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What Foods Are in the Mediterranean Diet

What Foods Are in a Mediterranean Diet

There are many nutritional diets out there. One of them is the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes eating healthy and unprocessed (whole) foods. The dietary regimen helps you maintain a healthy weight. So, you may wonder what foods are in the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet promotes the consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish and other types of seafood, nuts and seed, olive oil, whole grains, dairy and fruits. It also allows you to have some lean meat and wine in moderation, as well as the occasional homemade desert.

So, read on to learn more about this diet and why you should try it.

Key Takeaways

  • The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets and has its key focus on plant-based food, fish and dairy.
  • Some of the main foods in the Mediterranean diet include veggies, olive oil, cheeses, rice and seafood that contains omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Foods, such as red meat, full-fat dairies, sugar, and refined grains are allowed on the Mediterranean diet only occasionally.

What Are the Main Foods in the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet represents the tantalizing traditional cuisine of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, like Italy, Greece, and Spain. This diet dazzles with its vibrant plant-based and seafood dishes, full of healthy fats, carbs and proteins. It is famous for its specific "rules" on how to incorporate specific food groups, known as the Mediterranean Food Pyramid.

Mediterranean Food Pyramid


  • To consume every day: At the base of the pyramid, which should make up the bulk of your diet, are plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, olive oil, herbs and spices.

  • To eat 2-3 times a week: The next level contains fish like salmon and tuna, and other types of seafood (scallops, clams, etc.).

  • Allowed in moderate amounts from daily to weekly: The third group of foods in the pyramid includes lean protein sources like poultry, dairy and eggs. Here you'll also find dairy products like yogurt and cheese.

  • Permitted as an occasional treat: The top of the pyramid contains foods, such as sweets and red meat, which should be consumed in moderation.

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What Are the Top 10 Foods on a Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean Diet consists of a wide array of food types. To maximize its benefits, here are the top 10 foods you should include in your meals:

  1. Olive oil
  2. Whole grains
  3. Vegetables
  4. Fruits
  5. Legumes
  6. Nuts and seeds
  7. Fish and seafood
  8. Poultry
  9. Dairy products
  10. Herbs, spices, and red wine

Related: What Is the Mediterranean Diet and How to Get Started?

Mediterranean Diet for Beginners

If you are a beginner on the Mediterranean Diet, there are several aspects you need to consider when getting started.

Recommendations for Incorporating Mediterranean Foods Into Meals

Here are some tips that you need to keep in mind:

  • Focus on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. Limit red meat, full-fat dairy, butter, and sugary desserts.

  • Add one new Mediterranean food each week to expand your options. Try chickpeas, quinoa, artichokes, figs, apricots, etc.

  • Add healthy fats with each meal, like a drizzle of olive oil, a handful of nuts, or sliced olives.

  • If you like wine, consume in moderation and don't forget to drink plenty of water, too.

Strategies for Maintaining the Diet Long-term

In order to maintain the diet long-term, you can incorporate the following helpful strategies, as well, so make your journey more seamless and effective.

  • Keep a selection of healthy Mediterranean foods on hand, so you can make good choices easily.
  • Vary your menu and try new recipes to keep your daily menu interesting.
  • Use Mediterranean recipes and cookbooks for inspiration.
  • Incorporate the diet gradually, so you can succeed in making long-term changes.
  • Don't be too restrictive. Allow yourself and indulge in the occasional treat. The Mediterranean diet is meant to be balanced and flexible.

What Foods Are Not Allowed on the Mediterranean Diet?

Foods That Are Not Allowed on the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet avoids or limits some foods that are generally considered unhealthy. Here are some of the foods to avoid:

  • Red meat: Red fatty meat can raise bad cholesterol and is linked to causing heart disease, and obesity.
  • Full-fat dairy products: Consuming too much milk, butter, cheese and cream can mean an increased intake of saturated fats.
  • Refined grains: It is good to avoid refined serials like white bread, wheat pasta, and white rice.
  • Sugar: Food and drinks with added sugar, such as sugary beverages, baked goods, candy, and sweets provide empty calories with no nutrients. This may cause obesity, diabetes, and other health issues.
  • Trans fats: Hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats can raise "bad" LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Fried foods: Fried foods are linked to weight gain, and numerous health problems, thus they should not be on your list if you follow the Mediterranean diet.

Related: Whole30 Diet vs. Paleo Diet: Key Differences & Similarities

Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan

Here is a simple example of a Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan:

Meal Food
Breakfast Greek yogurt, nuts and banana
Snack Piece of fruit with a handful of almonds
Lunch Grilled chicken breast with lemon & parsley; Couscous salad with veggies, cheese & olives
Snack Hummus and veggie sticks
Dinner Grilled fish fillet; Sautéed spinach with garlic; Farro salad with roasted peppers & basil
Dessert Fresh berries or grapes & cheese

What Are the Pros and Cons of the Mediterranean Diet?

Here are some of the pros and cons of a Mediterranean diet:

  • Pros:
  1. It is a nutritious and balanced diet;
  2. It prioritizes unprocessed foods;
  3. It encourages the consumption of vegetables and fruits, which are great for fiber and vitamins;
  4. It includes healthy proteins from fish and chicken;
  5. The diet is easy to follow and can be sustained long-term.
  • Cons:
  1. It may be more time-consuming, in terms of meal preparation;
  2. It may be slightly more expensive than other diets;
  3. It may not be suitable for busy folks, who are constantly on the go.

Related: Mediterranean Diet vs Paleo: Which One Is Right for You?

What Foods Are in a Mediterranean Diet? FAQs

Q: What Is a Good Mediterranean Diet Meal Prep?

A: Ensure that you have some veggies, whole grains, and legumes at hand. Use olive oil for marinating, dressing, or making sauces. Opt for chicken, fish or another type of seafood to add to your dish, as they contain healthy proteins.

Q: What Do Mediterraneans Eat for Breakfast?

A: Incorporate a variety of whole grains, like brown bread, barley, and farro, along with lot of veggies, nuts, and seeds into your Mediterranean breakfast. Yogurt and fruits for some extra flavor is also a great breakfast option!

Related: What Foods Are Not Allowed in the Mediterranean Diet?


The Mediterranean diet is growing in popularit, and for a good reason. It is one of the healthiest diets available, and it incorporates delicious healthy dishes. The best thing about the diet is that it incorporates olive oil, veggies, fruits, and unprocessed foods, which are beneficial to your health. Sticking to a healthy diet is great for your well-being, as it promotes longevity.