Mediterranean Diet Foods – What to Eat

pumpkin hummus

It’s never too late to start eating well and many turn to the Mediterranean Diet as a guide. But what do you know about Mediterranean diet foods? Healthy Mediterranean food is only part of the answer. One reason it’s a popular eating style is because of heart health and is recommended by the American Heart Association with many write-ups by the Mayo Clinic as well. Find out more about foods to eat on Mediterranean diet regimens.

Heart disease and heart health are of importance to so many people. By prioritizing healthy eating over eating processed food, and focusing on healthy fats (like olive oil), the Mediterranean Diet can make a difference in well-being.

The Mediterranean Diet Foods Pyramid

Sometimes, it’s easiest to plan which Mediterranean diet foods to prioritize based on visual guides. Consider the FDA’s “My Plate,” which shows a plate broken down into categories of food types. Oldways has created a very handy pyramid of foods to eat on Mediterranean diet that you can print out to hang on your refrigerator. The helpfulness of a pyramid is showing what to eat more of and what to eat less of. Let’s dive into how it’s set up from the wide base of what to eat more of and finishing with the tip of the pyramid of what to eat less of. Let’s dive in to the Mediterranean Diet food list.

Mediterranean Diet Foods to Focus on (at Every Meal)

Base every meal on the ingredients in this section.
apple fig ginger salsa in a white bowl with pita chips | mediterranean diet what to eat

Fresh fruits and dried fruits change with the seasons and come in a rainbow of colors. If you’re trying to make the transition to eating less baked goods and cutting back on added sugar, adding in fresh fruits and dried fruits like Sun-Maid and Orchard Choice Figs is a great place to start and a healthy Mediterranean food. Fresh fruit, especially paired with nuts can be a very satisfying snack. An easy place to start with that snack combination of fresh fruit and nuts would be apple slices with drizzled nut butter and chopped figs.

roasted cauliflower with chermoula, carrots, and figs in a white dish | | mediterranean diet what to eat

From winter squash to summer squash, vegetables are always in season. They are the bedrock of a healthy diet, calorie-dense food, full of health benefits, and available for all kinds of tastes. Braise, roast, grill, or raw, however you prepare the veggies, they are a winning addition to your plate and a vital part of healthy Mediterranean food. And, if you are grilling or roasting, reach for the extra-virgin olive oil. 

freekeh pilaf in a red trimmed serving dish | mediterranean diet what to eat

Grains, specifically whole grains feature naturally-occurring nutritional benefits like fiber and is part of traditional Mediterranean diet practices. This helps with satiety, which means a smaller amount can fill you up quicker too. This includes whole wheat, farro, oats, freekeh, millet, and more. We are adding protein-rich quinoa here, even though, technically, it’s a pseudocereal and not a grain. Grains also pair well with nuts, adding in omega-6 fatty acids in toasted walnuts for heart health like the freekeh pilaf in the photo above. Have you ever tried toasting grains in a healthy fat like olive oil? This can also amplify the natural nuttiness in the grains.  Find ideas for Mediterranean bread here.

bed of arugula with olive oil vinaigrette on a white dish

Olive oil is at the heart of the Mediterranean Diet food list. It is a monounsaturated fat to use in place of animal fats like butter or lard, or even other vegetable oils. Extra-virgin olive oil is the purest form of olive oil as it has not been refined and, thus, has all of the naturally-occurring nutritional benefits still intact, such as antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory. Extra-virgin olive oil also has a deeper fruity flavor. Learn more about the benefits of olive oil here.

paleo nut and seed granola bars on a speckled tray

Nuts happen to be a great snack with dried fruit or fresh fruit. Added to side dishes and main dishes, they provide extra protein and are a pivotal part of plant-based diets. Seeds like chia, pumpkinseeds, sunflower seeds bring crunch and their own nutritional benefits as part of a healthy Mediterranean food.

mediterranean diet what to eat: white plate with lentils and rice and crispy onion

Beans and pulses comprise the legumes category and are a terrific protein source. It’s perfect for plant-based diets but you don’t need to be a vegetarian to appreciate them. Full of fiber that helps with satiety, beans are also lowfat. You can also roast chickpeas in olive oil or another heart healthy fat with spices. They are a solid protein source on the Mediterranean Diet food list.

mediterranean diet what to eat: fresh herbs, grapes and garlic with lamb shanks on pearl couscous in a large serving dish

More than just adding a bit of greenery onto a dish as a last minute garnish, herbs are a salt-free way to pump up flavor in marinades, dressings, dips, and so much more. Some of our favorites include woody thyme and rosemary, or herbaceous parsley, cilantro, and dill. Mint is good for so much more than just sweet dishes, often used in Mediterranean cooking in savory applications too. There’s a reason the phrase, “spice things up” exists. They do add flavor, but also, depending on the spice, a host of nutritional benefits too. If you are trying to cut back on salt, spices make a handy substitute there too. So many of the Mediterranean Diet recipes on our website feature spices and herbs!

Mediterranean Diet Foods to Eat (Often)

Eat foods from this area at least two times per week.

Fish is a healthy Mediterranean food staple, so no big surprise that it is part of the Mediterranean Diet. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are a source of protein that is heart-healthy.

oven-roasted halibut in a le creuset baking dish with figs and onions

Mediterranean Diet Foods to Eat (Daily or Weekly)

foods to eat on mediterranean diet: pink bowl with couscous and sliced chicken on top | healthy mediterranean food

Chicken is often the primary poultry that comes to mind and, the basis of many meals. Other poultry types include turkey and duck. As a protein source, poultry is a better option than red meat, but fish is the preferred protein choice on the Mediterranean Diet. Use healthy fats like extra-virgin olive oil to roast or saute chicken and turkey (and add in spices to boost the flavor without needing to add as much salt).



eggs in a quiche | healthy mediterranean food

Eggs are an okay substitute for other kinds of protein but not something considered an everyday ingredient. Learn more about how eggs fit into the Mediterranean Diet.

beets and greens on a bed of yogurt on a pink plate | healthy mediterranean food

Focusing on low-fat dairy is key here. The Cleveland Clinic gives a great answer of how much is the right amount of dairy and cheese, which is less than you might think. For that reason, think crumbles, shaved, or grated, rather than several slices or a bunch of cubes. Beyond the breakfast bowl, find more ideas of how to use yogurt — it makes a great garnish too, such as a dollop in soup, or whisked into vinaigrette with lemon juice, herbs, and extra virgin olive oil. One note here too, is that, Greek yogurt has been strained and has more protein in it and is a healthy Mediterranean food.

Mediterranean Diet Foods to Eat (Less Often)

a sheetpan of lamb stuffed zucchini | mediterranean diet food

For this category, we’ve arrived to the tip of the pyramid. Think red meat — lamb, beef, pork. As you consider what this means for implementation into the Mediterranean Diet, focus on increasing the vegetables in a dish and minimizing the meat. A good example of this might be a veggie-rich stir-fry with cubed meat cooked with brown rice.

nuts and dried fruit cups on a tray | healthy mediterranean food

In this category, prioritize alternative sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or even coconut sugar that has a lower glycemic index and is granulated, working with baking recipes that call for refined sugar. Think two squares of dark or bittersweet chocolate. Cutting added sugar can be hard if you’re used to giving in to your sweet tooth cravings. Try reaching first for fruit. Then, here are a few healthier sweet Mediterranean Diet recipes for when you want healthier dessert.





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