If you’re looking for a healthy diet that is easy to maintain and can aid in weight loss while promoting your overall health, look no further. The Mediterranean diet consistently comes out on top on the U.S. News & World Report Best Diets list, and it's not hard to see why.
Research suggests a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce the risk for heart disease, certain cancers and other serious health conditions. The meal plan is filled with healthful foods to rev metabolism, strengthen bones, alleviate aches and pains, minimize belly fat, and boost energy and brain power.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Since the Mediterranean Sea borders 16 different countries, each has their own traditions and variations on food selection and prep. However, the same basic diet principles apply:
- Eating is focused primarily on plant-based foods (think veggies, fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds).
- Butter is replaced with olive oil.
- Fish, eggs and poultry are the animal proteins of choice.
- Red meat is limited to no more than a few times a month.
- Meals are flavored with various herbs and spices.
- Wine is enjoyed in moderation.
- Food is shared with friends and family.
7-day Mediterranean diet plan
This plan provides approximately 1,600 calories per day (which includes a glass of wine, a “daily cheat” and unlimited non-starchy vegetables; see below). Feel free to adjust higher or lower depending on your personal weight and health goals.
Here are a few tips for following a Mediterranean diet:
- Eat on a schedule: Have a meal or snack at least every four to five hours.
- Mix and match any of the meal and snack options. Repeat favorite meals/snacks as often as you’d like.
- Plan your menu the night before, so you’re armed with a game plan.
- Drink water throughout the day. Keep a water bottle on hand for continuous sipping.
- Enjoy up to one glass of wine each day along with a meal.
- Stick with “legal eats” when watching TV or a movie: light popcorn or veggies only.
- Enjoy unlimited amounts of non-starchy vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, peppers, celery, cucumbers, etc.) at any point in the day.
- Indulge in one optional “daily cheat.” It could be a small handful of French fries or two bites of anything that looks delicious.
- Greek omelet: Combine 1 egg and 3 egg whites with spinach, dill and optional feta. Add 1 slice of whole grain toast on the side.
- Oatmeal with fruit and nuts. Combine 1/2 cup dry oats with 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or skim milk. Top with 1/2 cup chopped fruit, 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts and 1 optional teaspoon of honey or maple syrup. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon.
- PB-banana-cinnamon English muffin. Toast 1 whole-grain English muffin. Top with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1/2 sliced banana and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
- Avocado toast with eggs. Top 1 slice of whole-grain bread with 2 tablespoons mashed avocado, sliced radish and a squirt of lemon juice. On the side, enjoy 1 whole egg plus 3 egg whites — scrambled or hard-boiled with any preferred vegetables or seasonings.
- Mediterranean smoothie. Blend 1 handful of baby spinach, 1/2 ripe banana, 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries, 1/2 cup low-fat milk, 1 tablespoon almond butter (or nut butter of your choice) and 3 to 5 ice cubes.
- Savory protein pancake with lemon-dill yogurt. Mix 1/2 cup dry quick oats, 4 egg whites, 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped scallions, 1 ounce reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Preheat pan coated with olive oil cooking spray over medium heat. Pour in batter and spread evenly throughout the pan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side. Top with a dollop of Lemon-Dill Yogurt sauce.
- Mediterranean muffin with eggs or yogurt. Make Mediterranean-style muffins. Have 1 hard-boiled egg or 5 to 8 ounces of low-fat Greek yogurt on the side.
- Grilled fish and veggies. Grill 6 ounces of fish. Add 1 cup vegetables, grilled, roasted or sautéed in olive oil.
- Mezze plate with hummus, nuts and fruit. Create a Mezze plate with 1/4 cup hummus and unlimited crudité or raw veggies, 1 small whole grain roll or 1/2 large pita, 1 cup grapes, and 10 almonds or walnuts (or 1 ounce of cheese).
- Mediterranean salad jar. In a glass jar, layer lemon dressing (2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, some salt and chopped parsley to taste), chopped cucumber, diced tomato, chopped celery, black olives, chopped artichoke hearts, white beans, feta cheese, chopped romaine and cubed or chopped chicken.
- Lentil soup and veggies. 2 cups lentil soup with 1 cup of vegetables on the side. Add 1 cup of grapes, or swap for 1 apple, pear, orange, grapefruit, banana or 1 cup of berries.
- Chicken and spinach wrap. Stuff a 100-calorie whole-grain tortilla wrap with baby spinach leaves, sliced red onion, chopped tomato, 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast and 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinaigrette.
- Open-faced veggie tuna salad sandwich. Make an open-faced tuna salad sandwich at home using the recipe found here or buy a comparable version from a deli. On the side, enjoy 1 orange, apple, pear, grapefruit, banana or 1 cup grapes or berries.
- Quinoa chickpea tabbouleh. Make this delicious Mediterranean-style salad using the recipe found here.
- Quinoa and black bean stuffed peppers. Make stuffed peppers using the recipe found here. Add a side salad of mixed greens and non-starchy vegetables topped with 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil, unlimited balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts.
- Chicken-vegetable kebabs and couscous. Make kebabs using 6 ounces of chicken, peppers, mushrooms and red onions. Add 1/2 cup cooked whole grain couscous. Serve with a side of chopped salad with 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil, unlimited balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.
- Pesto salmon with artichokes and potato. Make my pesto salmon using the recipe found here. Add 1/2 baked potato.
- Shrimp broccoli scampi. Make this light pasta dish using the recipe found here.
- Grilled fish with veggies and soup appetizer. Have 1 cup of minestrone soup as an appetizer (or substitute for shrimp cocktail, grilled calamari, mussels marinara, steamed clams or house salad with 1 tablespoon of dressing). Grill 6 ounces of fish (roasted, broiled or poached fish are options as well). Add 1 cup vegetables grilled, roasted or sautéed in olive oil.
- Greek turkey burger with salad. Make this Mediterranean-inspired turkey burger using the recipe found here. Add a side salad dressed with 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil and unlimited vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice.
- Spanish Paella. Make this traditional Spanish dish using cauliflower rice with the recipe found here. Enjoy 2 hearty servings with 1/2 pink grapefruit on the side.
- Dried apricots and almonds: 8 dried apricots (or 6 dates) with 10 almonds.
- Rosemary-Parmesan popcorn: Make 4 cups of Rosemary-Parmesan popcorn using the recipe found here.
- Veggies and 1/4 cup hummus.
- Hummus deviled eggs: Make 12 deviled eggs (6 eggs whole) using the recipe found here.
- Apple with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.