Mediterranean Diet Food List

The Mediterranean diet food list is quite extensive. Although there are some things that you should limit – sometimes to only once or twice a month – there is really nothing that is forbidden. 

Unlike other popular eating plans that eliminate entire food groups, the Mediterranean diet focuses more on variety and balance. Of course, it does recommend that you avoid processed foods, trans fats, and refined sugars. 

But, that's expected, right? You aren't going to find a weight loss or healthy eating program that actually suggests adding potato chips, donuts, and Rocky Road ice cream to your daily menu. Sad, but true! 

Also, unlike some other diets that have recently skyrocketed in popularity, the Mediterranean way of eating holds fast to its retro roots by limiting animal fats for cooking and encouraging low-fat options.

In fact, the diet is often criticized by some experts for being “too low-fat”. However, these arguments are largely unfounded. While butter and full-fat dairy are discouraged (although not eliminated completely), there is still plenty of room for cold-water fatty fish, olive and canola oil, nuts, seeds, and poultry. 

Red meat is even allowed in small portions. So, don't worry, you won't have to give up your steak or ice cream – you will just have to eat a little (or maybe a lot) less of them.


mediterranean diet food

Mediterranean Diet Focus Foods

With many meal plans, the focus is often on what you can't eat. And, we always crave what we can't have, right? Well, that's what make the Mediterranean diet so amazing. Rather than giving you a long list of foods that you shouldn't eat, it focuses on what you should eat. I know, it's all a matter of perspective, but it can make a big difference. 

Instead of slashing certain foods completely, the Mediterranean diet food list is presented as a pyramid. The foods on the bottom of the pyramid should be the basis of your diet, while the foods on the top should comprise just a small part of your menu. But, even a small part is better than nothing, no? 

So, let's take a closer look.......from the bottom up. 

Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid

Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid


Whole Grains, Cereals, Breads, and Potatoes

(4-6 servings daily).

Whole grains are the foundation of the Mediterranean diet, and every meal should be built on these foods. Bread and cereal is also included, although you should eat them as unrefined and unprocessed as possible. In most Mediterranean countries, bread is usually eaten unbuttered or dipped in olive oil. 

Eat Plenty Of:

  • barely
  • brown rice
  • buckwheat
  • corn
  • couscous
  • millet
  • oats, including oatmeal and oat bran
  • quinoa
  • spelt

Eat in Moderation:

 (due to high sugar content or glycemic rating)

  • packaged breakfast cereals
  • whole grain pasta
  • tortillas and other breads made with refined flours

Limit:

  • white rice
  • white pasta, including rice pasta (due to high glycemic index rating)
  • white breads
  • pretzels
  • rice cakes (due to high level of processing and high glycemic index rating)
  • crackers
  • frozen waffles or toaster strudels
mediterranean fruit salad

Fruit

(2-4 servings daily).

Fruit is packed full of antioxidants and nutrients that promote good health. Plus, it is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth without the guilt. Despite being ostracized by many eating plans for its high carbohydrate and sugar content, the Mediterranean diet is not afraid of fruit! So load up!

Eat Plenty Of:

  • apples
  • avocado
  • bananas
  • berries (all kinds)
  • figs
  • grapes
  • citrus fruits
  • cherries
  • kiwis
  • melons
  • olives
  • peaches
  • pears
  • pomegranates
  • pineapple
  • tomatoes

Eat in Moderation:

  • dried fruit (due to high concentration of sugar and calories)
  • jams and jellies (due to added sugars)


Vegetables

(4-6 servings daily).

Like fruit, vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. There are really no limitations on which vegetables you can eat, but starchy options or tubers should be limited to a maximum of 2 servings daily.

Eat Plenty Of:

  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • aubergines (eggplant)
  • beets
  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • brussel sprouts
  • cabbage
  • callaloo 
  • capers
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • celariac
  • cucumber
  • fennel
  • greens (turnip greens, beet greens, collard greens)
  • kale
  • leeks
  • lettuce (all kinds)
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • pumpkin
  • radicchio
  • snap beans
  • spinach
  • sprouts (broccoli, sunflower, pea)
  • squash
  • sweet potato
  • turnip
  • zucchini, and other summer squashes
mediterranean bean and nut  trail mix

Beans, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds

(1-3 servings daily).

Pulses, nuts, and seeds are a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. If you are watching your weight, it is important to note that most nuts and seeds have a high calorie and fat content, so while they can be enjoyed daily, they should  be eaten in moderate amounts. 

