The Mediterranean diet, as we know it today, has its origins in 1960s foods from countries like Greece, Spain, and Italy.
Researchers observed that people who from these countries were very healthy and had a lower risk of many illnesses when compared to their American counterparts.
Subsequent studies show that people who eat the Mediterranean diet tend to lose weight and have a lower risk of strokes, heart attack, premature death and type-2 diabetes.
This article discusses many aspects of the Mediterranean diet and gives you a 7-day meal plan you can use to kick-start your journey.
The Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
We don’t have a single “right way” to do the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean region comprises of several countries, and people from each country ate different things.
The type of diet featured in this article is based on those that were studied and proven to be an effective, healthy diet.
However, you should not take anything written in here as law. You can make adjustments and replace some ingredients with other ingredients of a similar nutritional composition.
Basic Ingredients of the diet
- Consume: vegetables, nuts, fruits, potatoes, seeds, whole grains, herbs, legumes, bread, spices, fish, extra virgin olive oil, olives, and seafood.
- Moderately consume: Eggs, Yogurt, Poultry and Cheese
- Consume occasionally: Red meats.
- Avoid the consumption of: Foods with added-sugar, sugar, sugar-sweetened drinks, refined grains, processed meat, refined vegetable oils and all highly-processed foods.
The Mediterranean diet makes use of mostly fresh, whole ingredients.
Foods You Should Avoid
The ingredients and foods below are unhealthy foods, and you should not include them in your diet:
- Sugar and Foods with added-sugar: These include ice cream, soda drinks, common table sugar, concentrated corn syrup, etc.
- Refined Grains: Whole-grain products are alright, but avoid white bread and food products made with refined wheat.
- Refined vegetable oils: These include Canola oil, Soybean oil, Sunflower oil, Cottonseed oil, etc.
- Trans fats: They are used in margarine and a lot of processed, packaged foods. It may be listed on ingredient labels as hydrogenated vegetable oil.
- Processed Meat Products: These include hot dogs, processed sausages, etc.
- Other highly processed foods: Basically, avoid any food that does not look like it was home-made. You should avoid foods with the labels “diet” or “low-fat.”
You should always read the ingredients label before buying any food item. It is the only way to avoid consuming unhealthy foods.
Mediterranean diet foods
You can add the following Mediterranean foods to your diet plan:
- Vegetables – This diet uses plenty of vegetables like tomatoes, kale, onions, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, cucumber, carrots, spring onions, etc.
- Root tubers – Turnips, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Fish and Seafood: Mackerel, sardines, tuna, salmon, shrimp, octopus, clams, crab, oysters, mussels, trout, cod, etc.
- Fruits – Oranges, avocados, apples, grapes, pears, melons, bananas, dates, strawberries, figs, peaches, etc.
- Whole grains: Whole wheat and flour, whole oats, rye, corn, brown rice, buckwheat, whole grain pasta, and bread, etc.
- Legumes: Lentils, peanuts, peas, pulses, beans, chickpeas, etc.
- Seeds and Nuts: Macadamia nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, hazelnut, etc.
- Poultry: All types of poultry including chicken, turkey, geese, duck, quail, pheasant, etc.
- Eggs: All kinds of poultry egg
- Healthy Fats: These include avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Dairy: Greek yogurt, cheese, milk, etc.
- Spices and Herbs: These include garlic, mint, sage, cinnamon, basil, rosemary, nutmeg, peppers, etc.
The key is to use whole, single-ingredient foods.
Food for thought
There’s no set ingredients and foods prescribed for the Mediterranean diet, partly due to the vast number of ingredients found in the various Mediterranean countries.
However, the ingredients in the diet used for the studies consists mostly of plant foods and comparatively low animal foods.
However, it is also well-known that Mediterranean countries consume plenty of fish and seafood. You should, therefore, consume these foods about two times a week.
Researchers found that the Mediterranean lifestyle (which includes plenty of physical activities, eating meals with family and friends and being happy in general) may also help explain why they are healthier and happier than their American counterparts.
Drinks that go with the Mediterranean diet
Water is ever present on any Mediterranean dining table. It should be your main source of fluid intake.
