This is a complete guide to the Mediterranean Diet in 2020.
Drooling for more information on whole foods like fruits, vegetables and legumes – this ultimate guide is sure to meet your cravings!
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Feeling youthful and strong is something we all crave. We all want to wake up with energy, vitality and look in the mirror feeling proud – these are the greatest benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
What do Rachel Ray, John Goodman and Penelope Cruz all have in common?
Yes, they are famous, but they are also perfect examples of youthful celebrities who follow the Mediterranean diet.
Ask any certified dietician or nutritionist what they believe to be regarded as the healthiest and most complete diet there is – many will say the Mediterranean diet.
Not only has this diet been tested by science to help people lose weight, but it also has benefits for cognitive function, limiting depression, improving muscle mass and can even improve longevity.
In this 10 Step guide, we are going to break down everything you need to know in order to reinvent your youth, feel healthier, build strength and crush your goals with the Mediterranean diet.
Before we start talking about recipes, benefits, grocery lists and answer FAQs, it is always important to understand the basics.
On a very basic level, the Mediterranean diet is a nutrition program that asks dieters to consume foods as if you lived in the Mediterranean.
Coastal Europe is a beautiful place filled with a variety of foods – so don’t think you will be following a restrictive diet.
The Mediterranean is filled with whole grains, fish, legumes, delicious fruit (best I’ve ever had) and a wide variety of vegetables.
There is a reason why so many people want to live in this area, and coastal Europe has long been cherished for its bounty of food, hearty recipes, incredible social dynamics and the ever-famous Mediterranean diet.
When you are following a Mediterranean diet there are five important considerations to take into account:
Duh, but what do we mean by this?
The Mediterranean sea is massive and covers nearly a dozen countries. To help you better understand the foods on this diet you should think about three in particular: Greece, Italy and Turkey.
These three countries follow the popular Mediterranean style of eating – particularly Southern Italy and Greece.
In fact, most of the research conducted on this diet was conducted on these specific populations.
The Mediterranean style of eating might surprise some western and North American dieters as nearly ⅓ to ½ of most plates are fruits and vegetables.
Most commonly, those who follow this diet in the Mediterranean eat vegetables as a starter (salads, appetizers etc) and finish their meal with fruit as a dessert.
This leaves the primary meal to be mostly legumes and whole grains, with a splash of fish.
This leads us to our third point…
Don’t forget – Fruit and vegetables are your primary source of vitamins and minerals. They will provide an abundance of vitamin c, vitamin a, vitamin k and many more while also helping you stay regular with both forms of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Those who follow the Mediterranean diet try their best to prioritize fish over meat. Many will be getting an abundance of protein from the legumes, pulses and beans they eat and the added fish is used as a flavour boosting component or a treat to their meal.
This is not to say that you cannot eat meat on a Mediterranean diet but the focus should be to limit fatty meats like pork and beef, as they were not a primary staple in this diet.
Fish helps to provide a great source of protein, omega fatty acids and is relatively low in calories – perfect for those who are trying to lose weight.
Olive oil, not vegetable oil. Coconut oil is an unlikely addition to the plates of most Mediterraneans.
Nuts and seeds like cashews, almonds, pistachios and walnuts all grow in this part of the world in an abundance. They are not consumed in excess (like you did at your last Christmas party) but they can and should be an integral part of your diet.
Nuts and seeds will help to provide micronutrients like zinc, magnesium, selenium, iron and a healthy source of fiber and protein. They really are packed with nutrition!
Somewhat a controversial topic in the realm of complete health, but we cannot argue that many Mediterranean people consume regular alcohol in minimal amounts.
It is very common to see someone drinking 1-2 glasses of wine with and after their meal.
We are going to talk more about this in Chapter 4: Pros and Cons – keep reading to find out more!
The Mediterranean diet has caught the attention of nearly every nutrition researcher since we discovered the health benefits surrounding happiness and longevity – but why are these foods important?
Continue reading into our next chapter to learn more about important foods and why researchers are obsessed with this diet.
You might ask yourself… “Why should I bother with the Mediterranean Diet”?
In this chapter we answer the most important questions and delve into the amazing health benefits of this diet.
Let’s talk about food.
What’s all the fuss about? Really, couldn’t you just eat a diet that is plentiful in fruit and vegetables and be done with it?
Well, no, the Mediterranean diet seems to have some amazing benefits.
We’re not just talking weight loss. Nearly any diet can help you to lose weight if you are eating fewer calories.
The Mediterranean diet is unique because it has been researched, proven and has a long-standing track record for being one of the most effective and healthiest diets you can follow.
Really, this diet is not a diet. The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle.
Gut health is an important topic that really does not get the attention it deserves.
In another guide we published, the GERD DIET, we discussed why gut health is important and what is recommended for those that need to improve their health through digestive changes.
The Mediterranean diet features foods that are plentiful in fiber, are low in acid-rich foods and high in alkaline foods.
Alkaline foods like spinach, kale, broccoli, parsley, white beans and soybeans are a staple source of nutrition when following a Mediterranean diet – it just so happens these foods are also extremely healthy for you.
Improving your digestive health isn’t just about taking more trips to the washroom.
A healthy gut means a healthy metabolism, energy levels, performance during a workout and even better cognitive health.
Take your gut health seriously and give the Mediterranean diet a shot.
The Mediterranean diet is generally regarded as the healthiest diet in the world due to its abundance of food and the clever balance of nutrients.
This diet is not restrictive ‒ it is supplemental.
In other words, those that try the Mediterranean diet seem to find their health improves, simply by changing their diet and adding more variety to their meals.
This diet isn’t just about eating healthy oils and plenty of fruit. Most Mediterranean meals offer a wide range of foods.
They balance their plate with almost every food group.
