Mediterranean Diet: Guidelines, Meal Plans & Everything You Need to Know to Succeed
- November 19, 2020
Table of Contents
- 1 What is the Mediterranean Diet?
- 2 Why the Mediterranean Diet?
- 3 How Does the Mediterranean Diet Work?
- 4 Printable Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan PDF
- 5 Benefits of Mediterranean Diet
- 6 Mediterranean Diet Food List & pyramid
- 7 Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid
- 8 Easy Mediterranean diet recipes & menu
- 8.1 3 Mediterranean Diet Breakfast Options
- 8.2 Mediterranean Diet Lunch
- 8.3 Mediterranean Diet Dinner
- 8.4 Mediterranean Diet Desserts
- 9 Mediterranean Diet Variations
- 10 Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
- 11 Mediterranean Diet Shopping List
- 12 Mediterranean Diet FAQs
- 13 Mediterranean Diet Myths & Facts
- 14 Mediterranean Diet Books
The Mediterranean: you know it, you love it, it’s famous for its food – and now there is finally a diet based around their culinary genius!
And in honor of National Mediterranean Diet Month (May), I wanted to share some insights on this incredible diet and why it was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the Best Overall Diet for 2019.
Better yet, think of it as the Mediterranean lifestyle, because the foundation of this “diet” is not only based on what we eat, but how we live.
Emphasizing the importance of sharing meals with friends and family and being physically active (i.e. the perfect excuse to grab our tribe and go dancing tonight!).
Did I forget to mention that it is also ridiculously DELICIOUS?
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
Before we begin – you must understand this diet is more of a cultural habit – and consists of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea (mainly Greece and Spain).
This diet was not created by any person(s) or group; rather the Mediterranean Diet naturally came to be by Mediterranean locals eating only the foods available in their day-to-day environment.
In 1958, a curious scientist named Ansel Keys, Ph.D. wrote a ground-breaking paper about how the locals of the Mediterranean coast rarely experienced cardiovascular disease.
Ansel’s Seven Countries Study discovered the residents in the Mediterranean experienced some of the lowest deaths from diabetes in the world, and equally they had excellent cardiovascular health for people who didn’t partake in strenuous physical activities like other countries.
It was this study – and his book where he first advocated this style of eating – which propelled the Mediterranean diet onto the world stage.
And it was a global hit!
Study after study have since proven the Mediterranean Diet offers a wide set of health benefits like minimizing cognitive decline and reducing the incidence of cancer, metabolic syndrome, and dementia.
The Mediterranean community is not only mindful of the food they put into their body, but the rituals that come along with it. Savoring each moment along with each bite.
A list of the Mediterranean Countries:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
*** get someone to make an inforgraphic of 1. what is the mediterraean regsion (countries included on a map + population and 1 fun fact) ***
What is Mediterranean Food?
The Mediterranean diet encourages us to nourish our bodies with natural, whole foods, putting its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole grain. It is a fluid and easily adaptable diet as there are no strict serving sizes or eating schedules. It does not suggest we eat less- rather it asks us to be mindful of eating high quality, nutrient dense foods. The recommended foods are rich with healthy fats, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Plants: Majority of this diet is eating fresh vegetables and fruit. Ideally consuming 7-10 servings per day. A rule of thumb is to always cover most of the plate with plants.
Grains: Whole, minimally processed grains will also be a significant contributor to the diet. Sticking to wheat, oats, brown rice, rye, barley, and corn. Heavily processed grains — looking at you white bread — have lost almost all of their nutrients and we’re advised to avoid them.
Nuts, Beans, Legumes, & Seeds: These offer a great resource of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Popular options include almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, chickpeas, and walnuts.
Healthy fats: Olive oil will be your primary source of healthy fats on this diet. You’ll be using it for cooking, baking, and for dressing salads and vegetables. Extra virgin olive oil is recommended because it provides the highest number of micronutrients.
Seafood: Preferably fish, but also shellfish, should be consumed at least twice weekly. They’re an important source of healthy protein and are right in the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Dairy: In low to moderate amounts, cheese and yogurt are a regular part of the Mediterranean diet. Low-fat yogurt and cheeses offer the calcium essential to both bone and heart health.
Meat: In the past, the Mediterranean Diet directed us to only eat red meat and sweets once a month. The standard has since relaxed, but if meat is on the menu make sure it is lean and the portion is small.
Poultry: is a good source of lean protein and a way to avoid the high levels of saturated fats in red meat. You can even throw a little lamb in if you’re feeling extra for the night!
Red wine: YES! This lifestyle does recommend you drink every night, but keep it to moderate amounts of red wine. About one 5-ounce glass of wine per day for women and up to two 5-ounce glasses for men. If there is uncertainty, ask your doctor for more information.
Spices: Herbs and spices will bring these meals to the next level. An abundance of flavor begging to be savored. Try adding a fresh picked herb and less salt next time you’re preparing a meal.
