Making a complete lifestyle change in terms of your eating habits can be difficult. While eliminating meat and/or dairy products entirely can be impractical for many families and committing to farmers markets and gardening in ones own home can be unrealistic, there are other diet options that can be just as environmentally sustainable as well as easier to implement into your daily routine. The Mediterranean Diet, which has rapidly risen in popularity in recent years, is lauded as a tasty way to eat eco-friendly and healthier.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean Diet is an eating lifestyle based around the traditional foods of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, the southern areas of Italy, France and Spain, as well as Lebanon, Turkey, and Morocco. It is a plant-based diet at its core, emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and herbs and spices as the centre of your meals, while incorporating fish and seafood a few times a week and poultry, eggs, cheese, and other dairy just in moderation. Additionally, save red meat and sweets just for special occasions or skip them all together.

So how much of a difference will it really make?

When followed correctly, that is when you do your best to skip tempting processed foods and stick to the whole grains and fresh produce that the Mediterranean Diet advocates for, the Mediterranean Diet has by far the lowest footprint in multiple environmental pressures. Eating in a traditional Mediterranean fashion can decrease water consumption by as much as 33% - largely due to the minimized amount of meat and dairy products consumed. Additionally, implementing the diet can lead to a significance decease in greenhouse gas emissions (72%), agricultural land use (58%), and energy consumption (52%), according to a study done in the EU.

What about health benefits?

A number of recent studies have found likely links between following a Mediterranean Diet program and decreased health risks for diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast cancer. By combining this type of eating pattern with an active lifestyle, you can cook and eat tasty food with a clear conscience, knowing you are actively decreasing your environmental output as well as potentially improving your own health outcomes.

So where do I start?

Because the Mediterranean Diet incorporates the cuisines of many different countries, there are countless recipes and styles of food you can incorporate into your eating routine to suit any taste. To get started decreasing your water use, check out some of these recipes and get cooking!

Written by Grace Foster, Research Manager