpose) is always indecent.

Consume instead: homemade sauces. The ideal would be to revive the customs of our (great) grandmothers! But since it is difficult in the city to have a patio with a giant bowl where to mash the tomato and not everyone has an uncle who ships jars of homemade sauce from the south, try to find alternatives: a tomato sauce can be easily made by cutting cherry tomatoes fresh and lightly tossing them in a pan.

Even pesto can be made quickly at home by blending a little basil from the market, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and Parmigiano Reggiano. 

“String” cheese

To avoid: stringy cheeses. They are anything but cheese, which they contain in minimal percentages.

Consume instead: how about fresh mozzarella? It’s healthy, delicious, and full of protein. Cut it into slices or cubes, add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

Ready-made meals, breaded, frozen, pre-fried

To avoid: ready-made meals, frozen ready meals, breaded and pre-fried. Often they are preparations with lower quality ingredients than fresh ones, rich in fats, salt and various additives: checking the labels is a must if you want to find valid products and consume them consciously. Otherwise, who knows what is in there?

Consume instead: there is not much escape here, the alternative is to cook. Even a dish prepared in a rush, compared to its equivalent “ready and frozen,”will always be better in the home version. The advantage of being able to choose the ingredients (better oil for fried food, soups made with fresh vegetables ..) is indisputable.

Carbonated drinks and energy drinks

To avoid: carbonated and non-carbonated drinks (soft drinks) and energizers (energy drinks like Red Bull). Sugar, caffeine, artificial colors, and additives of all kinds. Need we say more?

Instead, consume: carbonated water with fresh fruit (lemon, lime, orange, but also other fruit or mint), iced tea made in the infusion without sugar, shaken coffee without sugar. Alcohol is to be limited, but if you really can’t give it up, opt for a good glass of red wine at the meal.

Foods NOT to Eat on the Mediterranean Diet – In Sum

Eating healthily does not mean depriving yourself of taste or giving up opportunities. Nutrition is the platform on which you build your health, your well-being, your future. You may not know it, but many things depend on your food choices that don’t seem immediately obvious. Watch what you eat, and everything else will fall into place much easier.

Here’s how to Start the Mediterranean Diet in Six Easy Steps.

Rick Zullo

Former doctor, current science teacher, and life-long food lover, Rick's passion for Mediterranean cuisine was ignited while living as an expat in Rome, Italy. 


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