Spirits: Traditional Mediterranean diets consumed in non-Muslim cultures often include alcohol in moderate amounts, usually with meals. For men, no more than two drinks per day; for women, no more than one per day.
Sweeteners: Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, baked goods, and rich desserts in large portions that may contain lots of refined carbohydrates and trans fats, which are both unhealthy
Why the Mediterranean Diet?
We all know those friends who have Mediterranean blood and just seem to never get sick. Ever wonder why?
Study after study has shown how the Mediterranean diet is effective in reducing the risk of heart disease. In fact, at study with 26,000 woman participants found 25% less risk of developing cardiovascular disease by following this diet.
Interestingly enough, there’s been serious consideration about this diet because of the healthy effects it has on cognitive function. The diet is so full of healthy antioxidants that it showed an increase in telomere length.
It’s really no surprise that researchers found health benefits from the Mediterranean-style diet, which is heavy in lean meats and fish, olive oil, whole grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods and sugary deserts. Researchers have long known that the Mediterranean diet appears to protect against cardiovascular disease. But nobody knew exactly why the Mediterranean diet produced those benefits. What specifically does the diet change within the body that helps heart health?
Dr. Mora and her fellow researchers from Harvard Medical School, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital embarked on their study to find out. They looked for clues in 25,000 participants in the Women’s Health Study, examining the women’s diets as well as 40 different biomarkers. They then compared that information against data on which of the women went on to have heart attacks, arterial blockages, or strokes over the course of the approximately 12-year follow-up period.
Not only did they find that women whose diets most closely resembled a traditional Mediterranean pattern were a quarter less likely to have heart and blood vessel problems than those whose diets least resembled that model, they also used the biomarker information to get a better picture of exactly what was different about people who were eating a Mediterranean-style diet versus those who weren’t.
Biomarker data showed that women eating a Mediterranean-style diet had improvements in some important measures. Compared with women who didn’t eat a Mediterranean-style diet, women who did saw drops in heart and blood vessel risks of
- 29% from a reduction in inflammation, which is a known contributor to heart disease
- 27.9% from improved glucose metabolism and a reduction in insulin resistance
- 27.3% from lower body mass index.
Researchers also saw improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other biomarkers, but these were less significant.
“We were not expecting that all these pathways would be affected by the diet,” says Dr. Mora.
The drop in chronic inflammation appeared to provide the largest degree of risk reduction. “We were surprised that the contribution of inflammation was even stronger than the effect on blood pressure and glucose metabolism,” says Dr. Mora.
How Does the Mediterranean Diet Work?
There are 5 key ways the Mediterranean diet works differently than the various cultures around the globe.
Because of the focus on fresh produce and whole grains, your body is guaranteed to absorb the essential nutrients not typically found in most diets.
This variety of foods helps to produce better hormones, create great energy levels, and support proper cell growth.
1. Healthy Fats
In the past, fat was always seen as the “enemy.” The rational being that a low-fat diet leads to weight loss – which inevitably leads to a healthy life.
That’s not true. Not even close.
More recent studies have shown a different story. You need fat, but it must be the RIGHT fat, and the mediterranean diet has the right fats naturally.
Below is an explanation of why the mediterranean diets have the right fat, but if you learn anything from this article I want it to be this 1 key takeaway:
The Mediterranean diet works because you’re eating high amounts of monounsaturated fats and low amounts of saturated fats.
So quick run down – there are 3 types of fat:
Monounsaturated Fats: provide key nutrients that develop and maintain our body’s cells. It also supplies an important antioxidant, Vitamin E.
Foods that offer considerable amounts of monounsaturated fats are cooking oils made from plants or seeds (think canola, olive, peanut, soybean, rice bran, sesame and sunflower), and avocados, macadamia, peanuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, and various tree nuts.
Polyunsaturated Fats: can be further broken down into omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids.
The average American diet consists of 14 to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, when experts suggest it should be the other way around.
Omega-3 fatty acids: are an anti-inflammation and play a critical role in brain function, growth, and development. It is in many different foods such as:
- Seafood (salmon, mackerel, tina, herring, sardines)
- Plant oils (flaxseed oil, soybean oil, canola oil)
- Nuts and seeds ( Flaxseed, Chia Seeds, walnuts)
- Fortified foods (Certain eggs, juices, yogurts, and other beverages)
*Fortified foods are foods with added nutrients.
Omega-6 fatty acids: stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain our reproductive system, preserve bone health, and regulate our bodies metabolism.
The reason we want a 4:1 ratio between these two fatty acids is because Omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation which can harm the body. So, while they are beneficial, they need to be consumed in moderation.
