Curious about following the world's best diet, while eating delicious food and never feeling hungry? There are many reasons the US News and World Report recently selected the Mediterranean diet as #1 among the 40+ diets they examined. In today's post, we dig into this important question: What is the Mediterranean diet and how to follow it?

I put together a simple and complete resource that will help you start and enjoy this delicious way of eating. And be sure to check out my top 50+ Mediterranean diet recipes.

Image with Mediterranean diet ingredients. What is the Mediterranean diet and how to follow it

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet or way of eating is a plant-heavy diet that focuses more on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and legumes with some lean proteins from fish and poultry, and good fats from things like extra virgin olive oil. As you see at the very top of the Mediterranean diet pyramid are red meats and sweets which are enjoyed less frequently.

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
Photo courtesy: oldwayspt.org

Not a diet, but a sensible way to eat...

The word "diet" comes with certain assumptions--a set of rigid rules to follow that may have you counting calories and avoiding food groups that your body needs.  Thankfully, that is not what you'll find when eating the Mediterranean way.

As Oldways expert Kelly Toups, MLA, RD, LDN, explained: while many diets in the common sense of the word are rooted in deprivation, the Mediterranean diet is a joyful way of eating that celebrates good foods, while keeping a strong focus on flavor and the pleasure of the table.

What do you eat on the Mediterranean diet?

  • Eat MORE (every day) leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and legumes.
  • Eat MODERATELY (weekly) lean proteins from fish, some poultry, and eggs.
  • Eat LESS Red Meats and Sweets. Red meat is consumed less frequently and also in smaller amounts. a
  • Use Extra Virgin olive oil regularly.
  • Avoid processed foods, too much sugar, and any products with a list of ingredients you don't understand or can't read very well.
A shopping list for the Mediterranean diet

Advice for beginners

If you're brand new to eating the Mediterranean way, expert Kelly Toups, MLA, RD, LDN says, "begin with simple swaps."

  • The first week, buy some quality extra virgin olive oil and start using olive oil as your primary cooking oil (in place of butter, lard or other oils).
  • The next week, try and incorporate 1 or 2 fish or seafood based meals, and/or 1 or 2 meatless meals. Stock up on healthy snacks and items like hummus and veggies, as well as fresh or dried fruit.
  • For dessert, replace that piece of cake with a fruit or a handful of dried fruit like apricots, figs, or cherries next to a small piece of traditionally produced cheese like feta, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.

7 ways for how to follow the Mediterranean diet (Recipes Included):

  1. Eliminate fast and processed foods. For many of us living in America, this is one of the tougher adjustments and may take some time. To start with, try swapping a fast-food meal with a homemade one. For example, if it's chicken wings you crave, make them Greek-style like in this recipe! Or if it's sweet potato fries (my personal guilty pleasure), try baking them in olive oil with a sprinkle of Mediterranean spices like in this recipe. And so on! The point is, find a healthier homemade alternative to your favorite fast foods.
  2. Eat more vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. The base of the Mediterranean diet pyramid should make up the base of every meal. When you can, opt for vegetarian entrees like this Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew or Spicy Spinach and Lentil Soup. Rely more on satisfying, flavor-packed salads to make up a good portion of your plate. Some ideas: Kindey Bean Salad; Mediterranean Chickpea Salad; Greek Salad; Balela Salad.
  3. Swap fats. Rely on healthy fats. A good place to start is to swap your butter with good olive oil in your cooking.
    Mediterranean breakfast or brunch with falafel, hummus, baba ganoush,fresh vegetables and more
  4. Reduce your intake of fatty red meats...a lot. Eat more lean proteins--fish about two times a week; and poultry in moderation. A few favorites are this Easy Baked Salmon; Shrimp Skewers; One-Pan Halibut and Vegetables; Mediterranean Grilled Chicken; and Egg Shakshuka!

