Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan

Fruits and nuts on a table

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The Mediterranean diet isn’t just another passing fad. This eating plan, which derives from the traditional fare of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, has been tested by time and proven to have numerous health benefits. In fact, it has so many advantages that U.S. News and World Report has ranked it the #1 best diet overall for three years running.

If you’ve thought about getting started on a Mediterranean diet, but haven’t been exactly sure where to begin, you’ve come to the right place!

Verywell has put together a week’s worth of meals that fit its healthy framework. But first, a few basics: What exactly does a Mediterranean diet entail, and what can you expect from following it?

Mediterranean Diet Basics

Despite its name, following a Mediterranean diet isn’t necessarily about eating only foods that hail from Greece, Italy, Egypt, or Spain.

The Mediterranean Diet Is Flexible

This diet is an eating pattern that focuses on broad categories of food—so you’re free to enjoy all sorts of cuisines. The diet isn’t confined to any particular structure, either, and you certainly don’t have to purchase any products or supplements to follow it.

Generally speaking, this way of eating is based on the Mediterranean diet pyramid, created in 1993 by the food and nutrition nonprofit Oldways in partnership with Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization.

Unlike the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) food pyramid from bygone days, a Mediterranean food pyramid doesn’t have a foundation of grains alone. At its base are multiple foods, including fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, and (yes) grains—most of them whole. According to a Mediterranean diet framework, meals should be created around these foods, then flavored with herbs and spices.

Proceeding up the pyramid, you’ll find fish and seafood, then poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. While red meat is technically “allowed” on a Mediterranean diet, it’s used sparingly—often as more of a seasoning than a main course. For this reason, meat sits at the very top the Mediterranean diet pyramid, sharing a small space with sweets.

As for beverages, water is the primary source of hydration on a Mediterranean diet. A moderate amount of wine is also permitted.

In addition to guidelines around food groups, a true Mediterranean diet revolves around several healthy behaviors. Sticking to moderate portion sizes, getting plenty of physical activity, and making meals a social affair are all part of the big picture of a healthy Mediterranean lifestyle.

Mediterranean Diet Health Benefits

Adhering to a Mediterranean diet can come with some pretty impressive health benefits. It’s often touted as a top choice for heart health, with multiple studies backing these claims.

One large 2018 study found that the more closely people with heart disease followed a Mediterranean-style diet, the less likely they were to have a recurrent cardiovascular event. They were also less likely to die from any cause.

The American Heart Association recommends the Mediterranean diet as a healthy eating pattern that can play a significant role in preventing heart disease and stroke.

Other promising areas of research on the diet include brain health and cancer prevention. A 2013 review of 12 studies linked a Mediterranean diet with slowed cognitive decline and reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

An eating pattern with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has also been found to reduce the risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.

Studies are ongoing as to additional benefits, like lower rates of depression, better gut health, and weight loss.

Mediterranean Diet Grocery List

To build a go-to supply of foods for a Mediterranean diet, stock your pantry and fridge with the following basics.

Grains

Poultry and Seafood

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Tuna
  • Herring
  • Sea bass
  • Mackerel
  • Mahi mahi
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Sardines
  • Squid
  • Scallops 
  • Legumes (e.g., black beans, kidney beans)
  • Nuts (e.g., walnuts, pecans, almonds)
  • Seeds (e.g., chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds)

Dairy Products

  • Feta cheese
  • Manchego cheese
  • Halloumi cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Full-fat yogurt

Vegetables

Fruits

  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Melons
  • Figs
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Citrus fruits

Herbs and Spices

Oils

Sweets

  • Honey
  • Dates
  • Dried fruits

Mediterranean Diet Weekly Meal Plan

This seven-day Mediterranean diet meal plan provides plenty of protein through seafood, legumes, and a bit of poultry, plus lots of fiber and micronutrients from whole grains, fruits, and veggies. Olive oil and a smattering of dairy round out the plan with healthy fats.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

A Word From Verywell

Starting a Mediterranean diet doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, a major advantage of this eating plan is its ease of use. With a diverse foundation of whole grains, legumes, seafood, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables, there are plenty of delicious foods to choose from. Use this plan to go Mediterranean for a week, then see if you’re hungry for more!

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Shikany JM, Safford MM, Bryan J, et al. Dietary Patterns and Mediterranean Diet Score and Hazard of Recurrent Coronary Heart Disease Events and All-Cause Mortality in the REGARDS StudyJ Am Heart Assoc. 2018;7(14):e008078. Published 2018 Jul 12. doi:10.1161/JAHA.117.008078

  2. American Heart Association. What Is the Mediterranean Diet?. Updated January 9, 2020.

  3. Lourida I, Soni M, Thompson-Coon J, et al. Mediterranean diet, cognitive function, and dementia: a systematic reviewEpidemiology. 2013;24(4):479-489. doi:10.1097/EDE.0b013e3182944410

  4. Schwingshackl L, Schwedhelm C, Galbete C, Hoffmann G. Adherence to Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Cancer: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-AnalysisNutrients. 2017;9(10):1063. Published 2017 Sep 26. doi:10.3390/nu9101063