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The Beginner’s Complete Mediterranean Diet Food List

Last Update: May 15, 2024

While newer eating styles with snappy names like keto and plant-based have taken over the food conversation for the past few years, one of the healthiest ways of eating isn’t new at all — in fact, it dates back generations. 

The Mediterranean diet is a longtime talked-about eating style that mimics the way people eat in countries in the Mediterranean, such as Greece, Italy, France, and Spain — think fresh fish, lots of olive oil, and lightly grilled vegetables. Many of these foods are readily available thanks to the area’s pleasant climate, so they’re often sourced locally (or even plucked straight from the Mediterranean Sea). 

Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet 

The Mediterranean diet doesn’t place restrictive macros on eating, but rather prioritizes certain whole food ingredients such as fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oils, and other healthy fats. 

Many studies show that those who eat according to this type of diet have lower risk factors and biomarkers for cardiovascular disease, as well as better heart health overall. Other studies suggest that it could help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Because of this research, the Mediterranean diet has quickly caught on in areas well outside of the Mediterranean.

How to Follow the Mediterranean Diet 

While you may not be able to feast on fresh fish and locally grown olives for every meal, you can mimic the health benefits and vibrant color palette of the Mediterranean diet in your own eating. 

What to eat on the Mediterranean diet: 

  • Fish and lean meats 
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh vegetables and fruits 
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Healthy fats

What to avoid on the Mediterranean diet: 

  • Overly processed foods 
  • Added sugar
  • Refined grain
  • Too much alcohol 

Mediterranean Diet Cooking Tips 

You won’t find any rich, creamy sauces or fried chicken wings here; rather, you’ll want to focus on zesty herbs and spices, quality seafood prepared simply, and, of course, a nice drizzle of olive oil on every bite. Here are some more Mediterranean cooking (and eating) tips to help you get started:

  • Lean heavily on natural seasonings like herbs, dried spices, and pure sea salt (in moderation) to add flavor to simple meals. 
  • Don’t over-cook or deep-fry foods. The Mediterranean diet relies mostly on grilling, which makes preparing seafood, meats, and fresh vegetables simple and delicious. 
  • Don’t be afraid to use sauces and condiments! Things like good-quality olive oil, tzatziki, tahini, pesto, harissa, or toum are all healthy staples of the Mediterranean diet. 
  • Add flavorful finishes such as capers, olives, diced onions, chopped herbs, or a big squeeze of lemon juice just before serving foods. 
  • Don’t eat in front of the television (or hunched over your desk while multitasking). Conscious eating is key in the Mediterranean diet, so eat slowly, preferably while socializing with friends and family; if you’re dining alone, savor your meal over a good book or while taking a quiet moment to yourself. 
  • If you drink alcohol, be mindful of the types of alcohol you’re drinking and how much you’re consuming. Pairing wine with a meal is a part of the Mediterranean diet, but culturally, most people drink in moderation — think one glass per meal, once or twice a week. 

Snacks to Eat on the Mediterranean Diet 

One of the main concerns people have when starting the Mediterranean diet is that they won’t be able to find snacks. Luckily, there are lots of flavorful and wholesome snack options that fit right into your Mediterranean eating plan. Try these:


Mediterranean Diet Grocery List 

Ready to build a fresh, colorful Mediterranean meal plan? Here’s what you’ll need: 

Seafood

Salmon, anchovies, oysters, mussels, sardines, mackerel, sea bass, tuna, shrimp, lobster, halibut, cod, crab, Arctic char, scallops

Meat & Poultry

Chicken, turkey, lean red meat (sparingly and only in small quantities)

Vegetables

Spinach, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, peas, green beans, asparagus, potatoes, radishes, turnips, zucchini, onions, celery, garlic

Fruits

Dates, figs, berries, melons, grapes, peaches, apples, oranges, lemons, limes, bananas, apricots, cherries 

Fresh herbs

Basil, thyme, dill, parsley, cilantro, mint, rosemary, sage, lavender 

Dried herbs and spices

Bay leaves, black pepper, cardamom, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, fennel seed, garlic powder, nutmeg, paprika, red pepper flakes, sea salt

Grains

Brown rice, oats, quinoa, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, wild rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice

Legumes

Great Northern beans, black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lentils, kidney beans

Nuts and seeds

Almonds, almond butter, Brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, sunflower seed butter, tahini, walnuts

Dairy 

Cheese, full-fat yogurt, milk (in moderation) 

Healthy fats 

Olive oil, avocados, olives


Mediterranean Diet Recipes 

Oven-Baked Chickpea Falafel
Oven-baked instead of deep-fried, this updated falafel recipe fits right into your Mediterranean diet plan. 

Chickpea Flatbread With Zucchini Salad 
This easy take on socca, a chickpea flour flatbread, is loaded with plant-based protein. 

Veggie Frittata 
For breakfast, load this easy-to-make frittata with sliced zucchini and other seasonal veggies. 

Salmon Cilantro Slaw Salad with Apples and Cashews
This vibrant summertime salad is crunchy, colorful, and just a bit sweet thanks to fresh apple slices.

White Bean and Herb Zucchini Noodles
Light, filling, and flavored with fresh herbs, this zoodle dish might just become a go-to weekday lunch. 

Charred Cabbage and Roasted Vegetable Soup
Make this cozy soup with whatever leftover veggies and beans you have on hand. 

Herbed Sweet and Spicy Salmon Recipe
With fig preserves to add a touch of sweetness and a heavy sprinkle of fresh herbs on top, this salmon recipe fits perfectly into your Mediterranean diet.

This article is related to:

Grocery List, Nutrition

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Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts is Thrive Market's Senior Editorial Writer. She is based in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh, PA.

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