Mediterranean Diet Food List

July 14, 2016
by Dana Poblete for Thrive Market
Mediterranean Diet Food List

On the Greek island of Ikaria, living to the ripe old age of 100 is the norm. It’s all thanks to the convivial culture and their incredible, delectable food.

Wine, olives, and long, joyful meals alfresco—that Mediterranean life is basically a dream. But it’s actually pretty feasible to adopt it as your own. It starts with eating like the Greeks and Italians do. Fresh fish, olive oil, and pasta? Doesn’t necessarily sound like a diet, but trust us—this might be one of the healthiest ways you could possibly choose to eat.

Aside from utilizing some of the most wholesome ingredients available at the market, Mediterranean cuisine is flavorful and the “rules” of the diet are flexible, making it pretty easy to stick to long-term. Here’s why it might be perfect for you—and how to shop for and prepare all the nutritious foods.

Why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy

In the 1960s, people living on islands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea had minimal access to medical care—yet they boasted a long adult life expectancy and low rates of chronic disease. Researchers attribute this to their traditional way of eating, consisting of whole, unprocessed foods and healthy fats, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, dairy, and pure oils.

But other key lifestyle factors probably also play a role. Culturally, Mediterranean people are active, place a high value on family and relationships, and prioritize stress relief. Complement your diet with these healthy habits and you’ll likely reap the most positive results.

What are the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet?

Strengthens your heart

Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet is effective at reducing the likelihood of heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease. It’s known to lower LDL cholesterol—the “bad” kind that clogs arteries and puts you at higher risk for cardiovascular issues.

Fights chronic diseases

The diet has been linked to fewer cases of chronic disease, including some types of cancer.

Boosts mental health

According to psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Boardman:

“While there is no single ingredient that will put you in a better mood or prevent memory loss, a great deal of evidence suggests that following a Mediterranean diet can boost your psychological fitness.”

Eating lots of sugar, processed food, and fatty meats has been correlated to depression and anxiety. In the Mediterranean, these foods are shunned in favor of healthier ones like legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, olive oil, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, seafood, and lean meat only in moderation.

One study found that eating this way could curb the risk of depression by 30 percent. And research on its potential to ward off mental illnesses like dementia looks promising.

Helps maintain a healthy body weight

In a study published in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, participants who ate a diet rich in healthy fat from olive oil and nuts were able to lose more weight over the course of five years than those who ate low-fat meals. More and more evidence is coming to light that certain types of dietary fat, like some of those eaten in the Mediterranean, can actually be good for you.

“Healthy cell walls made from high-quality fats are better able to metabolize insulin, which keeps blood sugar regulated. Without proper blood-sugar control, the body stores fat for a rainy day. The right fats increase fat burning, cut your hunger, and reduce fat storage, and help you lose weight.” —Dr. Mark Hyman

What to eat on the Mediterranean diet

The best thing about the Mediterranean diet? The food you can eat is satisfying and actually tastes good! There are so many options, and emphasizing healthy fats, herbs, and spices means your daily meals will automatically have tons of flavor. Here’s a shopping list of everything you can and should eat—plus what you should limit and avoid.

Also note the recommended servings especially if you’re trying to watch your weight. While beneficial fats from fish, oils, nuts, and seeds can be good for the heart and even help you stay slimmer, eating too much can really up your calorie intake, and potentially lead to weight gain. If you’re concerned about this, you can skew toward fewer servings of those foods and instead eat more vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Mediterranean diet grocery list

Seafood

Serving size: 3 ounces
Recommended servings: 2 to 3 per week

Fruits

Serving size: 1 small fresh fruit or ¼ cup dried fruit
Recommended servings: 2 to 4 per day  

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carob
  • Cherimoya
  • Cherries
  • Coconut
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Dates
  • Dried fruits (all types)
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruit
  • Guava
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Kumquat
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mango
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Passion fruit
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Persimmon
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Pluot
  • Pomegranate
  • Quince
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tamarind
  • Tangerine
  • Tomato (all types)
  • Watermelon

Vegetables

Serving size: 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked
Recommended servings: 4 to 8 per day

  • Acorn squash
  • Alfalfa
  • Algae
  • Artichoke
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Beet
  • Bell pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli rabe
  • Broccolini
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Grape leaves
  • Green beans
  • Green onions
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard greens
  • Okra
  • Olives
  • Onion
  • Peas
  • Pepper
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Radish
  • Scallions
  • Shallots
  • Snap peas
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sweet potato
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnip
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

Fresh herbs

Recommended servings: Use to taste

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

Dried herbs and spices

Recommended servings: Use to taste

Grains

Serving size: 1 slice bread or ½ cup cooked grains
Recommended serving: 4 to 6 per day

Legumes

Serving size: ½ cup
Recommended servings: 1 to 3 per day

Nuts and seeds

Serving size: ¼ cup nuts, 1 tablespoon nut butter, or 2 tablespoons seeds
Recommended servings: 1 to 3 per day

Cooking fats

Serving size: 1 teaspoon
Recommended servings: 4 to 6 per day

Condiments and other pantry staples

Recommended servings: Use as needed or heed serving size on the package

Foods to eat in moderation on the Mediterranean diet

Recommended servings: No more than 1 to 3 per week

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Cream
  • Eggs
  • Ghee
  • Honey
  • Milk
  • Poultry
  • Red wine
  • Yogurt

Foods to avoid on the Mediterranean diet

  • Fast food
  • Pork
  • Processed foods
  • Red meat
  • Refined sugar
  • Soda

Mediterranean diet meal plan

To stay on track, it might be helpful to make yourself a menu for the week ahead. Use this meal plan with recipes as a guideline.

