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Shopping for the Mediterranean Diet

I keep calling it the Mediterranean “Diet.” But doing so seems to be misleading, because we tend to think of a “diet” as a temporary strategy to lose some weight, after which we go back to “normal.” But going “Mediterranean” is really about starting to just eat differently overall. It is about shifting certain foods to a much higher frequency and priority and other foods to a much lower frequency and priority. So, by “diet” I think we are just talking about the way (generally speaking) that people living in countries around the Mediterranean Sea tend to eat.

And it should be pointed out that this way of eating comes pretty highly recommended. I’m a science guy, and my quick review of the studies convinces me that there is substantial evidence that this way of eating reduces the risk for things like diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, this diet ranked #1 in the U.S. News and World Report for best diets in 2023. Personally, I’m also hoping to lose some weight eating this way, but frankly that isn’t the only benefit.

Okay. Now for the shopping! After watching maybe 15-20 different YouTube videos on the Mediterranean Diet, I assembled a list of the types of ingredients and food I would need to get started. Now, to be honest, I still wasn’t sure what I would DO with all these ingredients. But I figured if I bought them, at least I would have somewhere to begin. Plus, I knew Bonnie would help me!

So off I went to Trader Joes! I’m not a great grocery shopper, as this is totally Bonnie’s area of expertise. But while she is still recovering, it was fun to give this a try. She suggested Trader Joes because of their quality choices. I love this store! It is small, but packed with great items that are a bit unique, and lean toward the healthier side (though not exclusively health food!). The produce is fresh, and the staff are super friendly.

Here is what I bought:

  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Avacado Oil, and Red Wine Vinegar (these seem to be foundational ingredients)
  2. Lentils and quinoa. What are lentils? I haven’t a clue. But I saw them listed frequently near the bottom of the Mediterranean food pyramid.
  3. Peppers, carrots, oranges, apples, white & red onions, 3 bags of various salad greens including shredded Kale
  4. Organic peanut butter with nuts….no sugar added…just the nuts!
  5. Hummus! I bought 3 tubs of different varieties. The Vegan Buffalo is really good!
  6. Feta cheese, shaved parmesan cheese and these cool looking mozzarella balls (Oh, and some light string cheese for my daughter!)
  7. Fish: canned salmon (2 types), sardines (have NO clue what to do with them!), and tuna
  8. Two jars of Kalamata olives
  9. Beans: Chick-peas, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, and a few others I can’t remember
  10. Whole wheat bread with lots of nuts and grains
  11. Greek yogurt and some fruit to go in it (fresh blueberries and frozen raspberries)
  12. Several bags of nuts: walnuts, almonds, cashews

So that was my shopping trip! The total was just over $150, but Bonnie tells me that isn’t too bad. And a lot of these ingredients will last for a long time.

I had a funny experience while shopping too. A total stranger started putting items into my shopping cart while I was standing in the canned food aisle. After she gently set them in my carriage, she slowly looked up and saw my face smiling back at her. She instantly realized she had the wrong cart! We had a chuckle and continued on with our shopping.

So that was my little shopping expedition in preparation for making some Mediterranean meals. I’m trying to stay optimistic about this and reading up on all the benefits of this approach to eating. I’ll end with a quick quote from the Johns Hopkins website on the Mediterranean Diet:

Fish instead of fried chicken. Brown rice instead of a white-flour roll. A handful of nuts instead of chips. Olive oil instead of butter. And plenty of vegetables and fruit. Easy food swaps like these put the heart-healthy, life-extending power of the Mediterranean diet on your plate—simply and deliciously.

-Johns Hopkins Hospital

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