The healthy way.
When it comes to shedding unwanted weight, more are turning to the Mediterranean diet.
"Everyone is going with the Mediterranean diet because they know it works," said JT's Falafel & Kababs Mediterranean Cuisine owner Alex Al-Qawwas. "There is no grease involved and everything is made fresh."
Johnny Knight is an advocate of the diet. The 43-year-old uses the method to maintain his weight after dropping 250 pounds.
"I have a salad four days a week and have been coming here since the day it opened," said Knight of his dining at JT's.
Knight's favorite salads are the Greek and Tabouli.
The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps even a glass of red wine — among other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
Corinthian Leslie Bivens has dropped 49 pounds since incorporating the diet into her lifestyle.
"Studies show the Mediterranean cuisine is good for you," she said. "I know by eating this type of food often it will help my diet"
According to the Mayo Clinic, most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet remain tried-and-true, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods may make a difference in your risk of heart disease.
Research has shown the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. An analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
"The taste is what got me here," said Dr. Matt Johnson, who dines twice a week at JT's. "Alex does things that don't taste diet but works with a diet … my wife and kids love it."
Johnson has gone from 255 pounds down to 195 since turning to the diet.
"It's a pretty frequent stop for me," said Johnson. "Greek food is pretty healthy and there are lots of healthy things I like to eat here."
Birmingham, Alabama's Anthony Ralph used the Mediterranean style of diet to lose weight.
"Everything is made with olive oil, which is healthier," said Ralph, who stops at the local restaurant routinely on his way to Memphis, Tenn. "I made the switch to Mediterranean food five years ago, eating mostly salads."
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the Mediterranean diet as an eating plan which can help promote health and prevent disease. The Mediterranean diet is also one the whole family can follow for good health.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
• Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
• Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil.
• Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
• Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month.
• Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes fruits, vegetables and grains. For example, residents of Greece average six or more servings a day of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
"I want my business to be health conscious and everything as healthy as it can be," said Al-Qawwas. "So many people are committed to this type of diet."
(The Mayo Clinic contributed to this article.)