Mediterranean Diet: Foods, Meal Plan, Benefits & How To Start It

The main idea of the Mediterranean diet is to eat real, whole foods and to largely avoid processed foods. In general, you want to try to base your meals around fruits and vegetables (aim for about nine servings a day), whole grains, beans, nuts, and legumes. Add in some healthy fats such as omega-3-rich fish and olive oil. And, if you’re in the mood for meat, stick to lean meats such as chicken and turkey.

Here’s a breakdown of what to eat on the Mediterranean diet:

Vegetables: spinach, arugula, broccoli rabe, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, cucumber, cauliflower, bell peppers, artichokes, zucchini, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, celery, fennel, cabbage, leeks, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, etc.

Fruits: grapes, lemons, oranges, berries, figs, melons, peaches, plums, apples, pears, grapefruit, pomegranate, apricots, avocados, olives, etc.

Nuts & seeds: walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.

Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, beans, peas, peanuts, etc.

Grains: quinoa, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, farro, millet, oats, polenta, rice, wheatberries, whole grain breads, pasta (preferably whole grain), etc.

Dairy: yogurt, cottage cheese, feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, etc.

Eggs: chicken eggs, duck eggs, quail eggs, etc.

Seafood: sardines, anchovies, salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, halibut, sea bass, shrimp, oysters, mussels, clams, crab, etc.

Meats: chicken, turkey, duck, etc. (limit red meat to a few times per month)

Flavorings & condiments: olive oil, avocado oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, cayenne, turmeric, ginger, oregano, thyme, rosemary, mint, cumin, dill, parsley, paprika, bay leaves, basil, sage, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc.

Beverages: water, tea, coffee, and red wine (in moderation: 1 glass per day for women, 2 glasses for men)

Foods to avoid or limit: highly processed foods, including foods and beverages containing excess added sugars, refined grains, trans fats, and refined vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil, etc.)