You can find Omega-6 fatty acids in:
- Plant Oils ( Avocado Oil, Safflower Oil)
- Seeds (Hemp seeds, Pumpkins seeds, Sunflower seeds)
- Nuts (Almonds, walnuts, cashews)
- Soybeans, Tofu, Corn, Peanut Butter, Acai
Saturated Fats: should be eaten in very small amounts as they have been shown to raise cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat primarily comes from:
- Meat (beef, pork, lamb, poultry with skin)
- Full-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, lard, cream)
- Plant oils (coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil)
Mediterranean locals already knew this, as their traditional diets have historically contained moderate amounts of fat, much of it from healthful monounsaturated fats (such as extra virgin olive oil and almonds), omega-3 fats (in foods like oily ﬁsh/seafood and walnuts), and polyunsaturated fats in other nuts and seeds.
Best known for its ability to relieve constipation, fiber offers an assortment of health benefits.
It improves digestion and studies have shown it can help reduce the risk of bowel cancer and cardiovascular disease; it may reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes also.
The Mediterranean diet is naturally high in fiber from the plentiful amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables with whole grains and legumes typically consumed in a given week.
There are two types of fiber, commonly known as soluble and insoluble.
Soluble Fiber:dissolves in water. It helps the body lower cholesterol and our glucose levels.
We can eat black beans, lima beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, carrots and so much more to get this valuable nutrient.
Insoluble Fiber:cannot dissolve in water and therefore increases movement within our digestive system solving troubles of constipation and irregular stools.
It can be found in whole grains, dark, leafy greens, blackberries, cauliflower, almonds, etc.
3. Vitamins and Minerals:
Fruits and vegetables provide almost all the necessary vitamins and minerals for a healthy functioning body.
However, you should know there are key vitamins and minerals you’ll be missing if you ate an entirely plant-based diet – which is another reason the variety in the Mediterranean Diet is praised.
The known vitamins include A, B, C, D, E, and K; the B vitamins further break down into thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxal (B6), cobalamin (B12), biotin, and folate/folic acid.
Essential minerals include calcium, cobalt, copper, chloride, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, iodine, fluoride, manganese, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, and selenium.
Some of these essential vitamins and minerals the come from food outside of fruits and vegetables include, but are not limited to:
Vitamin B12: is found almost exclusively in fish, meat, dairy, and eggs. It is highly involved in our body’s development of red blood cells, maintaining nerves and normal brain function.
Vitamin D: also known as the sunshine vitamin, is offered by both exposure to the sun and limited food options. Fish liver oils are one of the best sources, but we can also get small amounts from beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. It promotes calcium absorption in the gut, bone growth, and builds our immune function.
Heme Iron: is only offered in meat, with an emphasis on red meat. This mineral plays a collaborative role with non-heme iron from plant foods as heme iron improves our body’s ability to absorb non-heme iron. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia.
Creatine: is commonly found in fresh meats like beef, pork and fish. It can boost the energy produced by muscles, build muscle mass, and strengthen our bodies.
An antioxidant is not one distinct nutrient, but a set of micronutrients that can help our bodies fight free radicals; these can be vitamins, minerals, and other molecules.
Our bodies need an equal balance of antioxidants and free radicals to have proper physiological functioning.
Free radicals can cause large amounts of cellular damage as they have an uneven number of electrons (electrons like to be in pairs) making it easy for them to react with other molecules in the body.
They can adversely alter our DNA, proteins, and lipids starting a domino effect towards several diseases. This is called oxidative stress and is why antioxidants are vital in protecting our body. There are two sources of antioxidants:
Endogenous Antioxidants are produced by the body. We can increase their production by eating sulfur-rich foods, increasing our vitamin C intake, ingesting milk thistle, or supplementing with whey protein.
Exogenous Antioxidants are produced outside of the body. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are thought to be rich in these antioxidants.
Bet you didn’t think this would be a key reason the Mediterranean diet works!
Here’s why: Not. All. Sugar. Is. Equal.
Consider a fruit – like an apple – which comes with both fiber and sugar.
Yes, from eating the apple you’re getting the same amount of sugar as a slice of brownie, but the fiber causes our body to absorb the sugar at a slower rate.
This is important as it can avoid insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket.
So here’s the good news – you can have a lot of sugar!
Bad news – it has to come from fruits and shouldn’t be refined.
How to Start the Mediterranean Diet
One of my absolute favorite quotes is from Robin Sharma. He says: “Change is hard in the beginning, messy in the middle, and beautiful in the end.”
Here’s the beauty of the Mediterranean diet though: change can be easy!
Below are some quick start tips to help you along the way:
- Host dinner parties for small or large gatherings. The relationships built over shared meals are vital to your mental health and have profound impacts in many areas of your life.
- Build up your appetite before mealtime by going for a brisk walk or jog. Consider joining an organized sport once a week.
- Cover the majority of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Enjoy some sliced tomatoes with cheese and olive oil or pull out that crock pot for a yummy stew!
- Change the way you think about meat. Red meat may be protein packed, but it is also filled with saturated fat. Saturated fat causes plaque to build-up in our arteries so it is best to avoid. If you do choose to eat red meat, find the leanest cut and keep the portion small. Have you tried prosciutto?
