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.

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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 Mediterranean-style eating pattern prioritizes the following foods:

  • a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • legumes
  • 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 1BreakfastVegetable and egg frittata served with sliced avocado on top of whole grain toast
For extra calories, add another egg.
LunchA 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
DinnerSpicy lentil soup with spinach
Day 2BreakfastGreek yogurt parfait made with walnuts, fresh berries, and chia seeds
For extra calories, add 1–2 ounces of almonds.
LunchGreek chicken grain bowls with olives, cucumbers, and red onions
To increase the calorie content, add hummus or avocado.
DinnerBaked cod served with garlic roasted potatoes and asparagus
Day 3BreakfastSteel-cut or rolled oats topped with fresh fruit, sliced almonds or almond butter, and a drizzle of honey.
LunchMediterranean chickpea and farro salad
DinnerMediterranean shrimp served over whole-wheat pasta
Day 4BreakfastShakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, onion and garlic, commonly spiced with cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper
LunchLarge green salad topped with fresh vegetables, lentils, sunflower seeds, and grilled shrimp
DinnerRoasted chicken with roasted root vegetables and Brussels sprouts
Day 5BreakfastSweet potato breakfast hash topped with a poached egg
LunchLentil and tuna salad
DinnerMediterranean pasta
Day 6BreakfastChia pudding topped with fresh berries and almond butter
LunchMediterranean white bean soup and a Greek salad
DinnerBaked fish with garlic and basil served with a caprese quinoa salad
Day 7BreakfastOvernight oats made with nut butter and berries
LunchMediterranean Buddha bowl
DinnerBalsamic 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.

The research suggested that the diet reduced the risk of cardiovascular issues, including stroke, heart attack, and death, by about 30% compared with the control group.

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

In a 2018 study, researchers explored how the Mediterranean diet affects sleep.

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.

Weight loss

The Mediterranean diet may help people manage their weight.

A 2020 study found that weight loss maintenance was twice as likely in subjects who adhered to a Mediterranean diet than in a control group.

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?

Studies suggest that eating a Mediterranean diet may have an anti-inflammatory effect compared to other Western diets. However, research is ongoing to fully understand the mechanisms of this effect.

What are the 9 components of the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet encompasses a wide range of foods and drinks. However, it emphasizes:

  • vegetables
  • healthy oils, like olive oil
  • whole grains
  • legumes
  • 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.