Is there a diet that’s both health-promoting and absolutely delicious? Yes, and its name is the Mediterranean diet. This way of eating is loaded with major health benefits and a Mediterranean diet food list that will leave your mouth watering. It’s a diet that can appeal to people of all different ages and backgrounds, it’s not too expensive to follow and calorie quality is way more important than calorie quantity.
What’s a typical Mediterranean diet breakfast look like? It varies by region, but in Lebanon, for an example, a classic breakfast may include leftover grains such as barley or bulgur wheat combined with a touch of honey, fruit, cinnamon and a splash of high-quality milk. Sounds pretty tasty, right?
There are so many healthy foods incorporated into the Mediterranean diet pyramid, including lots of fresh produce along with healthy fats like olive oil and high-quality protein like wild-caught fish. Resveratrol-rich red wine even commonly makes an appearance. What foods are not allowed on the Mediterranean diet? We’ll discuss that too, and the list probably won’t surprise you at all.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
As with any food pyramid, the Mediterranean version starts with the foods you’ll consume in the smallest quantity at the top and works its way down to the items you’ll be eating most often.
So, what’s at the top? Lean, high-quality red meats and sweets (think desserts made with whole yet sweet ingredients like raw honey) are in the highest yet smallest bracket of the pyramid. Next up is poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt. You could also include kefir in this section.
The second to largest category in the pyramid houses seafood. While it’s a good idea to avoid shellfish, you can load up (at least two times per week) on healthy wild-caught fish rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and sardines.
The base of the pyramid, which will be the main focus of your Mediterranean diet food list, includes fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices. In various combinations, you will be seeing these items at each of your meals.
In general, wine (specifically red) is drank in moderation, and drinking plenty of water is a must. This diet plan also encourages enjoying healthy meals in good company and staying physically active on a regular basis.
Mediterranean Diet Food List
What is the Mediterranean diet food list? Here is a rundown of what’s typically allowed versus not allowed while following this diet plan:
Fresh vegetables and fruits: No fruits or vegetables are off limits on the Mediterranean diet menu. Some popular options commonly consumed in the Mediterranean region include tomatoes, eggplant, leafy greens, artichokes, broccoli, etc.
Healthy fats, especially olive oil: Healthy fats top the Mediterranean diet food list. The most popular one by far on this diet is extra virgin olive oil. Healthy fats like olive oil are an excellent energy source and also help to keep you feeling fuller longer. Another healthy fat option popular with the Mediterranean diet is olives.
Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are another great source of healthy fats as well as protein. Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. are all healthy options. Look for ones that don’t have added salt or sugar. Can you eat peanut butter on the Mediterranean diet? You can in moderation, but you may want to check out these peanut butter nutrition facts first and only consume organic peanut butter. Tahini (made from sesame seeds) has a similar consistency and is a more popular item on the Mediterranean diet food list.
Herbs and spices: Antioxidant-rich herbs and spices like oregano, rosemary, mint and cinnamon are common inclusions that make meals a lot of more flavorful, and healthy too.
Seafood: Wild-caught fish like salmon are a primary protein source on this diet to consume at least a couple of times per week.
Legumes: Beans, peas and lentils are a healthy source of protein as well as fiber on the Mediterranean diet.
Whole grains: Grains are not off limits on this diet, but they should be of highest quality and definitely whole grain. If you’re looking to stick with a low-carb mediterranean diet food list, then whole grains will be a very small part of your diet. If you follow a gluten-free diet, you can incorporate gluten-free grains.
Plenty of fresh water and limited amounts of caffeine sources like tea and organic coffee.
Allowed in Moderation:
High-quality dairy: Is milk allowed on the Mediterranean diet? In moderation, high-quality dairy like goat milk, healthy cheese and probiotic-rich kefir or yogurt are included.
Poultry and eggs: Opt for organic and pasture-raised poultry and eggs as healthy protein sources.
Red meat: Red meat is consumed on special occasions in small amounts. Options include grass-fed lean cuts of red meat like lamb, which is a popular Mediterranean food, and beef, but high-fat meats like bacon and sausage should be avoided.
Alcohol: One type of alcohol commonly consumed in moderation on this diet is red wine. This is an alcohol source with well-known red wine health benefits, but it’s certainly not a must or a reason to start drinking if you currently refrain from alcohol. One glass of red wine with dinner is common if approved by your doctor. Drinking purple grape juice in small amounts is sometimes consumed as an alternative to wine.
High fat and/or processed meats (like pork sausage and bacon)
Before making a Mediterranean diet shopping list, don’t forget to familiarize yourself with what’s an approved or healthy choice on this diet as well as what should be avoided.
Popular healthy options you’ll see on a Mediterranean diet food pyramid include fresh fruits and veggies, healthy fats like olive oil, wild-caught fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, grass-fed meats and high-quality dairy like goats milk and yogurt.
The acceptable food options can easily fit your personal needs (gluten-free, for example) with some tweaking.
Mediterranean diet foods to avoid include high fat/processed meats, refined sugars, refined grains, refined oils, processed/fast foods and trans fats.
Following a Mediterranean way of eating is truly an enjoyable experience that encourages whole, fresh, healthy foods that are delicious and satisfying, making it a diet that is easy to stick with and has been scientifically shown to have incredible health benefits when done right.