- Dairy takes up a decent portion of this diet – consider eating Greek, or plain, yogurt for an added boost of protein and calcium. Throw in some low-fat cheeses every now and again too!
- Eat Seafood at least twice a week. To keep things interesting, switch it up between fish and shellfish. Tuna, salmon, sardines, and herring are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, and oysters, mussels, and clams offer excellent benefits for brain and heart health.
- Go vegetarian one night a week. Build your meal around whole grains, beans, lentils, and vegetables, pulling out the flavor with fresh herbs and spices. Once your body – and mind – adjust, try adding a second vegetarian night to the mix.
- Strive to eat monounsaturated fats, or “good fats”. Extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, peanuts, seeds, olives, and avocados are great sources of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Next time you’re about to butter up your dinner roll, try dipping it in seasoned olive oil instead.
- Make the switch to whole grains as they offer your body protein, fiber, and B vitamins that will keep you satisfied longer than refined white flour. There are plenty of products made with whole grain flour today or you could cook traditional Mediterranean grains like quinoa, farro, bulgur, kamut or brown rice.
- Keep your drink options to a minimum. Stay hydrated throughout the day with plenty of water. If you find your body wanting something with more flavor, enjoy some unsweetened tea or coffee. At dinner, savor a glass of red wine.
- When the sun has set and you’re craving something sweet, switch out the processed desserts for a wide range of delicious fruits. Saving that ice cream and cake for a special occasion.
- After all is consumed and digested, have a relaxing evening.
Printable Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan PDF
** put an optin box here to collect emails in exchange for a PDF
Benefits of Mediterranean Diet
- Defense against several chronic diseases (such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases)
- Reduced risk of developing certain cancers
- Protects against type 2 diabetes
- Decreased mortality (Lengthen your life)
- Lower “bad” cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Improved brain function
- Improved eyesight
- Increased longevity of life
- Increased joint relief from Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Fights depression
- Reduce risk of dental disease
- Shown to improve fertility and lead to healthier babies
- If you have food restrictions that contradict with the main food groups in this diet, it may be hard to get all the essential nutrients.
- There are no built-in caloric restrictions for individuals targeting specific weight goals.
Mediterranean Diet Food List & pyramid
Foods you can eat
- Vegetables: Tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, etc.
- Fruits: Melon, apples, apricots, peaches, oranges, and lemons, bananas, grapes, dates, figs and so on
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, and chickpeas
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams, etc.
- Whole grains: Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta.
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, etc.
- Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey, etc.
- Eggs: Chicken, quail and duck eggs.
- Dairy: Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, etc.
- Herbs and spices: Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc.
- Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil.
- Wine: Red or White
Foods you should avoid
- Added Sugar: Soda, candies, ice cream, table sugar and many others.
- Refined Grains: White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, etc.
- Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods.
- Refined Oils: Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and others.
- Processed Foods: Anything labeled “low-fat” or “diet” or which looks like it was made in a factory.
- Processed Meat: Cured bacon, ham, sausages, hot dogs, canned meat, etc.
Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid
Easy Mediterranean diet recipes & menu
3 Mediterranean Diet Breakfast Options
Egg & Avocado Toast
Serving Size: 1 Cups
Time: 25 Minutes
- ½ Avocado
- 1 egg
- 1 slice of whole wheat bread (see tip)
- Pinch of salt
- 2 basil leaves
- 1 tsp of olive oil
- Toaste the bread. While the bread is toasting, mash the avocado in a small bowl.
- Spread the mashed avocado over the toast. Top each slice with tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and basil leaves, then drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve immediate
- Step 1 – Place stove top on medium-high heat and splash 1 tsp of olive oil on pan.
- Step 2 – Scramble egg or cook sunny side up.
- Step 3 – Spread avocado on toasted bread and cover with egg. Finish with chopped basil and salt.
Tip: People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use breads that are labeled “gluten-free”.
Serving Size: 1 Cups
Time: 25 Minutes
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup of almond milk
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup rolled oats (see Tip)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons honey, cane sugar or brown sugar for serving (optional)
- Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
- Step 1 – Combine water, almond milk and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil while stirring occasionally.
- Step 2 – Once boiling toss in oats and reduce heat to low; Simmer and stir every so often for about 15 minutes.
- Step 3 – Remove from heat and let oats settle for about 5 minutes.
- Step 4 – Serve with your favorite toppings: bananas, cinnamon, dried fruits or nuts.
Tip: People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use oats that are labeled “gluten-free,” as oats are often cross-contaminated with wheat and barley.
Double Berry Banana Smoothie:
Serving Size: 2 Cups
Time: 5 Minutes
- 1 ripe banana (frozen, if desired)
- ½ cup frozen strawberries
- ½ cup frozen blueberries
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, or as needed
- 1 tablespoon of flaxseed
Combine blueberries, strawberries, banana, almond milk, and flax seeds in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding more almond milk, if needed for desired consistency. Serve immediately.