If it grows in the Mediterranean or swims – in the sea, it might have been on a Mediterranean plate.
Dan Buettner is famous for publishing a book called “The Blue Zones”.
This book describes the healthiest diets around the world where people live the longest and display the most happiness.
We were not surprised to see that the Mediterranean diet is featured in this book.
It seems that by eating an abundance of food with clever variety and low processed foods, the Mediterraneans of Sardinia, Italy and Icaria, Greece made up 40% of the global blue zones.
Moral of the story? Live longer and healthier by eating unprocessed foods sourced from the land and seas around the Mediterranean.
Whenever you start a new diet you always get the question: “But can you do this forever”?
This question does have some merit.
Consider this – could you follow a diet that only asked you to eat fruit all day (fruitarian)?
Probably not. Why? It is too restrictive.
The unique attribute that comes up time and time again when people make the lifestyle change to a Mediterranean diet is that they do not feel restricted or unencumbered by all of the nonsense that comes with some dietary changes.
We don’t want to point any forks, but some diets can be extremely restrictive – and this is not sustainable in the long-term.
If the blue zones are any indication of health and longevity we must give the Mediterranean diet the title for the most sustainable diet you can follow.
Live longer, live happier and eat healthy foods every day – sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
It sounds like all sunshine and rainbows with the Mediterranean diet – but it can be a little complex to get started. Not to worry – we have you covered.
In chapter 3 we break into how you can start making the lifestyle change you have always dreamed of.
Start following the Mediterranean diet and move into chapter 3: How to follow this health-promoting diet.
It’s time to make the switch – but how do you do it?
Sometimes it is not as easy as quitting “cold turkey”…
In this chapter we delve into how you can follow the Mediterranean Diet for optimal results.
Taking the step to follow a new diet can always be a little daunting at first. In this chapter we help you understand how to follow this diet, what macronutrients you should focus on, how to create a wholesome breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus we break down a diet pyramid to help you best understand the Mediterranean diet completely.
Macros, or macronutrients, are described as food that you need to consume in a large amount.
Popularly seen as proteins, fats and carbohydrates these foods should be consumed in high amounts (compared to micronutrients) but the quality of each is slightly different.
Proteins, for example, the average person following the Mediterranean diet should eat about 10-20% of your daily intake of calories.
This number can vary depending on energy levels, workout frequency and overall genetics. 10-20% is a guideline.
When you are following a Mediterranean diet, proteins should be based around the following food groups (in order of importance):
Beans and some nuts are classified as legumes. White beans, kidney beans, lupini beans, peas, lentils and cashews are considered to be the best choices for protein consumption on a Mediterranean diet.
Legumes will help to provide an abundance of protein (essential for tissue growth) and will also provide good amounts of minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium and fiber.
Fish consumption is very common in the Mediterranean diet. Not all fish are made the same and you should do your best to consume fish that are not sourced from factory farms, and instead caught wild.
The best fish for the Mediterranean diet are salmon, sardines, trout, tuna (steaks, not canned), mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels (this is in no particular order).
Salmon, trout and tuna are all great sources of protein and salmon, in particular, has been shown to provide a very good spectrum of omega fatty acids – which have been shown to improve heart health, brain health and balance essential fatty acid levels in the body.
Oysters, clams and mussels are somewhat underrated and generally seen as more of a treat and not a regular source of protein.
Keep in mind – oysters, clams and mussels all provide a very good source of B12, an essential nutrient for energy metabolism in the body.
Coming in at #3 does not mean these are never seen on a Mediterranean plate, but these foods are generally consumed in much less moderation than legumes and fish.
As with fish, your best shot at finding the best source of poultry will come with sourcing your meats from farms that raise free-range chicken and free-range eggs.
When you eat your eggs be sure to eat the entire egg (yolk included) as most Mediterranean foods are consumed in their most natural form – without changes from modern science.
Poultry and eggs are great sources of protein and are very low in fat when compared to other meat-based protein sources.
Rarely consumed on a Mediterranean diet – meat and cheese are not an integral part of their plate.
Although it is popular for some cultures like Italians to top their dishes with a sprinkle of cheese, it is very uncommon for them to use processed cheeses on a regular basis.
Rather, meats and cheeses are generally seen as a treat – something to serve a guest when they come to visit and therefore are not a large portion of the Mediterranean diet.
This is not to say they do not eat meat or cheese, as the nutrients in both are important to human health.
For example, red meats like beef and pork (especially organ meats) provide an abundance of iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and a bounty of protein.
Meats and cheese also help to flavour the dishes of many Mediterranean meals.
Carbohydrates are perhaps the largest percentage of most Mediterranean plates. Foods like fruits, vegetables, potatoes and whole grains are staples and should be about 30-40% o your caloric intake.
The largest portion of the Mediterranean plate comes from fruits and vegetables.
Foods high in nutrients but low in total calories can help you to lose weight while eating plenty of food – due to their high amounts of fiber. Mediterranean carbs are broken down into four main groups:
Starch is a type of complex carbohydrate found in many foods like corn, peas, potatoes, zucchini, parsnips, pumpkin, butternut squash and acorn squash.
These foods form the backbone of many Mediterranean plates.
Potatoes, lentils and squash are particularly common because they grow in abundance in a variety of climates – making it an easy food to feed the masses.
Starchy vegetables have been shown to help lower the instance of diabetes and are also a very good source of carbohydrates, fiber, as well as minerals and vitamins like Vitamin C, B vitamins and potassium.
This is the type of vegetable that most people will be familiar with. Popularly they are green cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale and mustard greens while the addition of peppers, asparagus and some bean sprouts help to balance the plate.
Non-starchy vegetables are still considered complex carbohydrates and will provide great energy with low calories (lower than most starchy vegetables).
Some non-starchy vegetables like spinach and broccoli have even been shown to help lower blood pressure and improve overall body weight – not bad for a tiny plant.