Monday

Banana Chocolate Chia Pudding

Breakfast: Banana-Chocolate Chia Pudding Parfait

Try an unconventional take on a parfait—without dairy. It’ll give you a healthy dose of fruit and healthy fat from chia seeds.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Brown rice and lentil salad

Lunch: Brown Rice and Lentil Salad

Here’s a meatless dish with plenty of protein that will keep you fueled up—very necessary on Mondays! Dried fruit and fresh herbs add plenty of flavor.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Roasted salmon with cauliflower rice bowl

Dinner: Roasted Salmon and Cauliflower Rice Bowl

Cauliflower “rice” is a dream come true—not only does it sub in for grains to keep things light, it also helps you fulfill some of your veggie servings. With olive oil–coated roasted salmon, there’s tons of brain-boosting healthy fat, too.

Tuesday

Neapolitan Smoothie

Breakfast: Neapolitan Smoothie

Named after the Italian city of Naples, neapolitan ice cream is known for its multi-colored mix of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Normally served as dessert, you can have this smoothie version for breakfast.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Spring wellness bowl

Lunch: Spring Wellness Bowl

Peppery watercress is complemented by creamy avocado, tangy sauerkraut, and crisp mint for a total burst of freshness.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Gluten-free pizza

Dinner: Gluten-Free Veggie Pizza

Mediterraneans never deprive themselves of life’s pleasures—cheese included. Indulge in moderation, but make it worth it with a vegetarian pizza topped with zucchini, artichoke, and green olives.

Wednesday

Beet-Ginger Smoothie Bowl

Breakfast: Beet-Ginger Smoothie Bowl

A crimson smoothie bowl rich in antioxidants and superfoods will help you kickstart your day on a healthy note.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Chickpea patties

Lunch: Chickpea Patties

Here’s a recipe for healthified falafel. Combine the patties with parsley, cucumbers, and cabbage—stuff them into whole wheat pita bread for an even more substantial lunch.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Poached Cod

Dinner: Poached Cod

Cooked in tomato sauce, poached cod gets a major upgrade. It’s so easy, and the resulting fish will be incredibly flaky, moist, and exploding with flavor.

Thursday

Instant Oatmeal Recipe

Breakfast: Homemade Instant Oatmeal

Prepare a few packets ahead of time so you can take this oatmeal to-go. That way you can whip up quick, fiber-rich breakfasts without any of the additives or fillers.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Skillet chickpea flatbread

Lunch: Chickpea Flatbread With Zucchini Salad

Want a low-carb yet tasty lunch that’ll really fill you up? Make flatbread with sprouted garbanzo bean flour and top it off with fresh veggies and herbs.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Kale-hemp pesto recipe

Dinner: Whole Wheat Pasta With Kale-Hemp Pesto

Our unexpected take on pesto forgoes the basil and instead dares you to experiment with kale and hemp seeds. Pair it with whole wheat spaghetti and you won’t regret it—it’ll truly elevate your pasta game.

Friday

Green Smoothie Bowl

Breakfast: Green Smoothie Bowl

You’ve made it to Friday! Treat yourself to a gorgeous smoothie bowl packed with all things green: kale, spinach, cucumber, and pear.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

White Bean and Herb Zucchini Noodles

Lunch: White Bean and Herb Zucchini Noodles

Sure, some purists might tell you zucchini is not pasta. But spiralized, this veggie is an ideal substitute when you want a lighter meal. Olive oil, cannellini beans, parsley, and mint won’t let you forget this dish has “Mediterranean” written all over it.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Honey mustard salmon with root vegetables

Dinner: Honey Mustard Salmon With Root Vegetables

Get your veggies and fatty fish with a foolproof salmon dinner you can cook on a single baking dish, in less than 30 minutes.

Saturday

Mango rose smoothie bowl

Breakfast: Mango Rose Smoothie Bowl

Turning mango slices into a rose is easier than it sounds. Check out the video to see how to do it—a truly beautiful breakfast that’s perfect for Saturday morning.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Grilled romaine salad

Lunch: Grilled Romaine Salad With Avocado-Lime Dressing

A grilled salad is like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. Think about the way a charred burger goes so well with crisp lettuce—here you get a similar flavor and texture, only without the red meat. Avocado-lime dressing makes it even better.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Snack: Red Pepper Walnut Dip

Got an extra five minutes on a Saturday afternoon? Try your hand at making muhammara, a popular red pepper–walnut dip commonly eaten in some areas of the region. Enjoy it with raw carrot slices or whole wheat pita.

Grilled vegan pizza

Dinner: Grilled Vegan Pizza

Mediterraneans love any excuse to get outside, so fire up the grill again for dinner. In lieu of a wood-fired oven, it’ll do the trick for making an awesome pizza. The recipe features olive oil and tapenade—two staples of Mediterranean eating.

Sunday

Sweet potato hashbrown waffles

Breakfast: Sweet Potato Hash Brown Waffle

Who says waffles have to be made with a ton of flour? Sweet potatoes are the main ingredient here to make fluffy breakfast waffles that’ll delight your taste buds and fill you up with a nutritious serving of vegetables well before lunch.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

Yogi lentil bowl

Lunch: Yogi Lentil Bowl

Quinoa and lentils join forces to provide lots of protein and energy. Packed with an array of dried spices, it’s a hearty meal that’ll warm you up.

Snack: Your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or seeds

VegetarianLasagnaFINAL_THUMBTEXT

Dinner: Butternut Squash and Mushroom-Olive Veggie Lasagna

Skip the lasagna stuffed with melted cheese and ground beef. Instead, get your fill of veggies with an unconventional version of an Italian classic featuring butternut squash, mushrooms, and olives.

Final advice for successfully adopting the Mediterranean diet: Enjoy!

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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This article is related to: Cooking, Diet, Grocery List, Nutrition, Raw Food Recipes, Recipe

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