A Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. It includes fewer ultra-processed foods and less meat than a typical Western diet.
Doctors may recommend a Mediterranean diet to help prevent disease and keep people healthy for longer. The Mediterranean region has many types of foods and cuisines, so there is no specific Mediterranean diet but rather a style of eating.
A dietitian can help a person create a meal plan to suit their needs and the ingredients available to them.
In this article, we explain what a 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.
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 healthy and varied diet that prioritizes plant-based foods.
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.
Meals may include small portions of fish, meat, or eggs. People often cook with olive oil and add herbs and spices for flavor.
- a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
healthy fats,like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish
- moderate amounts of seafood
- low amounts of dairy and red meat
Moderate amounts of red wine are appropriate with food, but water and beverages without added sugar — like sparkling water and fresh juices — can help people stay hydrated.
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 little cheese and fresh fruit
Foods to limit or avoid
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, present 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:
|Day 1||Breakfast||Vegetable and egg frittata served with sliced avocado on top of whole grain toast|
For extra calories, add another egg.
|Lunch||A large green salad with a baked salmon fillet, red onion, feta cheese, quinoa, and fresh tomatoes|
Whole-grain pita bread
2 ounces (oz) of hummus
|Dinner||Spicy lentil soup with spinach|
|Day 2||Breakfast||Greek yogurt parfait made with walnuts, fresh berries, and chia seeds|
For extra calories, add 1–2 ounces of almonds.
|Lunch||Greek chicken grain bowls with olives, cucumbers, and red onions|
To increase the calorie content, add hummus or avocado.
|Dinner||Baked cod served with garlic roasted potatoes and asparagus|
|Day 3||Breakfast||Steel-cut or rolled oats topped with fresh fruit, sliced almonds or almond butter, and a drizzle of honey.|
|Lunch||Mediterranean chickpea and farro salad|
|Dinner||Mediterranean shrimp served over whole-wheat pasta|
|Day 4||Breakfast||Shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, onion and garlic, commonly spiced with cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper|
|Lunch||Large green salad topped with fresh vegetables, lentils, sunflower seeds, and grilled shrimp|
|Dinner||Roasted chicken with roasted root vegetables and Brussels sprouts|
|Day 5||Breakfast||Sweet potato breakfast hash topped with a poached egg|
|Lunch||Lentil and tuna salad|
|Day 6||Breakfast||Chia pudding topped with fresh berries and almond butter|
|Lunch||Mediterranean white bean soup and a Greek salad|
|Dinner||Baked fish with garlic and basil served with a caprese quinoa salad|
|Day 7||Breakfast||Overnight oats made with nut butter and berries|
|Lunch||Mediterranean Buddha bowl|
|Dinner||Balsamic roasted chicken and vegetables|
Possible benefits of a Mediterranean diet include the following.
Lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease
Evidence suggests that a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in those with cardiovascular disease. One study compared two Mediterranean diets with a control diet for almost 5 years.
More studies are needed to determine whether lifestyle factors — such as physical activity and extended social support systems — are partly responsible for the lower incidence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries compared with 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 help people manage their weight.
Here are some questions people often ask about the Mediterranean diet.
What exactly do you eat on a Mediterranean diet?
There is no single Mediterranean diet. Rather, it is an approach that focuses on fresh, unprocessed foods, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and whole foods. Seafood, fish, dairy products, and legumes provide protein, along with some meat.
What do I eat on the Mediterranean diet to lose weight?
Overall caloric intake and energy expenditure are more important for weight loss than any specific diet composition. However, the Mediterranean diet contains healthy carbohydrates, fats, and other nutrients. Prioritizing whole vegetables and grains may help people lose weight as part of an overall calorie deficit.
Is the Mediterranean diet anti-inflammatory?
What are the 9 components of the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet encompasses a wide range of foods and drinks. However, it emphasizes:
- healthy oils, like olive oil
- whole grains
- fruits and nuts
- fish and shellfish
- low fat dairy
- lean proteins
- moderate alcohol intake
Following a Mediterranean diet involves making long-term, sustainable dietary choices.
Generally speaking, a person should aim for a diet that is rich in natural foods, including plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and healthy 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.