Recently, I had the chance to speak with the author of “The Mediterranean Diet Plan,” Susan Zogheib, a registered dietician about her diet plan. Susan will be joining me for an upcoming episode of HeartTalk presented by Capital Cardiology Associates this month (Sunday, June 24th). I wanted to share the highlights of conversation before YOU grocery shop this week so that you can discover the join of healthy eating this summer.
Control portion size. Ideas for how to do this include downsizing your dishes, eating without watching TV or being otherwise distracted, and keeping unhealthy food out of sight. An important component of the DASH diet is also to eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day. This is a way to reduce the risk of overeating and to distribute your energy evenly during the day.
On the flip side, hypos can be an issue, especially early on…and if you treat them too aggressively, they could knock you out of ketosis. I remember my first 3 weeks on keto, my CGM trend line hugged a blood sugar of around 80.  It was glorious, but I had to reduce insulin substantially through trial and error and felt like I was low every five seconds.
“For any individual considering a ketogenic diet, there are laboratory values that a knowledgeable physician should check prior to starting and throughout the course of the diet,” she says. “The best approach is to work with a registered dietitian that is knowledgeable in ketogenic diet therapies and can educate you on ways to make healthier choices on this plan than what dieters would randomly select on their own, along with appropriate supplements that are absolutely necessary on this type of diet.”
Drink lots of water. This is especially crucial on a low carb or keto diet. Why? When you eat carbohydrates, your body stores the extra as glycogen in the liver, where they are bound to water molecules. Eating low carb depletes this glycogen, which allows you to burn fat – but it also means you are storing less water, making it easier to get dehydrated. Instead of the traditional recommendation of 8 cups of water per day, aim for 16 cups when following a low carb lifestyle.
^ Freeman JM, Vining EP, Pillas DJ, Pyzik PL, Casey JC, Kelly LM. The efficacy of the ketogenic diet—1998: a prospective evaluation of intervention in 150 children. Pediatrics. 1998 Dec;102(6):1358–63. doi:10.1542/peds.102.6.1358. PMID 9832569. https://web.archive.org/web/20040629224858/http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/1998/DECEMBER/981207.HTM Lay summary]—JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs. Updated 7 December 1998. Cited 6 March 2008.
Recently, four studies have re-examined the effect of carbohydrate restriction on type 2 diabetes. One outpatient study enrolled 54 participants with type 2 diabetes (out of 132 total participants) and found that hemoglobin A1c improved to a greater degree over one year with a low-carbohydrate diet compared with a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet [5,6]. Another study enrolled 8 men with type 2 diabetes in a 5-week crossover outpatient feeding study that tested similar diets [7]. The participants had greater improvement in glycohemoglobin while on the low-carbohydrate diet than when on a eucaloric low-fat diet. The third study was an inpatient feeding study in 10 participants with type 2 diabetes [8]. After only 14 days, hemoglobin A1c improved from 7.3% to 6.8%. In the fourth study, 16 participants with type 2 diabetes who followed a 20% carbohydrate diet had improvement of hemoglobin A1c from 8.0% to 6.6% over 24 weeks [9]. Only these latter three studies targeted glycemic control as a goal, and two of these were intensely-monitored efficacy studies in which all food was provided to participants for the duration of the study [7,8]. Three of the studies [6,8,9] mentioned that diabetic medications were adjusted but only one of them provided detailed information regarding these adjustments [9]. This information is critical for patients on medication for diabetes who initiate a low-carbohydrate diet because of the potential for adverse effects resulting from hypoglycemia.
Variations on the Johns Hopkins protocol are common. The initiation can be performed using outpatient clinics rather than requiring a stay in hospital. Often there is no initial fast (fasting increases the risk of acidosis and hypoglycaemia and weight loss). Rather than increasing meal sizes over the three-day initiation, some institutions maintain meal size but alter the ketogenic ratio from 2:1 to 4:1.[9]
Hi, Esther! Thank you so much for your kind comment. I am so glad you found The Mediterranean Dish and hope you’ll enjoy cooking some of the recipes here! I should preface my answer here by saying that I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist, what I share here is mainly from my experience as someone who grew up in the Mediterranean area and have continued to eat the Mediterranean way now as an adult living in the USA. So please always check with your health care provider or a registered dietitian if you are looking for professional advice or a specific diet plan to follow. But I’ll answer your questions as best as I know how.
There isn't "a" Mediterranean diet. Greeks eat differently from Italians, who eat differently from the French and Spanish. But they share many of the same principles. Working with the Harvard School of Public Health, Oldways, a nonprofit food think tank in Boston, developed a consumer-friendly Mediterranean diet pyramid that offers guidelines on how to fill your plate – and maybe wineglass – the Mediterranean way.
Eat Breakfast Every Day. One habit that's common to many people who have lost weight and kept it off is eating breakfast every day. "Many people think skipping breakfast is a great way to cut calories, but they usually end up eating more throughout the day, says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids. "Studies show people who eat breakfast have lower BMIs than breakfast-skippers and perform better, whether at school or in the boardroom." Try a bowl of whole-grain cereal topped with fruit and low-fat dairy for a quick and nutritious start to your day.