These vegetables are popular additions to a plate and are used as appetizers and modifiers to meals.
Fruit is plentiful in the Mediterranean and there is no question it is an integral part of their diet.
With that said, not all fruit is grown in the Mediterranean and this means you should have a focus on the specific fruit you are eating.
Fruits that are most common in the Mediterranean diet are apples, apricots, cherries, clementines, dates, ﬁgs, grapefruits, grapes, melons, nectarines, peaches, pears, pomegranates, strawberries, and of course, tomatoes.
Editor Note: The best fruit I have ever tasted in my life were figs from a town in North Central Italy called Santo Stefano Di Sassano. They grow all around the small town and are incredible.
Fruit has many benefits which include weight loss, improved blood pressure, better energy levels and even diabetes prevention.
Listen, we know that most people are afraid of eating carbs because they have been told they will put on weight – but this simply isn’t true.
Reality is when you follow a diet that favours whole grains high in fiber, vitamins and minerals you can complement your meals with barley, buckwheat, farro and polenta to provide sustenance to your meals.
Whole grains provide an abundance of complex carbohydrates, fiber for digestion, protein for muscle growth and minerals such as magnesium, iron and vitamin b-6.
Carbohydrates are not your enemy – they are energy for muscle and blood glucose.
The Mediterranean diet does not make you restrict your food.
Instead, you should look to source natural foods from a variety of sources and prioritize low-fat foods like whole grains, legumes and fruits/vegetables.
Fats are perhaps the most simple macronutrient to understand on a Mediterranean diet.
Olive oil and fish. This is your basis for fat intake when following this diet.
Yes, you can get fats from nuts, seeds and some a splash of avocado but the majority of the Mediterranean meal plan sources its fats from olive oil and fish.
Olive oil is not only rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, but it also contains good anti-inflammatory properties and has a large number of antioxidants.
Take some time to lash out on the good stuff extra virgin olive oil at the store next time you are shopping and you will see the difference in taste and how you feel.
Olive oil is a much healthier substitute for butter, vegetable oils and sunflower oils.
All of these foods sound like they would be perfect for dinner. A hearty salad or a wholesome dish of pasta with fish – but what about a Mediterranean diet breakfast?
The Italian version of scrambled eggs comes paired with a bounty of greens, a sprinkle of cheese and starchy vegetables like potatoes and zucchini to top it off.
Spice with salt and pepper and you have yourself a very tasty, well-balanced meal to combine with fruit juice and some fruit.
Fruit is a staple breakfast option for many Mediterranean countries. Commonly paired with some form of bread, the fruit helps to provide fast-acting energy to the day.
Many Italians will bake their own bread from scratch adding almonds, olives and other toppings into the bread itself.
Combine this with fruit and you have a well-balanced meal to start your morning.
Originally from parts of Switzerland, this famous dish of grains and fruit is certainly Mediterranean friendly.
Combine your favourite forms of fruit like blueberries, strawberries, figs, peaches and cherries with whole grains to start your day with energy, vitality and plenty of fiber to keep you full.
Fitting that we conclude this chapter with a snapshot of what a Mediterranean diet pyramid could look like.
For those of you who are unaware of food pyramids – they are descriptions of what foods you should eat.
The most common foods at the bottom, or the large side of the pyramid with the least common at the top of the pyramid (small point of the pyramid).
This helps to give you a snapshot of what foods you should be eating and in what quantities.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid Notes:
The largest section of the pyramid includes both starchy and non-starchy vegetables
The smallest section of this food pyramid are foods like red meats, some cheese and some chicken
Legumes and fish should be the basis for where you source the majority of your protein when following the Mediterranean diet
Unlike the real pyramids, this food pyramid is not set in stone and is a snapshot of what your diet should look like from a global perspective
Both starchy and non-starchy vegetables play a large role in creating a bounty of fresh foods to be included in the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is not restrictive, but instead asks eaters to try and consume foods in moderation and favour fresh, unprocessed foods over factory farmed and processed foods.
You can eat a bounty of carbohydrates when you are following the Mediterranean diet, but be sure they are loaded with fiber and try to balance your plates with lean protein sources like legumes and fish.
Although the Mediterranean boasts some of the nicest weather on the planet, this diet cant be completely perfect, right?
In chapter 4 we delve into the pros and cons of this diet and help you to fully understand if making the switch is right for you.
Not all diets are perfect – and the Mediterranean diet is not without some faults.
In this Chapter we discuss the pros and cons to help you determine if this move is right for you.
Let’s dive in.
We’re going to target this section a little differently than other guides. Since the Mediterranean diet has a bounty of benefits we decided to approach each of them as a specific question.
Did you know that this diet has long-standing research that shows it improves overall health and longevity? The Mediterranean diet is perhaps one of the healthiest and most complete diets you can try for yourself today.
The Mediterranean diet has been shown time and time again to assist in healthy ageing.
This is due to many factors but the most important is a bounty of fresh, unprocessed foods helps to provide the necessary building blocks of life, many Mediterranean meals are social events and many Mediterranean meals are outside.
Sounds a little strange, but as Dan Buettner describes in his Study and Book called the Blue Zones, the people of Sardinia, Italy and Icaria, Greece made up 40% of the global blue zones – a region that has been said to be the happiest and longest-living places in the world.
Studies from the Clinical Interventions in Ageing show that when people adhere to the Mediterranean style of eating, mortality rates are reduced by more than 17% in the elderly.
Not only does this diet seem to be protective in ageing, but it also has beneficial effects regarding the diet and Alzheimer’s.
A study concluded that higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet lowered the association with Alzheimer’s disease.
It is suspected this could be due to the benefits of a heart-healthy diet, improving coronary heart functions of the whole-food approach.