Mediterranean Diet Lunch
Mediterranean Lettuce Wraps
Serving Size: 3 Lettuce Wraps
Time: 10 Minutes
- ¼ cup tahini
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp pure maple syrup
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp paprika
- 30oz no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed
- ½ cup sliced jarred roasted red peppers, drained
- ½ cup thinly sliced shallots
- 12 large lettuce leaves
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Step 1 – Whisk tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, maple syrup, salt and paprika in a large bowl.
- Step 2 – Add chickpeas, peppers and shallots and toss to coat.
- Step 3 – Divide the filling among lettuce (about 1/3 cup each).
- Step 4 – Top with parsley and serve.
Hummus and Greek Salad
Serving Size: 1
Time: 10 Minutes
- 2 cups arugula
- 1 ½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp red-wine vinegar
- ⅛ tsp ground pepper
- ⅓ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ⅓ cup sliced cucumber
- 1 tbsp chopped red onion
- 1 tbsp feta cheese
- 1/3 cup hummus
- 1 4-inch whole-wheat pita (see tip)
Toss arugula, olive oil, vinegar, pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, and onion in a bowl. Top with feta. Serve with pita and hummus.
Tip: People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use breads that are labeled “gluten-free”.
Grain Free Avocado and Gouda Pizza
Serving Size: 2 Slices
Time: 40 Minutes
- 1 1/4 cup chickpea bean flour
- 1 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/4 tsp sea salt and pepper each
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of minced Garlic
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 10-inch Pan or cast iron
- 1 Roma tomato (sliced)
- 1/2 Sliced Avocado
- 2 oz Gouda (thinly sliced)
- 1/4 cup Tomato sauce
- 2–3 tbsp green onions (chopped)
- Sprouted greens (onion greens, kale, or broccoli) to top
- Dash of salt and pepper
- Red pepper flakes
- Step 1 – Whisk flour, olive oil, water, and herbs/seasoning together until smooth. Let sit for 15-20 minutes.
- Step 2 – Preheat oven to broil and place pan in oven for 10 minutes.
- Step 3 – Add 1 tbsp of oil to coat pan after it has been heated.
- Step 4 – Pour in chickpea batter evenly on pan.
- Step 5 – Reduce oven temperature to 425F and place pan in oven for 5- 8 minutes. Remove right before batter is set.
- Step 6 – Spread tomato sauce on crust and add the sliced tomato and avocado. Place gouda slices on top with green onions.
- Step 7 – Return pan to oven for another 10-15 minutes. Wait until the cheese is melted and the crust is browned and crispy.
- Step 8 – Remove from the oven. Add extra toppings and sprouts. Sprinkle salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
- Step 9 – Drizzle olive oil on pizza, slice and serve.
Mediterranean Diet Dinner
Slow Cooker Cream of Celery Soup
Serving Size: ¾ Cup
Time: 6-8 Hours
- 7-8 Stalks of Celery (chopped)
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
- 3-4 medium sized russet potatoes
- 1 tbsp thyme and other desire herbs or seasonings
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 cups no salt added chicken broth
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- Dash of salt and pepper
- Step 1 – Chop onions, celery, and garlic. Save celery leaves for later in the recipe (they contain the most nutrients).
- Step 2 – Put olive oil, thyme, garlic, potatoes, spinach, onions, and celery into slow cooker. Add chicken broth.
- Step 3 – Let cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.
- Step 4 – Remove from slow cooker. Mix with hand help blender or inside a blender until smooth.
- Step 5 – Pour ¾ cup into bowl. Sprinkle with a few celery leaves, add dash of salt and pepper, and serve.
Baked Honey Citrus Salmon
Serving Size: 4 oz Salmon
Time: 35 minutes
- 4 (4oz) salmon filets
- 1 sliced orange (seeds removed)
- 1 sliced lemon (seeds removed)
- 1 thinly sliced medium fennel bulb
- 1 tbsp Thyme
- 1 ¼ tbsp Honey
- 3 tbsp orange juice
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp cumin
- Dash of salt and pepper
- Step 1 – Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour olive oil to 9×13” pan and coat surface.
- Step 2 – Marinade: Whisk ¼ honey, orange juice, lemon juice, cumin, and chili powder. Remove 2 tbsp and reserve for later. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil and mix with marinade. Place fresh salmon in Ziploc bag with marinade and let marinate in refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- Step 3 – While salmon is marinating, take half of the sliced orange, half of the sliced lemon, fennel, and thyme and mix with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the mixture across the pan. This will be a bed for the salmon.
- Step 4 – Remove salmon from bag and place on top of mixture (keeping skin facing down). Use brush to apply honey citrus glaze to salmon and place the remaining sliced oranges and lemons on top. Season with salt and pepper moderately.
