The keto diet and Whole30 may be getting their moments in the social media sun, but the Mediterranean diet plan continues to trump all others—just ask U.S. News & World Report—for being easy to stick to and good for your body. (After all, you can score these five health benefits from eating Mediterranean diet foods.) The best part: It’s a program you can follow for life, without feeling like you’re constantly restricting your calories or giving up foods you really love.
The Mediterranean Diet Basics
Think of the Mediterranean diet pyramid—you’ll see fish, legumes, and seasonal fruits and vegetables in the consume-with-gusto level at the bottom. Whole grains and olive oil are in the next tier, followed by lean meats and poultry, local dairy, and wine. The top of the pyramid illustrates eating limited quantities of red meat and added sugars such as honey, says Jessica Beacom, R.D., cofounder of The Real Food Dietitians. One of the most important things to know about a Mediterranean diet menu? Nothing is completely off limits—including dessert. (Seriously, here’s proof.)
When and How to Eat On the Mediterranean Diet Plan
There’s no need to watch the clock and eat within a set time frame or to journal every bite. Instead, focus on three meals and one snack each day that are filled with plant-based foods, a moderate amount of protein (mainly from fish), and a bit of dairy, suggests Stacie Hassing, R.D., another cofounder of The Real Food Dietitians. “Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and focus on whole and minimally processed foods whenever possible,” adds Beacom. Seems like an anti-diet diet you can easily make room for in your lifestyle.
And don’t feel like you have to totally revamp your current eating habits. “Apply the Mediterranean diet plan principles in a way that’s realistic for your current health and lifestyle, rather than having a strict set of rules and restrictions,” says Hassing. For example, if you live in an area that has limited access to wild-caught salmon, swap in a similar monounsaturated fat–strong fish such as halibut or mackerel. Don’t love zoodles? Mix up your faux pasta game plan with antioxidant-rich beet noodles instead. (Another option: These seven creative combinations for spiralized vegetables.)
Whatever you do, don’t shy away from flavor. Basic grilled fish and steamed whole-grain starches can be boring on their own, but adding ingredients like garlic, rosemary, and basil can totally transform a dish. “I love to spice up my Mediterranean diet menu with herbs and spices for more flavor and an antioxidant boost,” says Molly Rieger, R.D., celebrity nutritionist and dietitian for the New York City–based fitness studio Dogpound.
7-Day Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
You don’t need a special Mediterranean diet cookbook to stick to this eating routine. We snagged a full week’s worth of simple meal and snack ideas from Rieger, Beacom, Hassing and our recipe archives to build this complete seven-day Mediterranean diet meal plan. (Want more? Here are 50 Mediterranean recipes and meal ideas.)
Mediterranean Diet Breakfasts
- 1 whole-wheat English muffin + 2 tablespoons peanut butter + 1 sliced apple or peach
- 3/4 cup cooked quinoa + 1/2 cup prepared bruschetta + 1 soft-boiled or poached egg
- 1 slice Sweet Potato Frittata
- 1 cup cooked oatmeal + 1/2 cup cherries (can be thawed from frozen) + 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
- 1 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt + 1 tablespoon honey + 1/2 cup berries (can be thawed from frozen) + 1 tablespoon TopBit Mixed Berry Protein Powder
- 1 cup warm no-sugar-added marinara + 1 poached egg + 2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese + 1/2 whole-wheat pita
- 2 slices Ezekiel bread + 1/4 avocado, sliced + 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
Mediterranean Diet Lunches
Mediterranean Diet Dinners
Mediterranean Diet Snacks