Researchers have also found that the substitute of olive oil for other cheap oils like canola and vegetable oils helps to provide more antioxidants – which improve heart function.
This has long-term benefits, quoting “olive oil… remarkable quantities of powerful antioxidant molecules”.
TOP TIP: Olive Oil can also be used as a wonderful salad topper. A traditional greek salad contains tomato, cucumber, olives, olive oil and some balsamic vinaigrette. Tasty, easy to make and very healthy!
The beautiful thing about a diet that has been around for a long time and has very little restrictions is that studies can show long-term results. In a study published in 2013 researchers administered a Mediterranean diet and followed up an average of 7.2 years later.
Their conclusion was that “adherence to a diet composed of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and legumes may protect against the development of depressive symptoms in older age”.
It seems that eating plenty of whole foods and limiting your consumption of processed foods have better benefits than just weight loss alone.
Many whole foods have protective properties that allow consumption in higher amounts.
It has also been studied that the inclusion of popular red meats like beef and pork may contribute to unhealthy lifestyles and depressive symptoms.
Avoiding these foods and following a whole food Mediterranean diet will be very beneficial.
Inflammatory markers are a fancy way for health professionals to gauge how healthy your heart and arteries are. The less inflammation – the better.
Generally speaking, you want to try and avoid foods like processed grains, processed meats and trans fat foods.
These foods can raise inflammatory markers and are a common addition to the conventional North American style of eating.
In contrast, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower inflammatory markers.
Researchers conclude this is due to the high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish and minimal dairy intake.
Multiple studies have shown that regardless of the age, gender, or current inflammatory markers, a switch to a predominantly whole food approach helps to lower inflammation in the body.
Microbes are living organisms in your gut that play a large role in your overall health.
In many cases, gut health is left out of the conversation, but gut microbiome diversity is a very strong indicator of good health.
While traditional high-fat, high-animal consumption North American style of eating seems to have poor effects on gut microbiome diversity, it is well known and established that predominantly basing your protein on vegetable-protein improves gut health.
What was the largest result of a 2018 study on Gut health?
A significant increase in fiber consumption is tied to improved gut health when following a Mediterranean diet.
It seems that by consuming whole foods you increase total dietary fiber intake and improve healthy gut microbiome activity.
LDL or low-density lipoproteins are considered to be the “bad” type of cholesterol found in the body. They tend to build-up inside the arterial walls causing plaque and, eventually, atherosclerosis (heart disease).
Researchers wanted to find out if the Mediterranean diet could help with lowering LDL levels – and it did.
It seems that the higher intake of virgin olive oil helps to “decrease LDL atherogenicity in high cardiovascular risk individuals” pointing at one of many benefits of olive oil as your top choice.
It’s effect on pancreas and other organs could be protective and aid in lowering LDL levels in the body.
For more information on what LDL is and how you can improve your cholesterol be sure to read our ultimate guide to the Low Cholesterol Diet. Click this link to read and download.
Most people look at this style of eating and think – “hey, that could be a good change”!
In all respects, the Mediterranean diet is a great dietary shift for most people. It is easy to follow and features a bounty of fresh food at your disposal, but there are some questions you should be asking yourself.
Last time I went to the store the most expensive items were greens and fruit. If you are making these foods the majority of your plate it could add up to some expensive grocery bills.
As Canada found when they changed their Food Guide to favour plant-foods, many people thought that it could be more expensive to have ½ of your plate as fruit and vegetables (although researchers broke this myth).
You will have to weigh the pros (amazing health benefits) and cons (slightly higher grocery bill) for yourself to find out if making the switch is right for you.
Note: You can always save costs by using frozen fruit and vegetables, but some people report they do not taste as good.
Typically speaking, you should always consult a qualified health practitioner before you make any significant dietary changes.
With that said, making a change to a Mediterranean diet could be easier and healthier than ever.
The only population that should pay special attention are those that are diabetic or have diabetes that runs in the family.
Drastically changing your diet could have an impact on your daily blood glucose readings. Be sure to keep these in check and monitor how you feel.
It is not so much that you can’t eat red meat – but the Mediterranean diet is based around lean sources of protein like legumes and fish.
After all, having a diet low in meat – especially red meats and processed meats is far healthier.
Here are three reasons why you should consider lowering your intake of red and processed meats:
The Physicians Committee for responsible medicine classifies processed meats as being carcinogenic (exactly the same as smoking).
Research conducted through the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that the consumption of red meats raises your risk for colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Some meat consumption is safe and can be supplemental to a healthy lifestyle but processed meats like hot dogs, burgers, sausage etc should not be a part of a wholesome diet.
The second reason you may want to consider lowering or limiting your consumption of red meat is that it has direct correlations with all-cause mortality.
This is a fancy way for science to say that eating red meat lowers your life expectancy and can contribute to life-threatening disease like heart disease, cancer and even diabetes.
A recent research study quotes: “these findings suggest moderately higher risks of all-cause and CVD mortality associated with red and processed meat”.
Diabetes is a condition that develops for two main reasons – excess calories and high fat resulting in interference with glucose processing.
In the case of red meat you generally have higher intakes of saturated fats – which not only contribute to elevated cholesterol levels but can also contribute to a development of diabetes.
A research study quotes: “the consumption of ≥3 servings/day of all types of meat was significantly associated with a higher risk of diabetes”
In other words, consuming more than three servings (100g – about the size of your palm) of meat per day was correlated to a higher frequency of diabetes.
In summary – the greater the consumption of red and processed meats the more negative outcomes for your health.
Although this diet originates among the people living in this area, and DNA does help, anyone who follows a diet that is whole food in its approach will find positive results.
The majority of the calories sourced in the Mediterranean diet come from whole foods like fruit, vegetables, wild fish, legumes, nuts, seeds and healthy olive oil.
