Low Mercury Mediterranean Meal Plan

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The Mediterranean Diet has been in the news a lot in the past few years, and for good reason. While not necessarily specific to any one culture, it’s a way of eating based on the habits and practices of cultures that border the Mediterranean. The health benefits have been studied and can include lower cholesterol, helping with weight loss, and many others. An important component of the Mediterranean diet are healthy fats found in olive oil and DHA found in fatty fish, which is important for baby’s brain development. The compositions of various types of fat in breast milk depends on what mom eats, so the benefits of eating the healthy fats featured in the Mediterranean Diet get passed on to baby also.

The main tenets of a Mediterranean-style diet include basing meals around vegetables, whole grains, fruits, olive oil, beans and legumes, seeds, herbs, and spices. Fish and seafood* is to be eaten twice per week, and red meat is to be eaten sparingly. Cheese, yogurt, poultry, and eggs are to be eaten a few times per week or less.

Pro tip:

*While the Mediterranean diet has many health benefits, it’s especially important for pregnant women and those trying to conceive to seek out fish that are low in mercury, a neurotoxin that can accumulate in the blood and damage your baby’s developing nervous system. Fish that are high in mercury include swordfish, shark, albacore tuna, king mackerel, marlin, and tilefish.

Choosing meals and snacks from the below listed options will help give you the heart and brain-development benefits of the Mediterranean Diet while keeping mercury levels low.

Breakfast

  • Option 1: Oatmeal with fresh fruit, cinnamon and nuts or seeds
  • Option 2: Avocado smashed with spices (cumin and red pepper, for example) spread on whole grain toast topped with an egg
  • Option 3: “Mezze Platter”: salmon, nuts, olives, fresh fruit, whole grain pita
  • Option 4: Fruit smoothie with plain low-fat yogurt and flax or chia
  • Option 5: Omelet with feta cheese, olives, spinach, tomatoes

Lunch

  • Option 1: Whole grain pita stuffed with fresh, raw veggies, olives, and hummus
  • Option 2: Canned light tuna* with olive oil, pine nuts, onion, pepper, spices (pepper, basil) on a raw (or cooked!) veggie salad with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese
  • Option 3: Salad with olive oil, nuts, and canned salmon
  • Option 4: Chicken salad made with pesto, whole grain crackers and a side salad with olive oil and lemon
  • Option 5: Whole grain pasta with leftover chicken or fish, extra virgin olive oil, steamed veggies (fresh or frozen), cooked beans or lentils, spices (pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic) and/or fresh herbs

Dinner

  • Option 1: Salmon roasted with tomatoes and olives; whole grain pasta
  • Option 2: Grilled cod with sautéed spinach and quinoa or farro
  • Option 3: Grilled chicken with anchovy-based dressing, roasted red peppers, roasted sweet potato
  • Option 4: Shrimp tossed with farro, white beans, tomatoes, seasonings (red pepper, garlic, basil), feta
  • Option 5: “Mediterranean Quesadilla”: whole grain tortilla, feta cheese, hummus, spinach, tomatoes, olives. Fold over and grill.

Snacks

  • Option 1: Trail mix with walnuts, almonds, and no-sugar-added dried fruit
  • Option 2: Roasted chickpeas
  • Option 3: Vegetables and hummus
  • Option 4: Plain low-fat Greek yogurt with cinnamon and fruit
  • Option 5: Medjool dates and almonds

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Serve Up Those Superfoods

Serve Up Those Superfoods

Serve Up Those Superfoods

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