    You can certainly still eat red meat on occasion (very limited), but choose leaner cuts. Lamb is often the red meat of choice in Greece and other Mediterranean countries. You might like to try: Kofta Kebobs; Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint Quinoa; or Moussaka (Greek eggplant and lamb casserole). For special occasions, I highly recommend Leg of Lamb with Potatoes.
  5. Eat some dairy and eggs. Consumption of dairy products (in moderation) provides health benefits including lower risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Sadly, according to USDA, more than 80 percent of the entire U.S. population does not meet the daily dairy intake recommendation! We are not talking about topping everything with loads of processed cheese. But perhaps for a snack, swap your chips for a low-fat Greek yogurt. Add a sprinkle of feta cheese to your salad, or swap mayonnaise or your sandwich spread for low-fat Tzatziki sauce.
  6. Do not drink your calories. In the Mediterranean diet, this translates to drinking more water and swapping calorie-laden Margaritas for an occasional glass of red wine.
  7. Share as many meals with others as possible. This helps in several ways. Spending time with loved ones reduces stress and elevates our moods. But being deliberate, and slowing down to socialize with others also allows us to control our portions.

Mediterranean diet recipes & other resources

To help you get started, here are some important resources:

VISIT OUR ONLINE SHOP FOR QUALITY OLIVE OILS, ALL-NATURAL SPICES AND MORE

*This post originally appeared on this site in 2017, it has been revised and reposted with new media and information for readers' benefit.  A special thanks to Oldways and Kelly Toups, MLA, RD, LDN for lending expertise. Readers assume full responsibility for consulting a qualified health professional regarding health conditions or concerns before starting a health program, new way of eating, or diet.

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. love the looks of all your recipes and can't wait to try several! however,....I'm curious as to why, if we are following the true Mediterranean way of eating which omits white flour, regular pasta, butter, etc. why do many of your recipes contain those ingredients? And if it's just a matter of swapping out for whole wheat flour and/or whole wheat pasta and replacing the butter with something else, could that be mentioned in the recipe?
    It's just a little confusing seeing "non compliant" ingredients listed with no mention of substitution.....

    1. Hi, Candi! All the recipes on the blog are Mediterranean inspired, but not strictly "Mediterranean Diet" per se. I do mention ingredient swaps when they are something that I've personally tested with a recipe, but I don't like to include them if I'm not completely sure if they'll work. For quick reference, you can always find our growing list of Mediterranean Diet-friendly recipes here.

  2. I have your cookbook, meal plan and meals on a budget. I can hardly wait to get started.
    I just received my bank statement and have a $37.00 charge from you that I don’t know what it is for. I also have a charge for $6.90 and $9.95. I’m assuming one is for shipping and one for the purchase of one of my books.
    Please provide a phone number I can call as the one on face book has been disconnected. I will await your reply as I want to get this cleared up. Thank you.

    1. Hello! I think you may have the wrong blog. The Mediterranean Dish doesn't have cookbooks available for sale. We have an online shop where we sell olive oils and spices, among other things. You can contact our sales/shop team at sales@themediterraneandish.com.

  3. Hi Suzy! I cannot eat anything that comes from the water - fish/seafood. I know my belly will not be able to handle beans everyday. Any suggestions as to how I can follow the MD woe with these restrictions? Thanks.

    1. Hello, Helene. Thanks for reaching out! There is quite a variety of foods within the Mediterranean diet, so if you are not able to enjoy fish and seafood and don't want to eat legumes/beans everyday, perhaps you'll end up focusing more on vegetables, fruits, and grains, which are a great source of plant-based protein. And you can obviously enjoy chicken and turkey as other sources of lean protein. I would recommend chatting with a professional dietitian to help you tailor this diet to your very specific needs, though. Hope that helps a bit!

  4. Dear Suzy I was just diagnosed with high blood pressure. Although I don’t eat a lot of fried foods, snacks, sodas,etc.
    I like to bake and needs receipes my husband won’t say “another chicken dish”.
    What is best oil oil I should use?

    Do you have a book of recipes?
    Thanks for caring

    1. Hi, Barbara! I don't have a cookbook out quite yet, but it is in the works :). In the meantime, you can browse the many recipes I share on this blog! We have so many great ones the don't involve chicken (and some that do). I even have some breads, cakes and other desserts you will love if you enjoy baking. As for oil, I prefer using a good quality olive oil to achieve the tastiest results. You can find my favorites in our online shop: https://shop.themediterraneandish.com/product-category/olive-oil/. Hope that helps!!