Eat Plenty Of:

  • beans – all kinds (black, kidney, navy, pinto, garbanzo)
  • lentils
  • peanuts
  • peas
  • almonds
  • brazil nuts
  • cashews
  • chestnuts
  • chia seeds
  • flaxseeds
  • hemp seeds
  • pine nuts
  • pistachios 
  • poppy seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • soy beans
  • sunflower seeds
  • walnuts

Eat in Moderation:

  • candied, sugar coated, or salted nuts
  • nut butters, tahini, and other spreads (due to high calorie and fat content)


coconut oil for weight loss

Fats

The Mediterranean diet discourages the use of animal fats for cooking. Therefore, you should limit your intake of butter, as well as unhealthy or refined oils. Olive oil is the best choice, and some dieticians suggest eating anywhere from 7-14 tablespoons a day. However, if you are trying to lose weight, you will probably want to keep this amount a little lower. Use it for cooking, drizzle it over vegetables,meat, or salads, spread it on your toast , or dip your bread into herbed or spiced olive oil.

Eat Plenty Of:

  • Extra Virgin Cold-Pressed Olive Oil

Eat in Moderation:

  • Canola Oil

Limit:

  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Refined Oils
  • Trans fats
  • Shortening
  • Lard
  • Coconut Oil


Dairy and Milk Products

(1-3 servings daily).

Choose low-fat options or milk alternatives as often as possible.

Eat Regularly:

  • Low fat yogurt (watch sugar content)
  • Low fat cheese
  • Low fat milk
  • almond, soy, rice, or oat milk and products

Eat in Moderation:

  • cream (in coffee)
  • sweetened yogurts
  • high or full-fat milk and cheeses

Limit

  • butter
  • processed cheese

Meat and Fish

(Fish: 2-3 servings weekly; Poultry: 1-3 servings weekly; Red Meat:1-3 servings monthly).

The Mediterranean diet puts a lot of emphasis on eating cold water fatty fish for the heart-healthy omega-3 content. Poultry should be lean, white meat with the skin removed. As much as possible, prepare meat by grilling, baking, or broiling rather than frying, and season with herbs and spices instead of heavy breading or coating. 

Eat Regularly

  • tuna
  • salmon
  • trout
  • mackerel
  • cod
  • shrimp
  • swordfish
  • sardines
  • lean poultry (chicken, turkey, quail, cornish hen)

Eat in Moderation:

  • Red Meat (beef, bison, lamb, pork, wild game) – no more than 1-3 times per month.
  • Dark meat
  • Canned meat (due to processing and high salt content)
  • Breaded meats

Limit:

  • Processed meats – ham, sausage, pepperoni, luncheon meats

Eggs

 (1-4 servings weekly)

Pastured, free-range eggs are a great source of protein and other nutrients; however, due to the cholesterol controversy, the Mediterranean diet recommends that you eat no more than 4 eggs weekly, including those used in baking and other recipes.

Sweets

(1-3 servings weekly).

We all need a treat every now and then, right? Well, the Mediterranean diet doesn't want to deprive you, but it does recommend eating sweets in moderation. Of course, fruit is always the best dessert, but when you want something a little more decadent, a homemade treat is better than something processed or packaged. 


Eat in Moderation:

  • sugar (brown, raw, coconut, raw honey, maple syrup)
  • dark chocolate
  • cocoa

Limit:

  • artificial sweeteners
  • refined sugars
  • candies (due to high sugar content and the use of high-fructose corn syrup)
  • packaged or processed snacks

Wine

(Optional: 1-2 glasses daily).

Many studies have proven the health benefits of red wine; however, a little goes a long way. Too much of a good thing can have a reverse effect. The Mediterranean diet suggests that women drink 1 glass (6 ounce) of good quality red wine per day, while men should drink no more than 2 glasses. For those who prefer an non-alcoholic option, many of the same benefits can be found in a small glass of grape or pomegranate juice. 

red wine on mediterranean eating plan

Spices and Condiments

Herbs and spices play an important role in the Mediterranean diet. Not only do they have a wide range of healthy properties, but they also add a variety of flavor to keep your food interesting.

Eat Plenty Of:

  • basil
  • chili peppers
  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • marjoram
  • mint
  • nutmeg
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • rosemary
  • saffron
  • sage
  • thyme
  • turmeric
  • vanilla
  • apple cider vinegar
  • red wine and balsamic vinegar

Eat in Moderation:

  • ketchup
  • relish
  • mustard
  • soy sauce
  • other bottled or packaged sauces

In Addition:

  • As you have probably noticed, the Mediterranean diet food pyramid stands on a foundation of physical activity and a  healthy lifestyle. To get the most benefits from this eating plan, try to stay active and include regular exercise into your health and fitness plan.
  • Drink plenty of water. Six glasses per day is recommended.
  • Limit salt intake. Replace salt with herbs and spices. 
  • Enjoy meals. Sit, relax, enjoy, and savor food with family and friends.



Other pages that might interest you:


I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.




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