Anyone consuming these foods in the correct amounts will find success in weight loss and overall improvements in health.
Although the Mediterranean diet is higher in fat than the standard FDA recommendations, it should be noted that not all fats are the same.
The Mediterranean diet is predominantly unsaturated fats from olive oil, nuts and seeds. These oils have been shown to be protective and beneficial.
Note: Those following a high-fat diet which has its basis around saturated and trans fats (mostly found in meats and baked goods) should certainly look to make a transition to healthier unsaturated fat sources like fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Don’t we all love pizza and pasta? Wouldn’t it be heaven on earth eating these foods all day?
No, in all seriousness – this simply isn’t true.
In fact, research conducted on the Mediterranean diets shows that most of the calories come from whole foods.
The most common sources of carbohydrates are potatoes, legumes and some whole grains added into the dishes.
No, the Mediterranean diet is not all just pizza and pasta.
You’ve been convinced.
The Mediterranean diet is your next move to improve your overall health but how do you do it?
You know what foods you should be eating but how can you mentally convince yourself that this is essential for your life.
In chapter 5 we delve into the important concepts surrounding how you can transition from a conventional North American diet to a Mediterranean diet.
Finding a new diet that fits into your current lifestyle can sometimes be a challenge. In this chapter, we explore how you can integrate the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle with a seamless transition from a conventional diet.
When we say conventional diet we mean the typical person who eats about 5 meals a week from take-out options, cooks a handful of meals from home and probably follows a typical heat-and-eat meal plan.
We assume the majority of conventional eaters consume about 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat.
No, this macronutrient scheme is not perfect, and it could be the reason it is difficult to lose weight when following a conventional diet.
Many people who are following a conventional diet eat most of their calories from carbohydrates and fat during breakfast. This is commonly paired with high-sugar processed goods and a cup of coffee.
Transitioning to a Mediterranean style of breakfast means you will have to throw away any of the foods that were processed.
No common cereals, no processed cookies or pastries, and change the oil you are using to cook in.
All of your meals should use virgin olive oil as it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties rather than canola or vegetable oil.
You should also try to incorporate more fiber into your breakfast by using fruit, whole grains and vegetables any way you can.
Remember, breakfast is called breakfast because you are breaking your fast from not eating for about 12 hours (the previous evening’s dinner).
Ensuring that you are eating foods that contain plenty of fiber can help to improve your metabolism and get your digestive system functioning.
This means eating more foods like whole grains (oats, barley) and legumes (beans, peas) with fruit.
Fruit should be a staple source of nutrition on a Mediterranean diet but even more so in the morning during breakfast.
There is no problem drinking coffee on the Mediterranean diet, just be sure you do not rely on caffeine to start your day.
By this, we mean that the food you eat should be providing you with the energy you need to start your day and not caffeine.
How many times last week did you grab some takeout food for lunch?
Maybe you were extra careful and took a trip to the local sandwich shop to make a fresh sub sandwich.
Regardless of the fast-food restaurant, you purchased your food from, the majority of the calories will still be processed – and we want to try and avoid this.
Eating your lunch from a Mediterranean perspective means you are cooking at home, finding a salad bar, or being extra careful when you grab processed meals.
Our suggestion would be to try bringing giant salads with you every day. They are easy ways to get your daily intake of greens in, and you can top them with a variety of foods like beans, nuts, seeds, and fruit.
NOTE: Try to avoid or limit your use of processed dressings as they are high in calories but low in nutritional value. Mediterranean salads are usually topped with olive oil or balsamic vinegar.
For added calories, you may want to start with a grain base like quinoa or barley, add greens and protein and top your sauce off with a simple lemon dressing or combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Top Tip: Try to consume your food slower than you normally would. A general rule of thumb is that it should take about 20 chews before a swallow and about 20 minutes before you finish your plate of food. Drink plenty of water throughout your meal.
Although many Mediterranean countries see lunch as the biggest meal, you can still create a perfect dinner option for transitioning your conventional style of eating to a Mediterranean diet.
Conventional American style dinners are usually protein-dominant – which is okay, but a typical Mediterranean meal is very balanced and does not favour high protein intake.
Plates usually consist of a grain base (starchy vegetable as well), greens and a protein source like fish or legumes.
Most of the fat will come from oil that the food is cooked in or nuts/seeds as toppings.
In some cases, Mediterranean meals will begin with an antipasto platter that has deli meats, cheeses and other treats to begin the meal. This is similar to an appetizer.
Creating a bounty is your best bet when making the transition to a Mediterranean diet.
Macronutrients are the breakdown of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Each is essential to your daily life but they do not need to be consumed in the same amounts. Here is an overview of how you should be eating on a Mediterranean diet:
Snacking is very common in the conventional diet and it is one of the worst ways you can consume extra calories throughout the day (without even realizing).
We are by no means saying you should not snack – but you certainly should try to snack on the right food.
Transitioning to the Mediterranean diet means making a change and switching conventional snacks like beef jerky, granola bars, potato chips and corn chips to healthy and wholesome foods like fruit, fig bars, nuts/seeds and roasted legumes.
Try to keep you snacking to a minimum, and like any of your other meals be sure to avoid processed sugars and use a snack that is high in fiber.
Not sure what you can eat? In our next chapter, we break down our favourite breakfast, lunch and Mediterranean diet dinner recipes.
The best way to make sure you start a new diet and stick to it is to make sure your foods are healthy, wholesome, but above all – taste great.
These Mediterranean diet recipes are easy to make, warming for the soul, very high in their nutrition value and are ultra-delicious.
The Italian version of scrambled eggs comes paired with a bounty of greens, a sprinkle of cheese and starchy vegetables like potatoes and zucchini to top it off.
Spice with salt and pepper and you have yourself a very tasty, well-balanced meal to combine with fruit juice and some fruit.
