Smart living gurus say it's easy: Eat more like a Mediterranean. Yes, your parents were right to push you to finish your veggies. The Mediterranean diet - one heavy on veggies, nuts and fruit, with limits on meat - is the way to go. Study after study has shown it is the key to help you live longer and puts you at a lower risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. It even keeps your brain younger and healthier.

And while you will feel better and potentially live longer on a diet that favors veggies and fruits, it will also help you maintain a healthy weight and a thinner waist line, which is good for your overall health, self-esteem and mental well-being too.

Albania’s largely meat-based cuisine, generally makes little room for other high fiber and protein foods, which in terms of healthiness can knock out the meat from the first round. With the pace of life rapidly changing and the increased awareness on eating and being healthy, your only safe way is to go the sans meat one, by creating that space yourself.

So, for your health's sake, here's what you can do to follow this plant-oriented Mediterranean diet. It's pretty simple and it offers a wide variety too, so you won't be bored with what's on your plate. Make your meals heavy on the vegetable, bean and cereal side. Snack on nuts and fruit. You don't have to do anything as extreme as avoiding carbs.

You can still have three servings of those a day, especially if they are of the whole-grain variety. Cook with olive oil as opposed to butter. And limit the amount of saturated fat, meat and dairy.

Alternative Sources of Protein:

Lentils. Lentils are so affordable and available in Albania. They add 9 grams of protein to a meal as well as 15 grams of fiber. This goes for most beans, such as black beans, kidney beans and chickpeas. Imagine the goodness of “groshë” on a rainy fall evening.

Green Peas. Similarly, green peas contain eight grams of protein per cup as well as essential amino acids that are crucial for a stable metabolism and weight loss.
Spinach. Spinach is amazing in Albania, so please have more of it! It has five grams of protein per cup, high in iron and can be incorporated into so many meals.

Nuts and Nut Butter. All nuts contain both healthy fats and protein, making them a valuable part of a plant-based diet. My favorites are almonds, cashews and pistachios.

Plain Yoghurt. An overlooked source of protein is yoghurt, with 13 grams of protein per cup. Yoghurt is already popular in Albanian cuisine, so keep at it and appreciate its high protein value.

Quinoa. The quinoa trend started a few years ago, but for good reason. It is technically a seed and it contains more than eight grams of protein per cup, including all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair, but cannot produce on its own. It is super hero available at most Albanian grocery stores./