However, they also consume about 1 glass of red wine per day.
However, it is not compulsory to include wine in your diet. If you are a recovering addict or someone trying to quit alcohol, then you should avoid it and just stick to water.
You should also drink tea and coffee instead of sugar-sweetened beverages (including fruit juice). Don’t add sugar or sweeteners to your beverages.
A 1-week Mediterranean diet meal plan
The sample menu below can get you through a full week on the Mediterranean diet.
As we mentioned earlier, feel free to make adjustments and replace ingredients with your favorite foods of a similar nutritional composition.
- Breakfast: Oats with strawberries and Greek yogurt.
- Lunch: A sandwich made from whole grain bread and vegetables
- Dinner: Tuna salad with extra-virgin olive oil dressing and a few pieces of fruit for dessert.
- Breakfast: Raisins in Oatmeal
- Lunch: An overnight tuna salad with extra-virgin olive oil and a few olive fruits.
- Dinner: Salad greens, tomatoes, feta cheese and olives
- Breakfast: An omelet containing onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Fruit for dessert.
- Lunch: A sandwich made with whole grain bread, fresh veggies and cottage cheese.
- Dinner: A Mediterranean lasagna
- Breakfast: Some sliced fruits, yogurt and a handful of nuts
- Lunch: Leftover Mediterranean lasagna from the previous night.
- Dinner: Brown rice with steamed salmon and veggies.
- Breakfast: Fried eggs and vegetables (fry with extra-virgin olive oil).
- Lunch: A whole-grain bread sandwich with vegetables.
- Dinner: Grilled lamb, baked potato, and vegetables.
- Breakfast: Nuts, raisins, and apples in oatmeal
- Lunch: Oats, nuts, and strawberries in Greek yogurt
- Dinner: A whole wheat Mediterranean pizza topped with vegetables, olives, mushroom, and cheese.
- Breakfast: Olives and veggie omelet.
- Lunch: Leftover Mediterranean pizza from the previous night
- Dinner: Potato and veggies with grilled chicken. Eat a fruit for dessert.
You can do the Mediterranean diet without having to count calories or track nutrients.
Mediterranean Diet Snacks
There’s no need to consume more than three main meals per day. However, we all experience food cravings between meals. You can eat the following snacks with the Mediterranean diet.
- A small serving of nuts
- A carrot or two.
- Berries and grapes
- A few pieces of fruits
- Small servings of leftover foods
- Almond or peanut butter on slices of apples
- Greek yogurt
A Mediterranean diet shopping list
When you enter a grocery store, most of the healthy, whole foods are in the perimeters of the store.
You should always aim to buy fresh, whole ingredients. Processed foods should be your last option. Go for organic options if you can afford it, but if you can’t, then non-organic will do just fine.
Here is a brief Mediterranean diet shopping list.
- Fish and seafood: Trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines, octopus, shrimp, lobster, prawns, etc.
- Vegetables: broccoli, carrots, kale, onions, spinach, garlic, etc.
- Mixed frozen vegetables
- Berries: raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, blueberry, etc.
- Grains: whole grain bread, pasta, etc.
- Nuts: Walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, cashew nuts, etc.
- Fruits: Orange, apple, grapes, bananas, avocado etc.
- Legumes: beans, lentils, pulses, etc.
- Seeds: Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, etc.
- Sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, brown rice
- Poultry: chicken, duck, turkey, geese, quail, pheasant, etc.
- Greek Yogurt
- Extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil
Before you go on this diet, you should get rid of all unhealthy foods in your pantry and fridge. If you don’t, you’ll be tempted to eat them, and that can throw your diet off course.
Getting More Information
We are in the process of writing a much bigger article about the Mediterranean diet, which will answer any question you have about it and include a mega meal plan.
But until we publish it, you can find more information about the diet from the thousands of books that have been written on the subject. An excellent resource for finding new recipes is to google the term “Mediterranean diet recipes, ” and you’ll have access to tons of tasty and delicious recipes you can try.
The Mediterranean diet is an incredibly healthy diet, and that is very delicious and easy to follow. You won’t regret following it if you choose to.