Optional: ⅓ cup of milk (for taste) and ⅓ cup cheddar cheese.
Directions: In a large pan heat olive oil on medium. Place garlic and potatoes in the pan to fry. When garlic is golden brown add tomato, spinach and whole eggs. You may want to add salt and pepper to taste.
Let the eggs fry for about a minute then break them up as if you are scrambling an egg. Add a dash of olive oil and serve.
There you have it, a complete meal with moderate protein, moderate fat and some healthy carbohydrates. You can combine this with a fruit juice and some grapes, berries or other fruit of your choice.
Estimated Nutritional Value
Calories (entire portion)
Essential Vitamins & Minerals
A, C, D, K, Zinc, Magnesium
You haven’t lived until you have had falafel.
Commonly made in the Mediterranean regions around Greece and Turkey, the falafel is a take on fried chickpea (garbanzo beans) in a warm whole-grain pita with vegetables.
This isn’t your run of the mill meal from your local sub sandwich shop. Falafel pitas are layered with flavour, nutrients and are extremely tasty.
Optional: You can skip many of the steps in the directions by making hummus out of your chickpeas or by using pre-made falafel balls. This recipe is for the adventurous chef!
Without even trying to create a perfect meal the falafel wrap hits the macros just right. This meal has a good source of protein, plenty of carbohydrates and moderate fat intake.
If you want to bump up the dish to the next level, add a simple greek salad of leftover tomato and cucumber with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing as a perfect side dish.
Estimated Nutritional Value
Calories (entire portion)
Essential Vitamins & Minerals
A, C, D, K, Zinc, Magnesium
If you already cooked up a storm for breakfast and lunch our Mediterranean style dinner is simple, easy to make and features a slow cooker or instant pot.
Ratatouille is a common dish in France and is traditionally made in the summer when vegetables are fresh, bountiful and extremely tasty.
Commonly made by peasants, this dish has flavour build for the high-lords of France. Here’s what you’ll need.
Optional: You may wish to make some brown rice, farro or buckwheat to add to your ratatouille dish. 1-2 cups dry is plenty to add to your meal and can be made in a side pot or rice-cooker. You can also serve this with fresh-baked bread – great for soaking up the flavour when the dish is done!
Notes: Slow cooker times take about 5-6 hours on low. Instant Pot should be set to medium for about 20 minutes.
For those of you that want an extra hit of protein – feel free to add some lentils of peas to your ratatouille. 1 dry cup provides about 20g of protein!
There you have it. Simple, effective, tasty and completely nutritious foods you can make at home with minimal ingredients.
If you have been looking for a new diet plan, the Mediterranean diet plan has you covered with healthy and hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner options!
Estimated Nutritional Value
Calories (entire portion)
Essential Vitamins & Minerals
A, C, D, K, Zinc, Magnesium
We’re sure this is a recipe the famous Rachel Ray would approve! For her take on ratatouille click this link.
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Our delicious choice of Mediterranean-inspired meals should give you an idea for what foods you should be eating when you are following this diet, but a shopping food list will help top paint a picture in your head for what needs to be purchased at the store.
Take your favourite notepad application and get ready to write down your favourite shopping food list.
Wondering what your shopping cart will look like? In this chapter, we delve into the essential foods you need to build vitality, improve health and create delicious meals all day.
Before we get into the shopping food list, it is important to understand why we recommend specific foods. There are four main characteristics of food on the Mediterranean diet:
As discussed in an earlier chapter, complex carbohydrates are carb sources high in fiber and nutritional value. These carbs are as unprocessed as possible – no white or polished grains.
Filling your shopping cart with complex carbohydrates like barley, bulgar, fruit, and vegetables.
These will help to add fiber, vitamins, minerals and bulk to every meal for a low cost and a benefit to your glycemic index (beneficial for glucose control).
Although the Mediterranean diet is higher in fat than many other diets like the plant-based diet, you should still try to source proteins from low-fat, lean sources like legumes and fish.
This means you should favour foods like legumes and fish as your primary source of protein.
Poultry and eggs can be added into your meals to add some variability but you should do your best to avoid foods like processed meats and red meats.
Trans fats (found in processed foods) and saturated fats (found in red meats) are generally considered to be unhealthy fats.
Instead, focus your fat intake on unsaturated fat sources like nuts, seeds, olive oil, fish and avocado.
Healthy fats can be plentiful in the Mediterranean diet and should be about 30-40% of your plate.
Largely forgotten by many people who are taking up a new diet, hydration is crucial to your overall health.
No, we are not talking about drinking water…
Hydration can come from the food you eat.
Foods like cucumber, tomato, watermelon, carrots, peppers, are all foods which contain a high amount of water.
Consuming foods that provide a hydration effect can be a proactive way to ensure you are flushing toxins from your body and staying hydrated – which is essential for weight loss and overall health.
Now that you understand the four elements to healthy food choices on the Mediterranean diet let’s delve into 11 items you need on your grocery list.
Pumpkin, squash, butternut squash all provide a very good source of vitamin a, vitamin c, fiber and a good amount of complex carbohydrates to fuel your life.
Squash is also extremely versatile and very cheap at the right time of the year. Enjoy them baked, boiled and fried.
The unsung hero of the peasant world. Lentils grow in a bounty – and in almost all climates across the Mediterranean. They are high in protein, a good source of fiber and minerals like zinc and magnesium and taste great.
Lentils can be added to your soups, made into a hummus-style blend or roasted in the oven for a great salad topper.
Perhaps one of the most popular foods on the planet, tomato grows by the truck-load and has been shown to help limit inflammation – due to the active ingredient, lycopene.
Enjoy in your favourite stew, fry, make a beautiful pasta sauce or slice and eat raw in a salad – tomatoes are extremely versatile and can be added to any of your meals for anti-inflammatory benefits.
