The Mediterranean diet is the best diet to keep weight in check and improve overall heart health. The diet is based upon foods traditionally eaten in Greece and Southern Italy. Studies have shown this region has lower instances of stroke, heart attack and cholesterol problems than the rest of the world, and the cuisine is what helps keep people living there healthy.
How to eat like a Mediterranean:
Vegetables and fruits every meal: between one-half and one cup of vegetables AND fruits with every meal.
Olive Oil: at least one tablespoon a day, but not more than four - and that includes the oil you cook with.
Legumes (aka beans, peas, etc): only three servings per week.
Fish: three servings per week - oily fish like salmon, halibut, sardines and anchovies are the best because they contain more omega-3 fatty acid (the good stuff).
Nuts: three servings per week (1/4 cup servings or 2 tablespoons of nut butter) - stick with walnuts, almonds, cashews and hazelnuts.
Starch: three servings per day - stick with whole grains like oats, barely, brown rice, red or sweet potato.
Meat: three 3oz servings per week - white meats like pork or chicken are best. Red meat should only be eaten once per week.
Dairy: three servings per week - stick with low-fat milk and yogurt. Eggs are included in this, but if you eat just the whites, you can have as much as you want.
Dessert: only once per week and only a 3oz serving :(
Wine: one to two glasses per day - while there is some data showing modest alcohol consumption can be beneficial, don't start drinking if you don't drink. Beer and hard liquor don't work with this diet.
Eating healthy foods in moderation will go a long way in helping prevent some of the most common cardiovascular diseases. Enjoy!