- Step 5 – Roast salmon in over for 15-25 minutes, depending on thickness. Wait until fish is cooked and easily flakes with fork. Mix remaining 1 tbsp of honey with the reserved sauce.
- Step 6 – Drizzle fresh baked salmon with honey citrus glaze, top with any preferred garnishes (arugula or micro greens) and serve with roasted vegetable.
Spanish Garlic Shrimp
Serving Size: 4 oz Salmon
Time: 35 minutes
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. peeled and deveined large shrimp
- 4 finely chopped garlic cloves
- 1 tsp of paprika (sweet Spanish paprika preferred)
- ¼ tsp chili flakes
- Dash of salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- Step 1 – Pour olive oil into large sauté pan. Add garlic and chili flakes and heat stove to medium high. Allow oil garlic and chili flakes to slowly infuse with oil (not letting the garlic brown).
- Step 2 – Once olive oil is hot, add shrimp and season paprika, salt and pepper. Cook shrimp for about 2 minutes, until pink, stirring often.
- Step 3 –. Add apple cider vinegar and lemon juice and cook for another 2-3 minutes until shrimp is thoroughly cooked.
- Step 4 – Remove from heat. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with your favorite toasted bread and roasted vegetable.
Mediterranean Diet Desserts
Chocolate Mousse Greek Yogurt
Serving Size: 1 cup
Time: 2 hours
- 2 cups Greek yogurt
- ¾ cup almond milk
- 3 ½ cups dark chocolate (grated or shaved)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- Step 1 – Place saucepan on stove top to low heat. Pour in almond milk and chocolate. Gently heating and mixing until chocolate melts. (Avoid boiling)
- Step 2 – Once chocolate has melted and combined with milk, mix in vanilla extra and maple syrup. Remove from heat.
- Step 3 – In a separate large bowl, spoon in Greek yogurt. Pour chocolate mixture on top. Mix well.
- Step 4 – Transfer to small individual bowls and let refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Step 5 – Serve with small dollop of Greek yogurt and fresh berries. Will be fresh for 48 hours)
Serving Size: 1 popsicle
Time: 10 minutes
- 1 1/4 cup strawberries
- 1 banana, sliced and quartered
- ¼ cop distilled water
- ½ cup low fat yogurt
- Step 1 – Rinse strawberries under cold water and carve out the green stem.
- Step 2 – Blend together strawberry, banana, yogurt, and water.
- Step 3 – Pour mixture into popsicle tray and freeze for 4-5 hours.
- Step 4 – Remove popsicle from tray and enjoy!
Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies
Serving Size: 2 cookies
Serves: 12 (24 cookies)
Time: 30 minutes
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 egg
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Step 1 – Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On the side mix together olive oil, vanilla, salt, and both sugars in large bowl until smooth.
- Step 2 – Add egg and blend until smooth again.
- Step 3 – Slowly pour in flour and baking soda until there are no dry spots.
- Step 4 – Fold in the chocolate chips.
- Step 5 – Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Use your hands to grab batter and shape into twenty-four 2 tbsp sized balls. Place ball shaped batter onto the baking sheet as you go, 2-inches apart from each other.
- Step 6 – Use palm of hand to gently flatten balls about halfway and lightly sprinkle salt atop.
- Step 7 – Place baking sheets into oven until the edge of the cookies turn golden brown. Usually takes 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on counter for 5 minutes then scrape off pan. Enjoy!
Mediterranean Diet Variations
Low Carb Mediterranean Diet
The best way to do this is to take away the bread and increase your fish and lean protein intake.
Mediterranean Keto Diet
Many people like to blend the 2 diets of Keto and Mediterranean together. Long story short, the Mediterranean diet and the keto diet both have significant advantages under different contexts. When we combine them into one diet, however, most of their downsides melt away, leaving us with a way of eating that can significantly improve every aspect of health.
In 2008, researchers from Spain sought to explore the potential impact of combining the ketogenic diet with the Mediterranean diet. Their diet plan featured these primary characteristics:
- Unlimited calories (no calorie counting).
- Olive oil as the major source of added fat, with over 2 tablespoons consumed per day.
- Green vegetables and salads as the primary carbohydrate source.
- Fish was the major source of protein.
- Participants also drank a moderate amount of daily wine (200-400 ml/day).
The researchers called this a “Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean diet,” and it resulted in changes you’d expected from a standard keto diet, including significant decreases in body fat, blood pressure, glucose, and triglycerides.
The most noteworthy finding, however, was what happened to each subject’s cholesterol numbers. On average, there was a reduction in LDL cholesterol (114.52 mg/dl→105.95 mg/dl) and an increase in HDL cholesterol (50.10 mg/dl→54.57 mg/dl).
In other words, the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean diet mitigated the increase in LDL cholesterol commonly experienced as a result of standard keto dieting while keeping its HDL boosting benefits. This indicates that consuming more unsaturated fat-rich foods like fish and olive oil and less saturated fat from other animal foods while restricting carbs may be a suitable strategy for those who struggle with unhealthy cholesterol levels.
