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Mediterranean Diet: Complete Food List and 14-Day Meal Plan

Mediterranean Diet: Complete Food List and 14-Day Meal Plan

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Fresh veggies and fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and fish are staples in the Mediterranean diet.

Alex Raths/iStock

There are few diets as universally recommended by experts as the Mediterranean diet. That’s because it’s not really a diet at all. “My favorite part of the Mediterranean way of eating is that it really is about a lifestyle,” says New York City–based Rachel Berman, RD, CDN, author of the Mediterranean Diet for Dummies.

What Is the Mediterranean Diet Exactly?

The Mediterranean diet is a mostly plant-based diet, says Elena Paravantes-Hargitt, a registered dietitian and nutritionist who specializes in the Mediterranean diet and the founder of OliveTomato. Paravantes-Hargitt lives in Greece. “It’s essentially a peasant diet. People would eat whatever they had growing in their gardens, along with some dairy and olive oil,” she says.

For a handy visual look at the Mediterranean diet of today, Paravantes-Hargitt recommends checking out Oldways, an organization, along with Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization, that created the Mediterranean diet pyramid 25 years ago. (1) Atop exercise stand the core foods: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts, and olive oil. The groups recommend eating fish and seafood twice a week and moderate amounts of dairy, eggs, and poultry. Red meat and sweets are consumed just sometimes.

What Are the Benefits and Risks of the Mediterranean Diet?

If you’re on the fence about eating more Mediterranean, consider all the research that backs it up. One study and meta-analysis published in October 2018 in the British Journal of Nutrition found that every point increase in Mediterranean diet score — meaning how well one follows the eating style on a scale of 1 to 9 — was associated with a 5 percent lower risk of death from any cause. (2)

More on Mediterranean Diet Benefits

It’s also tough to look past these numbers when it comes to your ticker: In a study of nearly 26,000 women, those with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet were up to 28 percent less likely to develop heart disease. (3) The diet may be particularly protective because it can reduce inflammation; plus, one antioxidant compound, called hydroxytyrosol, found in foods that are hallmarks of the diet (fruits, nuts, extra-virgin olive oil), has been shown to repair heart-harming free radical damage, the authors say.

While living longer and taking care of your heart are important to you, there’s no denying that you may be interested in the Mediterranean diet for its weight loss potential. Yes, this eating approach is something that can help stabilize your weight — without making you feel deprived. A study by researchers at Harvard University and Emory University, published in September 2018 in BMC Nutrition, followed a group of overweight or obese adults on the Mediterranean diet and a control group eating a standard American diet supplemented with fish oil, walnuts, and grape juice — foods that supply key nutrients in the Mediterranean diet — for eight weeks. A standard American diet is rich in foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar, and salt. Compared to the control group, Mediterranean diet followers lost more weight, reduced their blood levels of inflammatory markers, and lowered their total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. The bonus: It wasn’t supposed to be a weight loss study to begin with (that was just a nice bonus) so both groups ate a similar number of calories. (4)

As for risks, dietitians often recommend a Mediterranean-style diet to those managing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. (5) While this diet is considered heart-healthy, the American Heart Association does point out that it contains more fat than is typically recommended (though it’s still low in unhealthy saturated fat). (6) The main takeaway: This is one of the healthiest ways you can eat, but like everything else, if you’re changing your diet or using a diet in your treatment plan for a disease, always talk to your doctor first.

5 Tips for Creating Your Mediterranean Diet Plan

The good news is that because this is a style of eating versus a set of rigid rules, you can fully customize this approach to suit your likes and dislikes. There’s no following this to a T or falling off the wagon and feeling like a failure. It’s a diet to last you a lifetime, says Berman. Still, here are five important tips to get you started:

  1. Eat more legumes. Not only are they a staple that you’re probably not eating enough of anyway, but “they’re budget friendly and pack a great nutritional punch,” says Berman, adding that they’re high in fiber and protein, and low in fat. These include lentils, dried peas, beans, and chickpeas (like hummus).
  2. Don’t overdo it on the alcohol. One common misunderstanding is that those following the Mediterranean diet drink a lot of red wine. “Alcohol is part of the whole lifestyle. If you do drink wine, have a moderate amount while eating and savoring a meal with friends or family,” says Berman.
  3. Make meat a side. Traditionally, people ate meat only for special occasions, such as a Sunday supper, and even then in small amounts, says Paravantes-Hargitt. Try to incorporate more vegetarian-based mains (think: beans, tofu, or seitan) into your day. “A good place to start is going vegetarian one day a week,” she says. When you do eat meat, focus on choices like skinless chicken and save red meat for once a week or twice a month.
  4. Eat fewer sweets. Just like meat, make desserts a special occasion dish. That doesn’t mean sugar is out — have a bit in your coffee if you’d like, for instance, “but on a daily basis, there isn’t much sugar eaten,” says Paravantes-Hargitt.
  5. Cook with olive oil. Make extra-virgin olive oil the oil you cook with. While overdoing it with this oil can lead to weight gain (it’s a fat after all, so the calories can add up quickly), it’s rich in heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, so you can feel good about keeping a bottle handy in the kitchen. You can also use it in cold applications to make salad dressing or to drizzle on cooked veggies or side dishes.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics American Heart Association Best Reviews Guide Food Network Forkly Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Living Safer Mayo Clinic Mediterranean Way

