Want to try the latest Mediterranean diet meal plan?
Imagine yourself sitting on a patio overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The breeze whips through your hair, you’re a slimmer version of yourself, and you’re enjoying a tasty dinner with a glass of red wine.
Sound like more fun than your average diet?
We think so, too. To enjoy a robust flavor profile instead of bland chicken breast and upgrade your lifestyle instead of feeling food-deprived, try this Mediterranean diet meal plan.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
Chances are, if you’ve listened to the news, you’ve heard people claiming this is the BEST diet. A Mediterranean diet meal plan is based on traditional foods from that region. Mediterranean diet food is flavorful and vibrant, including cuisines like Greek, Spanish, and Italian. Prepare to leave a typical low-fat, processed American diet behind.
It has been observed that people living near the Mediterranean Sea are particularly healthy and have much lower rates of common lifestyle diseases. As they’ve investigated, they’ve found some key differences. Mediterranean foods are mainly plant-based, like fresh fruit, leafy greens, nuts, whole grains, and seeds.
There’s also plenty of monounsaturated fat found in the extra virgin olive oil this region loves. This Mediterranean diet plan also includes four or fewer eggs weekly and moderate amounts of fish, poultry, and red wine. Red meat is eaten much more rarely, as are saturated fats.
There is some conflict over what exactly is eaten on a true Mediterranean diet. Since there are many countries in the region, each with their own heritage and culture, we’ve streamlined some of the most beneficial options from the area for this article. Our inspiration mainly stems from Spain, Italy, and Greece.
Why is the Mediterranean Diet so popular?
A Mediterranean diet meal plan is packed full of health benefits.
The science is clear that this healthy eating plan can have many positive effects on life. In addition, it provides a higher degree of flexibility and flavor than many of its dietary competitors. In short, your taste buds don’t have to suffer for you to achieve the results you’re hoping to see. Here are some of our favorite health benefits:
- A Mediterranean diet meal plan reduces the likelihood of stroke, heart disease, and other cardiovascular issues. In one study, it reduced the likelihood of a stroke by 39%. Other conditions like obesity and high blood pressure also showed major improvements. Interestingly, men are more likely than women to benefit from these effects. (1)
- The Mediterranean diet is the best dietary model to protect against coronary heart disease. (2)
- This Mediterranean meal plan can also help reverse metabolic syndrome. (3)
- Mediterranean-style eating lowers LDL cholesterol, the type of cholesterol that contributes to heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. (4)
- The Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 52% in one study without caloric restriction. Subjects saw decreases in blood sugar, blood pressure, and C-reactive protein (CRP). (5)
- Eating more nuts on a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of death from heart issues or cancer by 39%. (6)
- It’s highly beneficial to adopt a Mediterranean diet for those who have suffered cardiovascular disease or a heart attack. The omega-3 fatty acids in this eating plan can decrease the risk of death and subsequent cardiovascular incidents by as much as 72%. (7)
- The health benefits also include a decrease in insulin resistance. This can be a factor in diabetes, PCOS, and numerous other health conditions. A Mediterranean diet meal plan can even encourage higher activity levels. (8)
- News of this incredible diet plan has reached the American Heart Association. The board recently stated that a Mediterranean-style diet has impressive effects on the progression of cardiovascular disease. (9)
- An Italian study has linked the antioxidants and fiber content in the Mediterranean meal plan with good mental and physical health. (10)
A Mediterranean diet may be a useful tool to lose weight. This is especially true when it’s paired with physical activity and eaten for more than 6 months.
Studies show that a Mediterranean diet does not cause weight gain, even though it contains higher fat levels than many other diet plans. (11) Using a Mediterranean diet meal plan and adopting its accompanying lifestyle can be a major perk for your waistline, cholesterol, and total body mass.
In some cases, the diet may prove beneficial even without weight loss. Exciting research shows that the diet can reduce inflammation even if total body mass doesn’t change. (12) With the internal work that the Mediterranean diet plan does for insulin, metabolism, and chronic diseases, you can receive benefits even before you begin to see weight loss results.
Foods to Eat on a Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
To stay heart-healthy and enjoy the health benefits listed above, there are many foods to include and enjoy. Ideally, your diet will be more plant-based and lower in animal-based foods.
Don’t forget, though, that the Mediterranean lifestyle is more than just a diet plan. To embrace this change, be sure to up your physical activity and share meals. In the spirit of the simpler life, stick to unprocessed foods. Single-ingredient, whole foods are integral to great health.
Foods to Eat Daily
- Vegetables, especially leafy greens, such as tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, cucumbers, and brussels sprouts
- Fresh fruits, including apples, bananas, oranges, dates, oranges, figs, and berries
- Nuts and seeds like macadamia nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts
- Legumes, especially white beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- Tubers, including potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Whole grains rather than processed breads, pasta, and rice
- Fish and seafood, at least twice a week, if not daily
- Extra virgin olive oil, avocados, and olives for cholesterol-lowering healthy fats
Foods to Eat in Moderation
- Poultry, such as chicken, duck, and turkey
- Eggs (four or less per week)
- Dairy, like feta cheese, goat cheese, and Greek yogurt
Food to Eat Sparingly
- Red meat
Generally, this plan is chock-full of proteins, plants, and fats that will keep you satisfied. You don’t need to eat more than 3 meals per day. However, we all find ourselves craving a snack from time to time. Not to worry, because if you’re hungry between meals, there are plenty of healthy snack options:
- Any healthy nuts listed above
- A reasonable portion of tasty fruit
- Leftovers from your Mediterranean diet meal plan dinner
- Greek yogurt, perhaps with fruit if you have a craving for dessert
As mentioned, this diet isn’t exactly low-fat, so do your best to eat in moderate amounts, and add in exercise if you haven’t yet. You could try scheduling a walking meeting, swimming or a group class, or whatever will pair mindful eating with mindful exercise.
