Many doctors and dietitians recommend a Mediterranean diet to prevent disease and keep people healthy for longer.
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, and it includes less ultra-processed foods and meat than a typical Western diet.
In this article, we explain what the Mediterranean diet is and provide a 7-day meal plan for people to follow.
Essentially, following a Mediterranean diet means eating in the way that the people in the Mediterranean region traditionally ate.
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- healthy fats like olive oil and nuts
- moderate amounts of seafood
- low amounts of dairy and red meat
- red wine in moderation
Of course, not everyone in the Mediterranean region eats in the same way, so the Mediterranean dietary pattern is meant to be used as a loose guide for a healthful diet that prioritizes plant-based foods.
The Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet puts a higher focus on plant foods than many other diets. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are main ingredients in meals and snacks.
People following the diet typically cook these foods using healthful fats, such as olive oil, and add plenty of flavorful spices.
Meals may include small portions of fish, meat, or eggs.
Moderate amounts of red wine can be consumed on a Mediterranean style diet, but water and other unsweetened, zero calorie beverages like sparkling water should be used to stay hydrated throughout the day.
When following any healthy dietary pattern, including the Mediterranean diet, it’s best to reduce your consumption of the following foods:
- refined grains, such as white bread, white pasta, and pizza dough containing white flour
- trans fats which can be found in margarine and other processed foods
- foods with added sugars, such as pastries, sodas, and candies
- deli meats, hot dogs, and other processed meats
- ultra-processed foods like fast food
Here is an example of a 7-day Mediterranean diet meal plan:
- Vegetable and egg frittata served with sliced avocado on top of whole grain toast
For additional calories, add another egg to the toast.
- A large green salad topped with a baked salmon fillet, red onion, feta cheese, quinoa, and fresh tomatoes
- Whole-grain pita bread
- 2 ounces (oz) of hummus
- Greek yogurt parfait made with walnuts, fresh berries, and chia seeds
For additional calories, add 1–2 oz of almonds.
- Greek chicken grain bowls with olives, cucumbers, and red onions
To increase the calorie content, add hummus or avocado.
- baked cod served with garlic roasted potatoes and asparagus
- Steel cut or rolled oats topped with fresh fruit, sliced almonds or almond butter, and a drizzle of honey.
- Mediterranean shrimp served over whole-wheat pasta
- Shakshuka: dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, onion and garlic, commonly spiced with cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper
- A large green salad topped with fresh vegetables, lentils, sunflower seeds, and grilled shrimp
- Roasted chicken with roasted root vegetables and Brussels sprouts
Add an artichoke for a hearty, filling meal.
- Sweet potato breakfast hash topped with a poached egg
- Chia pudding topped with fresh berries and almond butter
- Mediterranean White Bean Soup and a Greek Salad
- Baked fish with garlic and basil served with a caprese quinoa salad
- Overnight oats made with nut butter and berries
- Balsamic roasted chicken and vegetables
There are many snack options available as part of the Mediterranean diet.
When following a Mediterranean dietary pattern, try to choose snacks that are made with nutritious ingredients. Here are a few options:
- fresh fruit paired with a handful of nuts
- unsweetened Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit and sunflower seeds
- hummus and fresh vegetables
- trail mix made with nuts and unsweetened dried fruit
- herb roasted chickpeas
- cottage cheese and berries
- a hard-boiled egg with a bit of cheese and fresh fruit
The Mediterranean diet receives a lot of attention from the medical community because many studies verify its benefits.
The benefits of a Mediterranean diet include:
Lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease
Evidence suggests that a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. A study that featured in The New England Journal of Medicine compared two Mediterranean diets with a control diet for almost 5 years.
The research suggested that the diet reduced the risk of cardiovascular issues, including stroke, heart attack, and death, by about 30 percent compared with the control group.
More studies are necessary to determine whether lifestyle factors, such as more physical activity and extended social support systems, are partly responsible for the lower incidence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries than in the United States.
Improving sleep quality
Their research suggested that adhering to a Mediterranean diet may improve sleep quality in older adults. The diet did not seem to affect sleep quality in younger people.
The Mediterranean diet may also be helpful for people who are trying to lose weight.
Following a Mediterranean diet involves making long-term, sustainable dietary changes.
Generally speaking, a person should aim for a diet that is rich in natural foods, including plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and healthful fats.
Anyone who finds that the diet does not feel satisfying should talk to a dietitian. They can recommend additional or alternative foods to help increase satiety.