A Complete Mediterranean Diet Food List

Here’s what to eat and skip when you’re making your meals more Mediterranean:



  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Seitan


  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Eggs

Rarely or Never

  • Red meat (beef and pork)
  • Bacon
  • Processed meat products (e.g., chicken nuggets)

Oil and Fat


  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Avocado and avocado oil
  • Olives


  • Canola oil

Rarely or Never

  • Trans fats
  • Margarine
  • Butter


10 Best and Worst Oils for Your Health

Certain oils offer a healthy source of fat, but the benefits and risks of others is murkier. Learn about the pros and cons of some of the most popular oils out there.

Fruits and Veggies


  • Nonstarchy veggies, including zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, artichokes, and dark greens
  • Starchy veggies, including sweet potatoes, potatoes, and root vegetables
  • All fruits, including peaches, cherries, apricots, and berries (like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)


  • There are no off-limits fruits or vegetables

Rarely or Never

  • There’s no fruit or veggie that is off-limits!

Nuts and Seeds


  • While they can be part of every day, eat them in moderation.


  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews (and all other unsweetened nuts)

Rarely or Never

  • Sweetened trail mixes
  • Sweetened nut butters
  • Sugar-coated nuts



  • Whole-grain bread (look for whole-wheat flour as the first ingredient)
  • Whole grains like farro, bulgur wheat, barley, and quinoa
  • Oatmeal (opt for steel-cut or old-fashioned)


  • Pasta (choose whole-wheat pasta whenever possible)
  • Couscous
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Polenta
  • All-bran cereals

Rarely or Never

  • Frozen waffles and pancakes
  • Sugar-sweetened cereals
  • Crackers and other snack foods



  • These are consumed in moderation as well.


  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Plain ricotta and cottage cheese
  • Milk
  • Brie, feta, or goat cheese (plus other cheeses that you enjoy)

Rarely or Never

  • Ice cream
  • Sweetened yogurt
  • Processed cheese (like American)



  • These are consumed in moderation


  • Honey
  • A small amount of added sugar, for example, in coffee or tea 

Rarely or Never

  • White sugar

Condiments and Sauces


  • Tomato sauce (no sugar added)
  • Pesto
  • Balsamic vinegar


  • Aioli
  • Tahini
  • Tzatziki

Rarely or Never

  • Barbecue sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Teriyaki sauce


5 Tricks for Getting Enough Fruit and Veggies

You already know that eating a plant-based diet is good for you. But how to go about loading up on fresh produce is a whole other story. These strategies can help.



  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Tea


  • Red wine or other alcohol

Rarely or Never

  • Soda
  • Fruit juice
  • Bottled sweetened coffee

Herbs and Spices


  • All dried herbs and spices
  • All fresh herbs
  • Garlic


  • Salting food to taste

Rarely or Never

  • There’s no reason to restrict these in your foods.

Your 14-Day Mediterranean Diet Eating Plan

Want to start eating like a Greek? Here are some ideas about where to start when planning your menu. Note that we don’t give portion sizes. This is one diet where calorie counting is not expected. What your body needs will be different from the next person.

Also, with the help of Berman and Paravantes-Hargitt, we’ll show you how to move toward a more Mediterranean-style of eating — rather than doing a total overhaul — that will fit with your lifestyle:

Day 1

Breakfast Coffee or tea with a bowl of oatmeal topped with berries

Snack Handful of almonds or walnuts

Lunch Half of a turkey sandwich made with whole-grain bread and a cup of lentil soup

Snack Sliced carrots, bell peppers, and cucumbers dipped in hummus

Dinner Veggie and white bean stew

Day 2

Breakfast Coffee or tea with plain Greek yogurt topped with a drizzle of honey and walnuts

Snack Roasted chickpeas

Lunch Leftover veggie and bean stew from yesterday’s dinner

Snack A peach (or apple, depending on the season)

Dinner Roasted chicken served with pita bread, tzatziki (a yogurt-based sauce), and a side salad

Day 3

Breakfast Smoothie made with the milk of your choice, fruit, and nut butter

Snack ¼ an avocado mashed with lemon juice and salt on top of whole-grain crackers

Lunch Three-bean soup topped with a dollop of pesto and served with a whole-grain roll

Snack Package of olives and fresh veggies

Dinner Salmon with farro and roasted zucchini and eggplant

More Mediterranean Diet Tips

Day 4

Breakfast Coffee or tea and toasted whole-grain bread, sliced cheese, and strawberries

