What’s the Mediterranean Diet, Anyways?

Do as the Greeks do! Enjoy the Mediterranean diet that's filled with fresh veggies, fruit, seafood, whole grains and even a glass or two or red wine. Cheers to heart healthy choices!

Raw uncooked seabass fish with vegetables, grains, herbs and spices on chopping board over rustic wooden background, top viewFoxys Forest Manufacture/ShutterstockFoxys Forest Manufacture/Shutterstock

With so many diets out there, it can be hard to decide exactly what’s right for you and your lifestyle. (Learn which diets ranked best this year.) The best diets aren’t meant to be short-term. They’re meant to be long-term changes that become a habit over time and impact your health in a positive way; it’s a commitment. To follow the Mediterranean diet, you don’t have to travel to Greece or Italy (although that would be a great field trip to get you started). You can easily implement the basics of this diet that’s been feeding the region healthy foods for hundreds of years.

What Is The Mediterranean Diet?

Unsurprisingly, this diet includes foods you’d find in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, specifically in Greece and southern Italy. Mediterranean diet recipes are rich in vegetables, seafood, healthy fats, whole grains, fruit and also include some dairy, meat and wine.

More than just food, the Mediterranean diet is also about an active lifestyle and building relationships with friends and family through a shared meal. It’s about incorporating movement every day, not necessarily about hitting them gym or obsessing about exercise.

Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can help promote weight loss, lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes, reduce asthma, fight off certain cancers and more. It’s an eating pattern and lifestyle that’s been around for a long time, so there is a huge body of evidence that supports its health benefits.

Two cheers for heart-healthy Mediterranean diet recipes!

What Can You Eat?

Like the paleo and Whole30 diet plans, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating whole, unprocessed foods, but does allow legumes and dairy, both of which are on the list of no-no’s for paleo and Whole30.

  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Legumes & Potatoes
  • Whole Grains
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Herbs & Spices
  • Monounsaturated fats (like extra virgin olive oil and avocados)

The biggest emphasis of the diet is on seafood, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats. Poultry, eggs, dairy and red meat should be included in moderation.

While the effects of alcohol in your diet can vary, the Mediterranean diet actually encourages having a healthy pour of vino as part of the plan.

New to wine? Don’t make these mistakes.

What Can’t You Eat?

The list of foods to limit on the Mediterranean diet is pretty straightforward

  • Added sugar: Soda, candies, ice cream, table sugar, etc.
  • Refined grains: White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, etc.
  • Trans fats: Found various processed foods, margarine, etc.
  • Saturated fats: Butter, coconut oil, peanut oil, etc.
  • Processed meat: Sausages, hot dogs, etc.

The Reality

Like with the paleo diet, there is no authority on the Mediterranean diet, so these rules should be taken with a grain of salt and adapted as you see fit to your lifestyle. There are a number of countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, each with their own unique cuisine and lifestyle, but it’s the commonalities that make up the basis of this diet.

What You Should Take Away

The staples of the Mediterranean diet are probably ones you already eat regularly, so work to create a new balance, emphasizing more vegetables, seafood, fruits, healthy fats and whole grains and less red meat, processed foods and refined grains. Make a conscious effort to move more and have fun doing it. And don’t forget to enjoy one of the great traditions of this region: gather around the table with family and friends to share a Mediterranean-style meal together.

Bonus! You can even follow the Mediterranean diet if you don’t have much time to cook.

55 Mediterranean Diet Recipes Ready in 30 Minutes or Less
1 / 55

Popular Videos

Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.