- Registered nutritionist Amanda Kostro Miller offers a 7-day Mediterranean eating plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner that includes meals like pasta e fagioli and a zucchini and tomato frittata.
- Numerous studies have found that the Mediterranean Diet has many potential health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline.
- This article was medically checked by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness professional with a private practice in New York City.
- Please refer to Insider's Insider Reference Library for more information.
The Mediterranean diet is popular with nutritionists not only for its many health benefits, but also for its flexibility and ease of use.
The diet focuses on whole plant foods, heart-healthy fats, and seafood, which make up the majority of meals in Mediterranean regions such as Greece and southern Italy.
In addition, the Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle than a passing way of eating. And it has been shown that people who follow it long-term have lower chronic disease rates and longer life expectancies.
If you're interested in trying this healthy, popular diet, here is a meal plan to get you started, as well as more information on some of the benefits you may find from long-term adherence to the Mediterranean diet.
What to eat and drink on the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet does not specifically prohibit any food groups and does not require any calorie restriction. However, there are certain guidelines that must be followed to maximize the potential health benefits.
Eat Less Sugar: Labels sneakily hide extra sugar in your food and how to get it out of your diet
For example, avoid processed foods and instead focus your meals on plant-based foods, including vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Fish like light tuna, salmon, cod, and other types of seafood that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids play a central role, especially for Americans who stick to this diet.
Choose foods in their least processed form – for example, steel cut oats or even oatmeal – as opposed to instant packets of oatmeal, which usually have sugar added.
According to Registered Nutritionist Amanda Kostro Miller, these are the foods you should consume regularly, occasionally, and infrequently on the Mediterranean diet:
Often eat / drink:
- Whole grain products (barley, bulgur, quinoa, millet, steel oats, brown rice, amaranth and rye)
- Healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado)
Eat / drink in moderation:
- Wine – Red wine has a higher concentration of the heart-healthy antioxidant resveratrol than white wine (no more than one 5-ounce glass a day for women, two glasses a day for men).
Eat / drink sparingly:
7-day Mediterranean nutrition plan
Here's what a whole week of healthy eating on the Mediterranean Diet, according to Miller's recommendations, could look like:
Start the first day of your Mediterranean diet with a protein-rich breakfast of Greek yogurt, nuts, and berries.
BURCU ATALAY TANKUT / Getty Images
Breakfast: Greek yogurt with berries and walnuts
Having lunch: Honey-garlic-salmon baked in foil
Dinner: Vegetable and chickpea stew
On the second day, try a light Greek salad with chicken skewers for lunch.
OksanaKiian / Getty Images
Breakfast: Whole wheat toast with mashed avocado
Having lunch: Greek salad with salmon or chicken skewers
Dinner: Lemon dill tilapia with sauteed greens
Finish day 3 with a bowl of pasta e fagioli for dinner.
EzumeImages / Getty Images
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach and tomato
Having lunch: Pan-fried chicken, cooked in olive oil with artichokes, kalamata olives, garlic and herbs
Dinner: Pasta e Fagioli with a garden salad
Breakfast on Day 4 is a quick and easy classic: toast with peanut butter.
Cassp / Getty Images
Breakfast: Whole wheat toast with peanut butter
Having lunch: Power bowl with quinoa, vegetables, hummus and feta
Dinner: Garlic Lemon Herbs Chicken, Roasted Vegetables and Potatoes
Season dinner on the 5th day with a plate of vegetarian paella.
Enrique Díaz / 7cero / Getty Images
Breakfast: Greek yogurt with banana and almond slices
Having lunch: Seafood soup
Dinner: Vegetarian paella
Enjoy some fish for dinner on day 6.
Boblin / Getty Images
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with peppers and onions
Having lunch: Greek grilled chicken pita with cucumber and tomato salad
Dinner: Oven-baked tilapia with roasted vegetables
On day 7, try a delicious zucchini tomato frittata for breakfast.
Monkey Business Images / Getty Images
Breakfast: Zucchini and tomato frittata
Having lunch: Fried chickpea tops
Dinner: Polenta with roasted eggplant, mushrooms and paprika ragout
te that the Mediterranean diet isn't just for meat eaters. You can easily turn a meat dish into an equally satisfying vegetarian meal by replacing protein-rich plant-based foods like lentils, quinoa, tofu, chickpeas, and hemp seeds with meat.
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
The US News and World Report ranked the Mediterranean Diet # 1 in both the Best Diets lists for 2020 and the Best Diets lists for 2019.
Weight loss: Several studies over the past decade have shown that following a Mediterranean diet with a smaller waist size, a lower risk of weight gain and, along with a calorie restriction, can contribute to weight loss. This is likely due to the focus on whole foods that are high in filling fiber and fat.
Diabetes management: The Mediterranean diet is considered by some experts to be one of the best ways to control blood sugar in people dealing with type 2 diabetes. Researchers who compared the Mediterranean Diet to low-carb, glycemic index, and high-protein diets found that the Mediterranean Diet improved blood sugar the most in people with type 2 diabetes and, when combined with a low-carb diet, also resulted in greater weight loss.
Improved heart health: A plethora of studies suggest that the Mediterranean Diet helps support heart health by highlighting omega-3 rich seafood, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats from olive oil and nuts.
A 2018 study of nearly 26,000 American women found that those who followed the Mediterranean Diet had a 25% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease over a 12-year period.
Another 2007 study of people at higher risk for heart disease found that the risk of heart attacks and strokes was much lower in people who followed the Mediterranean Diet.
Lower risk of certain types of cancer: The Mediterranean Diet can help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer, and prevent cancer-related death. This emerges from a meta-analysis and review of 83 studies from 2017 in which the authors state the following:
"These positive effects observed are mainly due to the higher intake of fruit, vegetables and whole grain products."
A separate study from 2015 found that women on a Mediterranean diet containing extra virgin olive oil had a 68% lower risk of breast cancer than women in the control group on a low-fat diet.
Reduced risk of cognitive decline: According to a 2017 study, older patients who followed a Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or experience other forms of cognitive decline as they age.
Following the Mediterranean diet was also associated with better memory, language, and visual cognition performance. The consumption of fish in particular was associated with a lower risk of dementia.
Improved gut health: The researchers found that following the Mediterranean diet for a year increased "good" gut bacteria by 7% while reducing the bacteria associated with harmful inflammation in the elderly. Researchers attributed these positive changes to increases in fiber and associated vitamins and minerals.
Possible disadvantages of the Mediterranean diet
In terms of potential cons, the Mediterranean diet doesn't come with many risks, although you may want to keep an eye on mercury consumption if you eat a lot of seafood. Low-mercury seafood includes salmon, shrimp, pollock, and light canned tuna.
What is a low-FODMAP diet and how can it help with gastrointestinal problems
If you have diet-related restrictions such as gluten intolerance or IBS that require a low-FODMAP diet, you should seek advice from your nutritionist or doctor before starting a new eating plan. To maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, it is also advisable to consider portion sizes.
The Mediterranean diet has many benefits. Because it is one of the less strict diets, it may be easy for omnivores, pesketarians, and even vegetarians to stick to.
Additionally, the Mediterranean Diet has numerous potential health benefits, including lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline, and improved bowel health. The Mediterranean Diet can also promote a healthier weight and overall healthier body.