Farro is a grain that hails its origin from Italy and Greece but is now grown globally and can be found in most specialty food stores.
Plentiful in protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals (even B-Vitamins), farro is one of the best grains you can add to your diet.
With a slightly nutty flavour, farro will add a beautiful twist to your soups, stews or make a healthier substitute to traditional rice.
A great option for any breakfast meal, buckwheat can serve as a bounty of food at a very low cost. In a similar price range as oatmeal, buckwheat provides calcium, protein, magnesium and potassium – making it one of the better grains for a post-workout meal.
Buckwheat also contains an active ingredient called beta-glucan, which has been shown to be beneficial in lowering cholesterol.
A topic we discuss in-depth in our Low Cholesterol Diet Guide.
Beans always seem to go under the radar when the protein debate comes to mind, but kidney beans are no slouch. With one cup of kidney beans providing 45g of protein and 85% of your daily intake of iron, many people should give kidney beans more credit.
These tasty beans can be paired with a salad to create a hearty meal or can be made into a curry.
Traditionally, kidney beans can be put into a peasant salad like the one found in our Low Cholesterol Diet Guide.
Salmon is a great source of protein, very high in healthy fats and also provides omega fatty acids. Best cooked in an oven with lemon, salt and pepper – salmon should be consumed as close to its natural form as possible.
Those that are worried about iron intake can look to legumes or organ meats to help balance out their iron intake during the day.
A very inexpensive and healthy source of protein, tuna will also provide a good source of iron and B Vitamins.
You should try to avoid tuna in the can as they are generally prepared with salt and instead source your tuna through a seafood market that sells tuna steaks.
This unique seafood is sometimes seen as a delicacy but is extremely high in B12, protein while being low in calories.
Mussels are more expensive than other fish sources but can easily be a great weekly addition to your meal Mediterranean diet plan.
Simply steam, simmer and serve with a lemon drizzle.
I am sure you all knew this would be on the list. Olive oil is an essential element to the success of the Mediterranean diet.
Not only does it provide a much healthier form of oil (low in trans fats and saturated fats) but it also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Make sure you go for the virgin or extra virgin olive oil selection.
The word virgin means that the oils have not been heated for extraction – rather they are pressed and no chemicals were used in the process.
Virgin olive oil contains the highest levels of antioxidants that have been linked with better health.
Finishing off our list of essential shopping foods are almonds. Almonds grow all across various parts of the Mediterranean and can be cooked or added to meals in a variety of ways.
Almonds are not just snack food. They can be boiled (blanched) to serve as a side dish and can also be a topper for your salads, ground into a crumb for soup toppings or enjoyed on their own.
Almonds provide a great spectrum of nutrition with minerals such as magnesium, calcium and zinc, as well as vitamins like vitamin E.
The Mediterranean meal seems to have caught your attention when it comes to health benefits – but what about weight loss or bodybuilding?
Can you really build muscle without red meat?
Find out if you can lose weight and build muscle on a diet rich in plant-sourced food and whole ingredients – continue reading to chapter 8.
You don’t get a lean and strong body like Celebrity Penelope Cruz without following a clean diet plan.
There seems to be a common belief that in order to lose weight all you need to do is eat less.
In some cases, this is true. But in most cases, weight loss comes into a variety of factors – not just consumption of food.
Simple terms for weight loss factor in daily energy expenditure (how many calories your body burns in a day) versus daily energy intake (how many calories you consume in a day).
You might be thinking – okay, but fat is high in calories… And, well, you’d be right.
Fat is higher in calories than carbohydrates and protein combined.
Researchers wanted to find out if those on the Mediterranean diet would lose weight or gain weight (given the higher intake of fat) and found that those following this diet actually lost weight.
In a meta-analysis (comparing multiple studies against each other), researchers found those who adhered to a Mediterranean diet lost more weight (on average) than those who were not following a Mediterranean diet.
The study measured weight loss and waist circumference – two important factors in health.
The study attributes the higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats as the main reason for weight loss.
The study makes a profound statement saying:
“Despite some concerns about the relatively high-fat content of a typical Italian Mediterranean diet, most of this fat comes from olive oil and, to a lesser extent, fish. Compared to the saturated fats found in animal foods such as butter and red and processed meat, unsaturated fatty acids promote energy expenditure, diet-induced thermogenesis and fat oxidation”.
In other words, even though the diet is higher in fat, the Mediterranean diet is sourcing better forms of fat from olive oil, and in some cases, fish.
Your best effort to lose weight on the Mediterranean diet should be to follow this macronutrient profile:
Check out this hearty instant pot recipe for a great way to get many of the ingredients you need for weight loss in one pot.
Bodybuilding is an entirely different animal.
Bodybuilding requires you to have a healthy portion of protein and carbohydrates in every meal and does not necessarily favour high-fat intake – so can the Mediterranean diet really stack up?
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John Venus, a popular Instagram bodybuilder follows a plant-based diet – a popular adaptation which, with the exception of fish, is essentially the same as the Mediterranean diet plan.
Those who are keen on making sure their nutrition is perfect should check out the chart below to find more information on how they can adapt their macronutrients (protein, fats and carbs) to be best suited for bodybuilding on the Mediterranean diet.
Make sure that your protein intake is around 35% of your total intake of calories. An easy way to do this is to make ⅓ of your plate lean protein sources like legumes of fish.
Fats do not have a particularly positive role in bodybuilding so you may want to slightly lower your intake to increase protein and carbs. Make sure your fat intake is sourced from unsaturated fat sources like olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Although whole grains can be great fuel sources, it is much easier to achieve the lean, shredded look of bodybuilding when you are eating lower-calorie carbohydrates like fruit and vegetables.