A few years later, researchers conducted a similar study, exploring the effects of a six-week Mediterranean ketogenic diet with the addition of herbal extracts. Once again, the change in cholesterol levels was remarkable:
- Significant reductions in total cholesterol (204 mg/dl to 181 mg/dl)
- Significant decreases in LDL cholesterol (150 mg/dl to 136 mg/dl)
- Increases in HDL cholesterol (46 mg/dl to 52 mg/dl)
A more recent study, published in 2015, yielded similar results along with greater decreases in triglycerides, insulin, and inflammation levels when subjects followed the diet and supplemented with omega-3s from krill sources.
In summary, the current literature on the Mediterranean keto diet yielded similar results to what common sense would predict. This unique combination provides us with the benefits of both diets in one.
Vegan Mediterranean Diet
Here are the delicious vegan Mediterranean foods to eat more of, most of which are featured in this meal plan:
Whole grains: Quinoa, brown rice, old-fashioned rolled oats, whole-wheat pita bread, whole-grain bread
Plant-based protein: Black beans, chickpeas, hummus, lentils, tofu
Nuts & seeds: Pecans, almonds, cashews, chia seeds, tahini
Other healthy fats: Avocado, olives, olive oil
Fruit: Apples, pears, clementines, dried figs, dried apricots, tomatoes
Vegetables: Edamame, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, garlic, ginger, onion, artichoke hearts, salad greens, carrots, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, shallots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, corn
Fresh herbs: Cilantro, parsley, oregano, chives
Spices: Turmeric, cumin, chipotle powder
Dairy alternatives: Unsweetened soy, almond and coconut milks
Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
30 Day Mediterranean Diet Plan
Week 1 – Meal Prep
- Mix up the Basil Vinaigrette and transfer to a meal-prep container (like a mason jar) and refrigerate to have throughout the week. (To buy: amazon.com, $13 for 4—you can use these in different ways throughout the month)
- Cook the Muffin-Tin Quiches with Smoked Cheddar & Potato to have for breakfast on Days 2, 3 and 4. Individually wrap 3 servings in plastic and freeze in an air-tight bag to have for breakfast in later weeks. (To buy: amazon.com, $20 for 1 large). Take the individual servings to go in a smaller bag. (To buy: amazon.com, $12 for 1 medium)
- Meal prep the Instant Pot White Chicken Chili Freezer Pack to have for lunch on days 2, 3, 4 and 5. Freeze in this large container, which fits perfectly in a 6-quart Instant Pot. (To buy: amazon.com, $12 for 1). Once it’s cooked, freeze 4 separate servings of the prepared chili in leak-proof containers to have for lunch in later weeks. (To buy: amazon.com, $9 for 1)
Breakfast: 1 serving Pineapple Green Smoothie (297 calories)
A.M. Snack: 3/4 cup raspberries (48 calories)
Lunch: 1 serving Mediterranean Tuna-Spinach Salad (375 calories)
P.M. Snack: 3/4 cup blackberries (46 calories)
Dinner: 1 serving Dijon Salmon with Green Bean Pilaf (442 calories)
28 Day Mediterranean Diet Plan
Mediterranean Diet Shopping List
___ Variety of Onions (yellow, red, white)
___ Garlic Cloves
___ Tomatoes (fresh, canned, sauce)
___ Leafy Greens (spinach, kale, romaine, arugula, etc.)
___ Bell Peppers
___ Brussel Sprouts
___ Green beans
___ Sweet Potatoes
___ Berries (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry)
___ Bread (loaf, pita, tortillas)
___ Brown Rice
Nuts and Seeds
___ Pumpkin Seeds
___ Sesame Seeds
___ Sunflower Seeds
Beans and Legumes
___ Black Beans
___ Fava Beans
___ Kidney Beans
___ Pinto Beans
___ Split Peas
___ White Beans
___ Extra Virgin Olive Oil
___ Avocado Oil
___ Grape Seed Oil
___ Coconut Oil
___ Low Fat Cheeses
___ Low Fat Milk (can substitute with Almond Milk or Cashew Milk)
___ Yogurt (Greek or Low-Fat)
___ Eggs (chicken, duck, quail)
___ White fish
___ Shellfish (clams, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, shrimp)
___ Poultry (chicken, duck)
___ Meat (lamb, lean beef, pork)
Herbs & Spices
___ Bay Leaves
___ Spices ( black pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, etc.)
Mediterranean Diet FAQs
How much should you exercise on Mediterranean Diet?
It is suggested to engage in physical activity and exercise daily when we refer to the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. If that is not possible, aim for an average of 150 minutes of exercise weekly. This should be moderate to intense physical activity such as walking, biking, swimming, skating, or playing a sport. The goal is to increase your heart rate. A good rule of thumb is to pick an activity you genuinely enjoy and would want to continue doing throughout your life.
How easy is Mediterranean Diet to follow?
