Fad diets come and go, but nutritionists have been singing the praises of the Mediterranean diet for years. The Mediterranean diet is focused on plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, only occasional red meat, and healthy fats like olive oil. Buying a Mediterranean diet book is the best way to figure out what foods you should eat and find recipe ideas for easier meal planning. Not sure how to choose the best book? Our shopping guide can help you find the ideal option, and it includes our picks for the best Mediterranean diet books on the market. Our top choice contains over 500 recipes that are healthy, delicious, and easy to follow--and are fast enough to prepare after a busy workday.
Considerations when choosing Mediterranean diet books
Depending on your cooking needs and preferences, you can choose from a few different types of Mediterranean diet books.
Beginner books are designed to provide a comprehensive rundown of the Mediterranean diet so that you understand what foods you should eat and why the diet provides many health benefits. These books usually include references to scientific studies that demonstrate why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy and also feature helpful resources like shopping lists and basic recipe ideas.
Diet cookbooks are focused more on specific recipes that follow the Mediterranean diet and incorporate its staple foods in tasty dishes. They may include meal plans for entire weeks or months and shopping lists for when you head to the grocery store. Most recipe books contain a mix of dish types, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers, and salads, but some contain recipes that focus on a specific type of dish, such as breakfast ideas.
Combination books contain a mix of the content found in beginner books and diet cookbooks. They provide an explanation of the diet and the foods you should eat while also offering up specific recipes and cooking ideas.
While the Mediterranean diet has its own guidelines about what foods you should eat, you may have other dietary restrictions to consider based on health issues or personal beliefs. If you're a vegan, for example, you won't want a book that contains mainly recipes featuring animal products. If you have celiac disease, avoid cookbooks that incorporate gluten in many of their recipes. To avoid any issues, opt for a book that provides substitutions for allergies, intolerances, and other dietary restrictions.
Any Mediterranean diet book you choose should be laid out clearly so it's easy to find the information you're interested in. For example, are the recipes scattered throughout the book or all in one section? Check out a book's table of contents to see how it's arranged to make sure it makes sense to you.
Nearly all Mediterranean diet books, even those of the non-cookbook variety, contain some recipes to get you started. However, there is significant variation in terms of how many recipes a book contains. Some have as few as 10, while others have as many as 500. If you're an experienced cook, you may be comfortable improvising with diet-approved ingredients, so you may not need as many recipes. If you're not the most seasoned chef, you'll likely appreciate as many recipes as you can get.
Photos aren't an essential feature in a Mediterranean diet book, but they can certainly make the reading experience more enjoyable. Some books contain lovely color photos that make the content more engaging. If you're not an experienced cook, it can also be extremely helpful to have reference photos for the recipes you're preparing to make sure you're on the right track.
While Mediterranean diet books are focused on food, some offer up exercise guidelines, too. Diet and exercise are both key components for a healthy lifestyle, so it helps to have some workout suggestions to get you started.
The average Mediterranean diet book usually costs $20 or less. These are usually combination books that contain an overview of the diet and no more than 20 recipes. For books with a wide array of recipes and beautiful color photography, you can expect to pay more.
Q. What are the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet?
A. According to significant scientific research, the Mediterranean diet can lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Women who follow the diet may also decrease their chance of breast cancer. It's been linked to a reduction in bad cholesterol, too.
Q. Can I eat meat on a Mediterranean diet?
A. The Mediterranean diet focuses mainly on vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, potatoes, bread, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil. Fish and other seafood can be eaten freely, and poultry can be eaten in moderation. However, you should only eat red meat occasionally--limit it to no more than two to three times a month.
Mediterranean diet books we recommend
Best of the best: The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen
Our take: Focused on tasty, easy recipes that incorporate Mediterranean diet-approved ingredients but also features tips and resources that take it beyond the average cookbook.
What we like: Contains over 500 simple, easy-to-recreate recipes. Divided into chapters that focus on key food groups within the diet. Features beautiful, full-color photos of the dishes. From a trusted source in the nutrition field.
What we dislike: Some recipes use ingredients that can be expensive or difficult to locate.
Best bang for your buck: The Oldways 4-Week Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan
Our take: An effective and straightforward introduction to Mediterranean menu planning so you can easily incorporate the diet into your lifestyle.
What we like: Provides four weeks of menus to help you easily transition to the diet. Produced by the nonprofit that helped popularize the diet with consumers. Contains helpful tips about stocking your pantry and gathering the proper tools.
What we dislike: A short book that doesn't offer many non-vegetarian recipes.
Our take: A book that helps you adopt the Mediterranean diet lifestyle not just for overall health but weight loss as well.
What we like: Written by a registered dietician who specializes in weight loss. Contains over 90 healthy, Mediterranean diet-approved recipes. Features exercise and general weight loss tips. Illustrated charts make it easy to track your progress.
What we dislike: Recipes can take significant time and expense to prepare. Doesn't have many photos.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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