Healthy weight, a long life, and a happy disposition; sounds like a pretty good package, huh? According to newly published Spanish research, the key to all three may be as simple as following a Mediterranean diet. 

In the study, scientists analyzed the links between diet and quality of life of more than 11,000 university students over a four-year period. The results revealed that those who stuck more closely to the Mediterranean diet principles scored higher on a quality of life assessment, which evaluated both physical and mental well-being. Some of the key tenants of this kind of diet include:

A higher intake of vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, whole grains, and fish
Low intake of meat, high fat dairy, sugar, and sweets
Daily consumption of olive oil
Drinking one and a half to two liters of water daily

It’s not surprising that other studies have also tied a Mediterranean diet to weight control. So how can you put these principles into action without having to move to Italy, Spain, or Greece? Here are four Mediterranean-inspired swaps:

Instead of a creamy salad dressing toss greens and vegetables with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt-free Italian herb seasoning
Rather than slathering bread or toast with butter spread with ripe avocado
Replace ground beef with beans or lentils seasoned with garlic, herbs, and minced veggies like onions and mushrooms
Swap refined grains like white rice and pasta with whole grains including whole wheat couscous, wild rice, quinoa, and barley.  

For more ideas, check out my guest blog for Oldways, the non-profit creators of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. It includes my Mediterranean Lentils Over Couscous recipe. And for more information about how to Mediterraneanize your meals check out this article from my site about how to eat more plant-based meals.  

How closely does your diet resemble a Mediterranean take on meals? Tweet @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

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