A Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan

Try these simple swaps for a Mediterranean Diet meal plan.

Mediterranean Diet

 Verywell

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways of eating in the world. It's based on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, olive oil, fish, and small amounts of yogurt and cheese. Due to its variety of foods, flavors, and health benefits, the Mediterranean diet remains a popular option for healthy eating many people find they can sustain for a lifetime.

Hundreds of scientific studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to better heart and bone health, reduced risk of stroke and diabetes, and even a longer lifespan. A 2017 study even connected the Mediterranean diet to less age-related brain shrinkage.

While the many benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet are known, putting any dietary change into practice (and sticking to it) takes work and commitment. It doesn't have to be complicated, though, and small changes can have big results over time.

Here are a few simple, healthy, and tasty Mediterranean Diet-friendly meal swaps to get you started.

Breakfast

Like breakfasts in many parts of the world, the first meal of the day in a Mediterranean diet varies depending on the day of the week. On the weekend, breakfast or brunch is a time to gather with friends and family, relax, and enjoy a traditional savory spread.

In parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, for example, you'd likely see a table filled with flatbreads dipped in olive oil and sprinkled with za'atar (a Middle Eastern dried herb mix), a variety of soft and hard cheeses, hummus, fresh cucumber, tomato salad, olives, and pickled vegetables. During the work week, breakfasts in the Mediterranean are quick and light.

Try these swaps:

The Oldways Breakfast 1-2-3 Plan, inspired by Mediterranean breakfasts, consolidates breakfast foods into three categories:

  1. Whole grains
  2. Fresh fruit or vegetables
  3. A source of protein (like eggs or yogurt)

If you usually aren't hungry when you wake up, you don't have to go for the full spread. Try eating a little something from each of these categories—even small portions of these foods will keep you full and energized until lunch.

Lunch

In early spring, horiatiki (a traditional Greek salad) starts appearing more often on Mediterranean tables. The salad is simple with only a few ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, green bell peppers, sheep’s milk feta cheese, and Kalamata olives. It's dressed simply with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a pinch of salt and dried oregano. Fresh salads are great options for lunch. Try pairing them with a whole wheat pita or crackers.

Try these swaps:

Dinner

Lunch is typically the biggest meal of the day in the Mediterranean and dinner is kept light. If you’re used to heartier, flavorful dinners, try experimenting with fresh herbs and spices to keep your evening meal interesting.

Herbs and spices contribute to the national identities of various Mediterranean cuisines. Cumin, cinnamon, and ginger are popular in the Eastern Mediterranean and dried oregano, thyme, and saffron are favorites in Southern Europe. Herbs and spices aren't just tasty, they're also a great way to reduce the need for salt and fat when cooking.

Try these swaps:

Eating a variety of different fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and other healthy foods is the best approach for a well-balanced diet. The many delicious options available in the Mediterranean diet will keep you inspired and motivated to keep up with healthy eating. With all the flavor, variety, and health benefits, it's no surprise people in the Mediterranean have been eating this way for centuries.

Oldways, a Boston-based nonprofit food and nutrition education organization, created the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid in 1993 with the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization.

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