Snack Pistachios

Lunch Lentil-based salad with feta, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives

Snack Greek yogurt with fresh fruit

Dinner Grilled shrimp served with sautéed kale and polenta

Day 5

Breakfast Coffee or tea and a breakfast bowl of leftover farro (from dinner on day 3) topped with a poached egg and a few slices of avocado

Snack Dried apricots and walnuts

Lunch Quinoa, bean, and veggie salad served with a slice of whole-grain bread

Snack Whole-grain crackers and black bean dip

Dinner Marinated, grilled chicken skewers served with bulgur wheat and a cucumber and red onion salad

Day 6

Breakfast Coffee or tea and smoked salmon, capers, and tomato slices

Snack In-season fruit (such as a peach or two apricots in summer; a pear in winter)

Lunch Mediterranean bean salad and whole-grain crackers

Snack Piece of cheese and olives

Dinner Moroccan lamb stew with couscous

Day 7

Breakfast Coffee or tea and Greek yogurt with sunflower seeds and raspberries

Snack Sliced orange and pistachios

Lunch A piece of whole-grain bread with sliced tomatoes, cheese, and olives

Snack Packaged, flavored lupini beans

Dinner Red lentil and vegetable stew

More on Mediterranean Diet Benefits

Day 8

Breakfast Coffee or tea and two eggs with sautéed greens (spinach or kale), plus an orange

Snack Roasted chickpeas

Lunch Leftover lamb stew from dinner on day 6

Snack Mixed nuts with a piece of dark chocolate

Dinner Baked white fish, roasted potatoes, and zucchini

Day 9

Breakfast Smoothie made with the milk of your choice, frozen cherries, banana, and cocoa powder

Snack Mini peppers stuffed with hummus

Lunch Tuna salad made with olive oil, dried herbs, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes served on a bed of spinach with mixed veggies and whole grain crackers

Snack Piece of cheese with a piece of fruit

Dinner Hearty Tuscan white bean soup with whole-grain bread

Day 10

Breakfast Coffee or tea and a bowl of oatmeal topped with raisins and crushed walnuts, plus a drizzle of honey, if desired

Snack Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit

Lunch Leftover Tuscan white bean soup from dinner on day 9

Snack Hummus with sliced raw veggies like red peppers, celery, and cucumber

Dinner Garlic lemon chicken thighs served with asparagus and Israeli couscous


10 Superfoods for Heart Health

To help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and halt the formation of plaque, reach for these nutritious eats that studies suggest may help stave off heart disease.

Day 11

Breakfast Coffee or tea and a slice of veggie frittata with avocado

Snack Apple with nut butter

Lunch Prepared dolmas (look for these stuffed grape leaves in the prepared food section at some grocers) with hummus and pita

Snack Greek yogurt dip with sliced veggies

Dinner Seafood stew (shrimp and white fish in a tomato base)

Day 12

Breakfast Coffee or tea and a small bowl of ricotta topped with fruit (berries, peaches, or fresh apricots) and a drizzle of honey

Snack Handful of lightly salted nuts (hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, or a mix)

Lunch Greek pasta salad (whole-grain pasta with red onion, tomato, Kalamata olives, and feta) served on a bed of romaine

Snack Fruit salad

Dinner Leftover seafood stew from dinner on day 11

Day 13

Breakfast Coffee or tea and oatmeal with nut butter and blueberries

Snack Container of Greek yogurt

Lunch Salmon salad sandwich with a cup of bean-based soup

Snack Smashed avocado on whole-grain crackers

Dinner Shakshuka (baked eggs in tomato sauce) topped with feta and served over polenta

Day 14

Breakfast Coffee or tea and toasted whole-grain bread topped with ricotta and sliced fruit

Snack Dried cranberries and mixed nuts

Lunch Quinoa bowl with roasted sweet potatoes, goat cheese, and walnuts

Snack Olives and a few pita chips dipped in hummus

Dinner Artichoke and cannellini bean pasta with bread crumbs and Parmesan

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  1. Mediterranean Diet. Oldways.
  2. Bonaccio M, Di Castelnuovo A, Costanzo S, et al. Mediterranean Diet and Mortality in the Elderly: A Prospective Cohort Study and a Meta-Analysis. British Journal of Nutrition. October 2018.
  3. Ahmad S, Moorthy MV, Demler OV, et al. Assessment of Risk Factors and Biomarkers Associated With Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Women Consuming a Mediterranean Diet. JAMA Network Open. December 2018.
  4. Jaacks LM, Sher S, De Staercke C, et al. Pilot Randomized, Controlled Trial of a Mediterranean Diet or Diet Supplemented with Fish Oil, Walnuts, and Grape Juice in Overweight or Obese U.S. Adults. BMC Nutrition. September 2018.
  5. Eating Patterns and Meal Plans. American Diabetes Association. September 2017.
  6. Mediterranean Diet. American Heart Association. April 2018

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