Foods to Avoid on a Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
There are several groups to avoid. Most stem from items you may be used to with our American diet. While some may be hard to part with at first, none will be majorly surprising.
- Added Sugar: Avoid soft drinks, candy, scoops of sugar in coffee and tea, and many desserts that contain high levels of added sugars. Instead, try Greek yogurt with fresh berries as a tasty treat.
- Refined Grains: Steer clear of white bread and processed pasta with refined wheat. Better options are whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, and sandwiches or toast served with whole wheat bread.
- Trans Fats: Sidestep trans fats found in margarine and other processed foods. Check labels for healthier fats that don’t come from overprocessing, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.
- Refined Oils: Run from cottonseed, soybean, and canola oil. Cook with more olive, ghee oil, and avocado oil — the latter two are even appropriate for high-temperature cooking.
- Processed Meat: Avoid sausages, hot dogs, and similar prepackaged meats and go for a delicious plate of salmon or seafood instead.
Keep away from labels like “low-fat” or “diet”. Look for monounsaturated fats, low sugar, and foods high in protein and fiber.
Remember, some scary ingredients can be hiding behind innocent packaging. Looking at labels will save your diet.
With all your increased physical activity and simple food, it should be no surprise that water is recommended. Make H2O your go-to choice.
If you’d like, a Mediterranean diet meal plan also makes room for moderate amounts of red wine. Around one glass per day is true to cultural norms. Don’t go overboard or you could risk your incredible benefits.
If you want to be immersed in the Mediterranean lifestyle, small amounts of coffee and tea are essentials. Avoid adding sugar or using artificial sweeteners.
There are many incredible resources to find Mediterranean recipes. Use the Foods to Eat section as a shopping list, or plan according to this menu. Be sure to use all of the food groups mentioned in the article for a balanced diet. The more you can prepare basics like brown rice, quinoa, and veggies, the easier your week will be. Don’t forget the olive oil.
- Breakfast: whole wheat avocado toast and fruit of your choice
- Lunch: classic Greek salad loaded with onion, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese
- Dinner: grilled lamb chops, sweet potatoes, and onions
- Breakfast: Greek yogurt with berries and honey
- Lunch: leftover lamb chops and vegetables
- Dinner: salmon on a bed of quinoa and lima beans
- Breakfast: eggs, avocado, and fresh fruit
- Lunch: tuna salad sandwich, nuts,
- Dinner: chicken breast and a warm salad of mint, cucumber, and tomato.
- Breakfast: Greek yogurt chia seed pudding
- Lunch: spaghetti squash, bass, and mushrooms
- Dinner: steamed mussels, olives, potatoes, and a creamy tomato sauce
- Breakfast: hummus and veggie breakfast bowl
- Lunch: leftover mussel dish with brown rice
- Dinner: stuffed bell peppers, filled with beef, spinach, quinoa and goat cheese
- Breakfast: baked eggs with avocado and feta
- Lunch: zucchini, olive, and chickpea salad with salmon
- Dinner: Greek lentil soup and a veggie tray
- Breakfast: avocado toast and nuts
- Lunch: pita, hummus, and a Greek salad
- Dinner: whole grain penne with shrimp and pan-roasted broccoli
Tips and Tricks
Unlike many more tricky eating plans, it’s fairly simple to eat out while on a Mediterranean diet meal plan.
- Order some sort of seafood.
- See if they can make your meal using extra virgin olive oil instead of refined oils.
- Skip white bread. If they have whole-grain bread, you’re in luck. Just be sure to dip in more of that yummy olive oil.
When cooking at home, whipping up a salad, or treating yourself with a slice of bread, just remember that olive oil is your best friend during this Mediterranean meal plan. Also, quinoa and brown rice are great staples. They provide much more of the healthy fiber content found in whole grains.
Remember that the Mediterranean diet is best when followed six months or longer, which means that commitment will be important. Due to the length of time needed, you’ll want to remove processed grains like pastries, sweets, and white bread from your home.
You can also throw out any tempting desserts with added sugars. People tend to eat whatever’s in the pantry, so aim to make your home Mediterranean diet-friendly.
Pulling from the healthy, culinary best of Spain, Italy, and Greece, the Mediterranean diet is the best of many worlds. Many studies consider this to be the best diet, containing abundant plants like fruit and veggies while staying low in red meat and keeping a focus on fish and seafood.
A Mediterranean diet meal plan:
- Offers flexibility to try new foods and still eat out
- Has non-restrictive terms that keep you creative in the kitchen
- Can stop chronic disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes in their tracks
- Has shown promising effects on cancer
- Is great for weight loss
Your tastebuds, health, heart, and hormones will be happy if you stick with this program. Enjoy a vacation from your regularly scheduled lifestyle and reap the perks of the Mediterranean today.