Summer's finally here and we’re dreaming of sparkling blue seas, olive groves and a table set with delicious Mediterranean food. Renowned as one of the healthiest diets in the world, there couldn’t be a better time to give it a try.

From juicy, sun ripened tomatoes and salad drizzled in olive oil to succulent seafood, traditional dishes enjoyed in southern France, Spain, Italy and Greece are full of the nutrients needed for healthy ageing. In fact, people who follow a Mediterranean diet tend to have a lower risk of developing age-related health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s.

We take a look at the common ingredients in Mediterranean meals and some simple ways to include them in your day-to-day diet.

Plenty of fruit and vegetables

People in Mediterranean countries eat far more fruit and vegetables than those living in northern Europe. You should always aim to eat at least five portions each day, to make sure your body gets all the fibre and vitamins that help it stay strong and healthy.

To add more fruit and veg into your daily diet, you could try topping your breakfast cereal with a handful of raspberries and swapping sweet snacks for fruit or carrot sticks. A hearty soup full of vegetables, such as our Italian classic Minestrone, is a good option for lunch. And at dinnertime, make sure your meal comes with a helping of vegetables, or even occasionally swap meat dishes for vegetarian alternatives like our award-winning Roasted Vegetable Lasagne.

Nuts and beans

Nuts are a great source of Omega 3 – an essential fatty acid that is particularly important for brain health. They also release energy slowly, making them a much better option for a snack than crisps.

Lean meat and fish

Although there’s no problem indulging in favourite dishes such as Roast Beef Dinner or Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce from time to time, you should try and make sure some of the meat you regularly eat comes from leaner sources, such as chicken and turkey. For a real taste of the Med why not try our Mediterranean Chicken? You should also aim to eat fish – which is packed with Omega 3  – a couple of times a week. Our Smoked Haddock Florentine and Salmon Pasta Bake both make tasty teatime treats.

Olive oil

Use olive, vegetable and nut oils when pan-cooking or frying foods, as they are much lower in saturated fat than butter and margarine. When flavouring a salad, olive oil and a touch of salt and pepper can make a tasty, healthier alternative to salad cream or Caesar dressing. And if you sometimes snack on bread and butter, why not try dipping bread in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead?

And a little red wine

Red wine is often used in Mediterranean cooking – and regularly enjoyed alongside a meal. High in anti-oxidants that help repair your cells, you can drink a small glass each day as part of a balanced diet.

If that’s whetted your appetite for more, we’ve got loads of tasty, Mediterranean-inspired dishes in our range of home delivered ready meals. Why not take a look, or order a free brochure to read through at home?