Mediterranean Diet Beginner’s Guide

The Mediterranean Diet is based on a traditional diet of the countries along the Mediterranean, countries Italy and Greece.

Summary of the Mediterranean Diet

Many studies have now shown that the diet is instrumental in weight loss and helps prevent the following:

With this diet, there’s no “right way.” There are many countries around the Mediterranean Sea and people in different areas may have eaten different foods.

Links to other studies on the Mediterranean Diet.

Weight loss on the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet and Diabetes

How much weight can you lose on the Mediterranean Diet?

According to one study, the Mediterranean diet was as effective as other low-carb diets for weight loss and may result in up to 22 pounds of weight loss over a year. 

The Mediterranean Diet Basics

While there is not a right way to do the Mediterranean, there are guidelines. It’s broken down into how often you eat certain things.

Eat plentifully, vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, bread, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil.

Eat sparingly, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. Red meat is to be eaten rarely. And added sugars, processed meat, refined flours and grains, processed oils, and other highly processed foods should be avoided altogether.

What you can eat eat on Mediterranean Diet

The diet in most studies is high in healthy plant foods and low in animal foods and eating fish and seafood is recommended at least twice a week.

The Mediterranean lifestyle also involves regular physical activity, sharing meals with other people, and enjoying life. Whole, single-ingredient foods are the key to good health.

Here’s a list of Mediterranean foods you can eat:

  • Vegetables. Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers
  • Fruits. Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, berries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches
  • Nuts and seeds. Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Legumes. Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas
  • Tubers. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams
  • Whole grains. Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta.
  • Fish and seafood. Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab
  • Poultry. Chicken, duck, turkey
  • Eggs. Chicken, quail and duck eggs.
  • Dairy. Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt
  • Herbs and spices. Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc.
  • Healthy Fats. Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil.

What can you drink on this diet?

Like most diets out there, water should be your go-to beverage on a Mediterranean diet. Also, this diet includes moderate amounts of red wine at 1 glass per day but is completely optional.

Coffee and tea are also completely acceptable. Be sure to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages like fruit juices or non-diet sodas that are high in sugar.

What you can’t eat on the Mediterranean Diet?

On this diet you should avoid these foods and ingredients:

  • Refined sugar. Things that contain white sugars like sodas, candies, ice cream,  cookies, cakes, white table sugar
  • Refined grains. Anything made with refined wheat or white flour, like white bread, pasta, tortillas, bagels, biscuits, crackers, pretzels
  • Trans fats. Found in margarine and other processed foods.
  • Refined oils. Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and vegetable oil
  • Highly processed meats and other processed foods. If it looks like it was made in a factory labeled “diet,” also hot dogs, processed sausages

You must read food labels carefully if you want to avoid these unhealthy ingredients.

A Mediterranean Diet sample menu

You can adjust the portions and food choices based on your own needs and preferences.

Day 1 on the diet

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with strawberries and whole oats.
  • Lunch: Turkey on whole-grain bread with mixed vegetables.
  • Dinner: Tuna in olive oil. Strawberries for dessert.

Day 2 Mediterranean Diet example

  • Breakfast: 2 egg omelet with spinach, tomatoes and onions. Fresh peaches.
  • Lunch: Tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread and fresh vegetables.
  • Dinner: Grilled salmon with asparagus and quinoa.

Day 3 on the diet

  • Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables, cooked in olive oil.
  • Lunch: Greek yogurt with strawberries, oats and nuts.
  • Dinner: Grilled lamb with romaine salad and baked sweet potato.

You don’t need to count calories or track your macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbs) on this diet.

For more ideas, check out this list of 21 healthy Mediterranean recipes.

Healthy snack ideas

You don’t need to eat more than 3 meals per day. But if you’re hungry between meals, here are some healthy snack options:

  • A handful of mixed nuts
  • A piece of fresh fruit
  • Baby carrots
  • Strawberries or raspberries
  • Grapes
  • Greek yogurt
  • Apple slices with almond or cashew butter

Grocery List for The Mediterranean Diet

A couple of rules for the diet, look for whole foods and the least processed options. Organic is ideal, but only if you can afford it.

  • Vegetables
    • carrots, onions, broccoli, spinach, kale, garlic, etc.
  • Fruits
    • apples, bananas, oranges, grapes
  • Berries
    • strawberries, blueberries
  • Frozen vegetables
    • Choose mixes with healthy vegetables.
  • Grains
    • Whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta
  • Legumes
    • lentils, pulses, beans
  • Nuts
    • almonds, walnuts, cashews
  • Seeds
    • sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Condiments
    • sea salt, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon
  • Fish
    • salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout
  • Shrimp and shellfish
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Dairy
    • greek yogurt, cheese
  • Poultry
    • Chicken, turkey, duck
  • Omega-3 enriched eggs
  • Olives
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Purge unhealthy foods from the fridge and pantry, including sodas, ice cream, candy, pastries, white bread, crackers, bagels, cookies and processed foods.

If you only have healthy food, you’ll only eat healthy food.

How to Follow the Mediterranean Diet at Restaurants

This diet is very adaptable. You shouldn’t have a problem finding something on the menu. Here are a few tips.

  1. Order seafood or fish as your main dish.
  2. Ask them to cook your food in extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Eat whole-grain bread, with olive oil instead of butter.
  4. Get fresh or sauteed veggies.

Last words on the Mediterranean Diet

This diet is an ideology. There is not a correct way of eating. But the diet is generally rich in healthy whole foods and lower in animal foods, with a focus on fish and seafood.

It’s incredibly healthy and satisfying. It’s not super difficult to transition into the diet with foods you may already have. If you’re looking for a healthy, all-natural, whole food diet, try the Mediterranean Diet.