  5. Dear Suzy,

    You and your vast amount of knowledge and willingness to share it are such a blessing. My husband and I are both 60. I have eaten Mediterraneanish off and on most of my life...my husband has not and unfortunately he recently had a stroke. Now he is onboard with making some very important changes to his life style. That's where you come in. Your site is full of information, but it's not overwhelming. It's easy to navigate and I especially love watching your videos. Sometimes a recipe sounds very complicated, but when I watch the video I realize it's not. I would be lost in a sea of eat this not that and be completely overwhelmed had I not discovered your site. Thank you so much for being there.

    1. Oh, thank you so much for the kind words, Lina! It means so much to me to hear that you are finding the website, videos and recipes helpful. Please stop by often and keep me posted on what you and your husband are trying!!

  6. Absolutely loving your site.
    Your selection of recipes is wonderful colourful & delicious.

    I have now converted my husband to this type of diet away from to much red meat & more vegetables.
    For Xmas & New Years my main theme was Mediterranean food & my family & friends were so impressed my girlfriend has now added your site so she can now cook the Mediteranean way.

    I live in Australia so seafood is abundant but sadly I cant eat Salmon & the oils that it contains doesnt agree with my digestion so Ive tried other fish with your receipes with success.

    Thank you Suzy for inspiring me to change !!! Love using lemons & olive oil makes food taste so much better.

  7. Years ago I had to change my way of eating as I have a rare bleeding disorder and I found on the internet a website called "Dr. Gourmet". Dr. Harland, who has that website, not only publishes what I could and could not eat since I take blood thinners, he advocated a Mediterranean diet as well, complete with recipes. I was immensely thankful when I found your website and I use many of your delicious recipes. I follow a Mediterranean diet for the most part and look forward to your blog. Those recipes that contain ingredients on my "cannot eat" list, I find substitute ingredients for. There are two ingredients I don't like and one of them I'm allergic to: eggplant and mushrooms (allergic to.) Is there a substitute for eggplant?

    1. Hi, Surya! I'm so glad to have you here! When substituting eggplant, it kind of depends on the recipe. Zucchini can often be a good choice, though.

  8. Hi suzy and everyone on your blog, i have been following suzy for a few years now and have made most of her recipes,i live in australia and have a wide variety of stores that sell fresh products, i particually love our saturday and sunday markets they are great for fresh produce,the place i live is scarborough near redcliffe (famous for the bee gees) its in queensland beautiful one day perfect the next.Never give up keep following suzies recipes they are fabulous.Have a wonderful day everyone.
    Jane

    1. I have been cooking Jane's recipes for about a year now. My family LOVES them. I am grateful to have healthy recipes that are tasty! Knowing that I am cooking healthy meals for my family puts me at ease. I recommend everyone try as many as you can. You'll find SO many new things to love!

  9. Hi, I recently found your blog and enjoying trying out the healthier recipes. I was going to order some of the spices and the tahini paste, however I don't see an option for Canada? Do you only ship to US ?

    1. In Canada you can order spIces from Silk Road Spices in Calgary. Or if you have a mid-east food market nearby you can get the spices and the tahini from there. Some larger grocery chains such as Loblaws carry these as well.

    1. Hi Jill, yes, while we do consume some dairy on the Mediterranean diet, it is easy to eliminate and the majority of the recipes on our site are dairy-free.

  10. How can i follow Mediterranean diet if I am allergic to seafood, wheat, gluten and dairy? I try and keep low carb as possible also because my goal is weightloss.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Sue. In eating the Mediterranean way, you can rely far more on vegetables and legumes, if you can't have seafood and wheat. But you are best off chatting with a professional dietitian to help you tailor this diet to your very specific needs.

  11. So excited to come across your site! I'm in search of a good hummus recipe and am finding fresh tahini, as in anytihng really, homemade fresh is best. But I am curious about your olive oil...where does it come from? Looking forward to eating my way through your recipes!!
    Thank you!

      1. Suzy - why 2 different oils? Is one recommended above the other for certain foods or dishes? Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful recipes and knowledge with us.