Just as with protein you can make this about ⅓ of your plate for each meal.
Are weight loss and bodybuilding possible on the Mediterranean diet?
Of course they are!
Bodybuilding is cool – but in order to tell if this diet is truly effective, we should take a look at pregnancy.
Can a woman follow a Mediterranean diet and get all the nutrients they need? In chapter 9 we delve into the Mediterranean diet and pregnancy.
Start belly-rubbing – we’ve got good news.
We know that the Mediterranean diet is safe and effective for the average population – but what about pregnant women?
Women who are pregnant should be cautious of lifestyle changes during a developmental phase of birth.
With this disclosure, research has shown that a Mediterranean diet is not only safe during all stages of pregnancy, but is also beneficial for in a variety of conditions.
Gestational diabetes is a term used to describe the early onset of diabetes in a child who is in the developmental phase of birth.
Yes, children (at any age) and adults can develop diabetes.
Although we’re not going to get into the nitty-gritty of diabetes in this section it is important to understand that typically diabetes occurs for two reasons – excess calories, and high-fat consumption leading to insulin sensitivity and interference with glucose transport.
Generally speaking, the best way to avoid diabetes is to eat a diet centred around whole plant-foods and complement it with lean protein sources like fish, and some meats.
The Mediterranean diet follows this exact example and has demonstrated a reduced risk of gestational diabetes among women following a Mediterranean diet when compared to a conventional diet.
Although allergies are generally not thought of as a dietary consideration, the food you put in your body has large impacts on allergy tolerance -, especially during pregnancy.
A research study quotes:
“While adherence to the MD was not associated with the risk of wheeze and eczema in any cohort, high meat intake during pregnancy might increase the risk of wheeze during the first year of life”
Note: MD stands for Mediterranean Diet.
Furthermore, the same research study points out that when observing pregnant women consuming large intakes of pasta and potatoes when compared to low fruit and high meat, those consuming mostly pasta and potatoes were negatively associated with wheezing, rhinitis or dermatitis.
In other words; eating a diet based around plant foods like those found on the Mediterranean diet is extremely protective against wheezing, rhinitis and dermatitis.
In contrast, a diet high in meat intake seems to be more positively correlated with allergy in children.
Most parents can try to control diabetes allergies – but it always seems like anxiety and depression are the wildcards in the fight for optimal well being.
Fortunately, research conducted on the Mediterranean diet seems to heavily favour eating more whole foods to limit anxiety and depression.
The study quotes:
“MD was not associated with internalizing problems such as anxiety or depression, while low adherence to the MD was positively associated with increased child externalizing problems, such as aggression or inattention.”
It seems then in most cases surrounding pregnant – women who follow a Mediterranean diet are protected against complications and produce children which are healthier than average.
The Mediterranean diet is a nutrition plan that features a rich assortment of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fish. The diet is highly unrestrictive and instead asks eaters to consume foods in their natural forms and limit intakes of processed foods like chips, meats and refined grains.
In order to find success on this diet plan you should follow these five rules:
Don’t get caught up in the market trends buying Mediterranean diet snacks that are made from lentils or fancy apple slices. Keep it simple and eat foods in their natural forms.
Cooking your own meals means you are using whole foods and you know exactly what is going into the meal. Be sure to check out our recipe section for wholesome meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Saturated fats sourced from red meats and cheese can be an easy way to put a blockade on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Instead, source healthy fats from unsaturated sources like olive oil and, in some cases, fish.
Consumption of fruit and vegetables is not really limited when following the Mediterranean diet.
Since most fruit and vegetables are generally low in calories and high in fiber you can eat and enjoy sustainable weight loss.
Carefully select your protein intake. Most people on a conventional diet eat way too much red meat and this can put a strain on your digestive system, heart health and promote weight gain.
Instead, carefully select your protein intake and try to keep your choices revolving around legumes and fish.
If you select fish like clams, muscles, tuna or salmon – try to purchase them at fish markets rather than the canned section in your local grocery store.
The Mediterranean diet works by promoting health through a sustainable, wide assortment of foods.
Most popularly, olive oil and wholesome fruit and vegetable consumption have been linked to the proposed health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
Higher intakes of unsaturated fats improve heart health and olive oil has been shown to be protective and anti-inflammatory in nature.
High intakes of fruit and vegetables provide the body with a good source of complex carbohydrates, plenty of vitamins and minerals and fiber for digestion on cholesterol control.
Eat More Fiber: whole plant-based foods contain a bounty of insoluble and soluble fiber to promote healthy digestion and control cholesterol.
Use Olive oil: Use virgin olive oil in your foods for a healthier alternative to conventional butter and vegetable oils.
Eat Fresh: Limit processed foods like chips, meats and sweet treats and instead eat your foods fresh and as they were meant to be consumed – in their natural form.
The food list is an assortment of foods you should be eating in order to optimize your health through the Mediterranean diet. These foods are common foods you can find at your local supermarket.
Staple breakfast options include fruit, eggs, whole grains like barley and buckwheat and sometimes legumes.
Your goal should eat a wholesome breakfast that sustains you.
This means limiting your intake of processed foods like granola bars, biscuits and other high-sugar treats.
Although there are not very many restrictions on the Mediterranean diet it is quite common to limit your intake of trans fat foods like processed burgers, cookies and baked goods along with high-fat red meats.
Baked goods that are high in trans fats are not common on a Mediterranean diet because the focus is always on eating whole foods from their natural form. Conversely, red meats are uncommon because they are generally used for dairy products rather than for slaughter.
100% you can! Pasta is a staple in this diet. Be sure you eat your pasta with fresh greens and lean protein sources.
A common Mediterranean way to incorporate greens into your pasta dish is with spinach and pea. This is called pasta e piselli (pasta with peas). Here is a link to a traditional recipe.