Many diet plans cut out entire food groups, which can create nutrient deficiencies as well as health problems. For instance, if the diet is very low in carbohydrates and you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, it’s probably not a good fit. And if it’s too restrictive and you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s not a good idea, either. Keep in mind that pregnancy is not a time for weight loss. Speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Hi Mel, Assuming that your ranch dressing doesn’t have sugar added, you don’t need to worry too much about limiting it, but within reason. This is my homemade ranch dressing recipe, which has 0.9g net carbs per 2-tbsp serving. It would be hard to find a store bought one with much less than that, even though some round anything less than 1g down to 0g, which isn’t truly accurate. Also, keep in mind that if weight loss is your goal, some people find that too much dairy can cause a stall. Finally, make sure you aren’t using all your “available” carbs on ranch dressing – have it with some low carb veggies!
“The alkaline diet often has a focus on eating lots of fresh produce and unprocessed foods, which could be a good thing,” says Hultin. “However, keep in mind that this is not an evidence-based therapeutic diet. When people take it too far — for instance, drinking baking soda — or become too restrictive or obsessive over food choices, it can definitely turn negative.”
Pros: Technically a subtype of low-carb diet, the keto diet is unique: By depriving your body of carbohydrates, you not only force your body to become fat-adapted, but also, if you keep protein low as well, elevate your levels of ketone bodies, which is basically a sign your body is running on fat. The keto diet puts you in a unique metabolic state called ketosis wherein your brain burns ketones instead of glucose—and, in doing so, supposedly leads to clearer thinking. Physically, eating such a high amount of fat significantly increases your body’s ability to burn body fat, according to the study analysis. Research also shows keto athletes have a higher VO2 max, and are able to lose fat without losing strength or power.
What the expert says: ‘Like with atkins, you will lose weight quickly. The ketogenic diet is used in medicine, but under strict supervision and for set periods of time, so with appropriate support it can be safe in the short to medium term. The brain does use glucose as its fuel of choice, so ‘brain fog’ lethargy are common side effects. You’ll known when your body is running off ketones by your breath – it’s known as ‘keto breath’, and it’s bad. It also can affect your ability to exercise by due to a lack of quickly accessible energy.
I have patients that have lost tons of weight on keto. They do go off some meds. I also have people who eat a moderate amount of good carbohydrates, and they have lost tons of weight, and been taken off meds, had improved markers, even reversal. I think both approaches work, as I have seen in practice. Many people cannot stay on a keto diet forever. I for one, prefer to have some carbohydrates. I try to pick the right ones. If this works for you, then just be sure to have some medical supervision, which it sounds as though you are doing.
How many times have you heard a doctor specifically name a diet that fights heart disease and helps you lose weight? By name? We’re always told to eat healthy, maybe you are given a list of foods to add or avoid but from that point it’s on you to bring the meal plan together. Not with the Mediterranean diet. “This diet is for anyone but specifically for those with high blood pressure,” says Susan. “This is a low sodium, low fat, low cholesterol diet. It’s also ideal for those that are at risk for developing cardiovascular disease. It’s also great for weight loss or management, so if you are looking to shed a few pounds this is a great diet to embrace.”
The ketogenic diet may offer hope to people with type 2 diabetes who have difficulty controlling their symptoms. Not only do many people feel better with fewer diabetic symptoms, but they may also be less dependent on medications. Still, not everyone has success on this diet. Some may find the restrictions too difficult to follow over the long term. Yo-yo dieting can be dangerous for diabetes, so you should only start the ketogenic diet if you’re sure you can commit to it. A plant-based diet may be more beneficial for you both short- and long-term, so input from your dietitian and doctor can help guide your diet choice.
The fact is, the stress that you will bring on yourself from constantly restricting every single thing you put in your mouth is far more detrimental to your health. Remember, moderation is the key! You can count your carbohydrates and follow a sensible low carbohydrate diet to control your blood glucose and your weight. Exercise will always be the key component to add that contributes to added weight loss.

I was hypoglycemic as a teen because I avoided eating most carbs because obesity and diabetes runs in my family. When I got pregnant the dietician scared the he’ll out of me by telling me I was going to starve my baby if I continued to eat like I was. I immediately added good carbs into my diet and developed grata Iona’s diabetes and had a hell of a time controlling it. After I had my baby I went back to avoiding carbs and got back from yo where I was before my pregnancy. My brother died from complications due to his diabetes and at my mothers urging I went to a dietician and talked about food and what’s healthy and what’s not. I was once again scared that I was making a grave mistake and added in the carbs, I never should have. I developed diabetes and 80+ pound weight gain. After trying like hell to control my diabetes their way I’m back to my way. I’m tired of beating myself up for not being able to “apply” their recommendations correctly and the condescending attitude of the dietician when I tried asking about my old way of eating. I know me best and that’s it.
Fairly recently, the diet was introduced as a weight-loss diet by an Italian professor of surgery, Dr. Gianfranco Cappello of Sapienza University in Rome. In his 2012 study, about 19,000 dieters received a high-fat liquid diet via a feeding tube inserted down the nose. The study showed an average weight loss of more than 20 pounds in participants, most of whom kept it off for at least a year. The researchers reported a few minor side effects, like fatigue.
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