Making drastic diet changes are usually hard to do and take a gradual effort. We need to give ourselves the time to learn new recipes, nutritional information, and where to find these foods for the best quality/price. The transition can be smoother with the Mediterranean diet as it allows for personal judgement to dictate serving sizes and portions, but It is important to keep in mind that the Mediterranean diet is more than just what we eat. Daily physical activity and sharing meals with friends are also essential elements and turn this diet into a lifestyle. All these elements have a shared impact on your mental and physical health and complement each other throughout this journey. You will begin to foster a genuine appreciation for the meals and activities you share if you are willing to dive in.
Mediterranean diet and diabetes?
The Mediterranean diet has been researched for its effectiveness on protecting humans against type 2 diabetes in many studies. Almost 90% of the research concluded that the Mediterranean Diet improved fasting glucose and A1C levels. A primary reason it comes recommended by healthcare professionals is due in part to the higher proportion of unsaturated fats to saturated fats, its high intake of fruits and vegetables and its distance from processed foods.
Lower fasting glucose levels may be related to the positive effect on insulin sensitivity that results from the unsaturated fat to saturated and trans fat ratio in this diet. Research has shown the low-carb Mediterranean diet (35% carb, 45% fat [50% of which is monounsaturated fat], and 20% protein) showed glycemic benefits compared to both a control diet and a traditional Mediterranean diet.
Please note that some studies may not separate the effects of the Mediterranean diet from other factors influencing outcomes, such as other risk factor management resources. More studies are needed to clarify certain issues related.
Guidelines for a Successful Mediterranean Dieting Experience
Fruits and vegetables: Your meal plates should be covered primarily with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Legumes are also common on the Mediterranean plate, either in salads or in soups. This includes kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chick peas), peas, split peas, and lentils.
Healthy plant oils: Mediterranean style diets include significantly more calories from healthy plant oils, especially extra-virgin olive oil. In Mediterranean cooking, Dr. Delichatsios says, “you literally pour it on.” To avoid upset stomachs and bowels, ramp up the amount of oil in your diet gradually.
Use olive oil for salad dressings and for dipping with whole-grain bread. Coat vegetables liberally with olive oil and roast them in the oven. Root vegetables work well, but also eggplant and potatoes.
Eat seeds and nuts, too, as snacks or in salads and grain or pasta dishes, and as substitutes for red and processed meat.
Whole grains: Eat moderate portions of unrefined and whole-grain cereals and breads. (Read the nutrition labels, because packaged bread products may contain excessive amounts of sodium.) Other options are whole-grain rice or pasta.
Dairy: Eat moderate amounts of yogurt and cheese, mostly as a topping or side dish. Add grated cheese or crumbled feta to leafy salads and cold grain dishes, like bulgur wheat salad (tabbouleh).
Fish: Use fish as a main protein source. Also enjoy poultry and a moderate number of eggs—up to three or four per week.
Red meat: A small amount of fresh unprocessed red meat—one or two portions per week—can fit into a healthy Mediterranean diet. Avoid processed meats containing high levels of sodium or other preservatives, including “low fat” deli meats.
Alcohol: Traditional Mediterranean diets consumed in non-Muslim cultures often include alcohol in moderate amounts, usually with meals. For men, no more than two drinks per day; for women, no more than one per day.
Sweeteners: Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, baked goods, and rich desserts in large portions that may contain lots of refined carbohydrates and trans fats, which are both unhealthy.
Minimize consumption of white bread, white rice, potatoes, and refined carbohydrates such as those found in most breakfast cereals and energy bars. These types of carbohydrates are quickly digested, producing large rises in blood sugar and insulin that are often indistinguishable from eating simple sugar.
Mediterranean Diet Myths & Facts
Myth – The mediterranean diet doesn’t work outside the mediterranean.
Fact – Global trade and food retailers allow for easier access to most mediterranean foods. If you are committed to buying and eating foods in the mediterranean diet pyramid, then it will work for you.
Myth – The mediterranean diet is all about pasta and pizza
Fact – The Mediterranean Diet recommends majority of our meals consist of vegetables and fruit, whole wheat, and seafood. Emphasizing the importance of healthy fats compared to unhealthy (saturated) fats.
Myth – The mediterranean diet is too expensive
Fact – Finding a way to source foods in the mediterranean diet can be an easy obstacle to overcome. Options include searching for local produce farms who sell their foods for less than the big box retailers or making some dinners potluck style when inviting friends and family over.
Myth – the mediterranean diet advocates heavy drinking
Fact – The Mediterranean Diet does not advocate for drinking. It suggests that if you would like to drink, red wine is the healthiest option and should be consumed in moderate quantities.
Myth – On the mediterranean diet you can only cook with olive oil
Fact – It is recommended to use extra virgin olive oil on the Mediterranean Diet as it has the highest number of micronutrients. However, other healthy oils are allowed in this diet including sunflower oil and avocado oil.