What does it look like to follow a Mediterranean Diet?
Beginners are often confused as to what a Mediterranean Diet actually means and what it might look like to live according to this way of eating. In the following article, we will touch on what principles compromise the Mediterranean Diet. Then we will walk through what that looks like every day and what a Mediterranean Diet typical day might include. Read on!
What does “Mediterranean Diet” actually mean?
The Mediterranean “Diet” was first defined by researchers studying the way people in the Mediterranean eat, because of the amazing health that they enjoy. When we talk about the Mediterranean Diet, we are not referring to the specific cuisine, spices, or exact foods eaten in the Mediterranean. We are instead referring to the set of principles that is based on how these people have traditionally eaten.
You are not required to eat hummus to follow the principles of this extremely healthy way to live. (Although if you want hummus, this recipe is our favorite.) You can instead eat black bean dip or guacamole, made following Mediterranean Diet principles, and reap all the incredible health benefits. The recipes on our site follow Mediterranean Diet guidelines and explore cuisines from all over the world! No need to limit your palate in any way.
In a nutshell, here are the guidelines (you can find more here):
- Eat tons and tons of vegetables and fruits
- Build vegetarian meals around beans, whole grains, & veggies frequently
- Make your grains whole grains
- Use olive oil instead of butter or refined oils
- Cook seafood, ideally twice per week or more
- Limit red meat to once per week or less
- Eat chicken and poultry in moderation
- Enjoy dairy products in moderation
- Remove as much as possible: processed foods, artificial sugar & ingredients, and additives
- Make exercise part of your day
- Enjoy time with friends and family regularly
- If you drink, enjoy red wine occasionally (one small glass per day for women & two for men)
Here’s what a Mediterranean Diet Day looks like:
- The Mediterranean Diet is incredibly flexible and the cuisine is varied. It’s a plant-based diet, meaning that plants make up a big part of the diet. Seafood and meat are encouraged in moderation. (This will look different for everyone but at least some of your meals every week should be vegetarian or entirely comprised of plants.)
- A Mediterranean Diet typical day includes all different kinds of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. You will try to eat a rainbow of different options, instead of the same food every day for every meal. (Normally eat an apple with breakfast? Tomorrow, try a pear. Then a nectarine, berries, banana, you get the idea!)
- Fruit is not off-limits. In fact, fruit is seen as a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth. You are encouraged to eat fruit as a dessert– or for breakfast, lunch, or any time during the day. The sugar in fruit comes with a bunch of other health benefits, fiber, water, and vitamins.
- This diet comes with plenty of carbs. When eating according to Mediterranean Diet principles, at least some of your meals will be vegetarian and based around whole grains, legumes or beans, and vegetables. Our bodies need carbohydrates to function optimally. Eating non-processed, real whole grains and beans will give you the kind of lasting energy that sustains you throughout the day.
- Meat is not off-limits either. You will choose seafood or fish a few times per week (or more). You may eat beef or lamb once per week or less. Poultry and eggs are available to you a few times per week if you choose. Someone following a Mediterranean Diet chooses the best quality that is available to you within your budget. (This means, you don’t have to buy organic. You make the choice based on what is realistic for your family.)
- Extra virgin olive oil is the oil of choice and considered the healthiest oil to consume. Replace other oils in your cooking, baking, and enjoying as much as you can.
- Your plate will often look like this: half-filled with veggies and plants, one quarter with protein (meat or beans), and one quarter with grains.
- Mediterranean Diet eaters shop primarily along the outside edges of the grocery store. We avoid foods that have a long list of ingredients, chemicals, preservatives, or artificial anything. That includes most (but not all) things that come in bags, cans, and boxes. Avoid processed meats like deli meat.
- A glass of red wine, savored occasionally, is good for the body and the mind, if it is your preference to drink alcohol.
- Exercise is an important part of life, but we are never restricted to exercise that takes place in a gym. Make movement a natural part of every day. Build walking or biking into your routine. The Mediterranean Diet encourages you to find a type of movement that you love and practice that very often.
- The last pillar of the Mediterranean Diet is time spent with friends and family, enjoying the pleasures of life. We are encouraged to have meals with loved ones whenever possible, rather than eating alone.
Mediterranean Diet Typical Day
This diet is not a strict set of eliminations, so every person’s day will look different. But, here’s an idea of what a day might look like for someone following this way of life.
- A walk in the morning before breakfast
- Breakfast of oatmeal with berries, eggs & whole-wheat toast, or yogurt with crushed nuts & fruit
- Lunch of a delicious lentil vegetable soup served over quinoa, a large salad with tuna or chicken and some fruit, or a wrap stuffed with lots of vegetables. Lunch is ideally eaten away from your desk and phone so that you can really enjoy it, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.
- Afternoon snack, if hungry, might be nuts and veggies, cottage cheese with berries, or chia seed pudding.
- Dinner, enjoyed with friends or family if possible, is home-cooked and could be a whole range of things: from baked salmon and asparagus to bruschetta chicken over zucchini noodles to black bean tacos. Vegetables are a big part of the plate. You might finish with some fruit or a square of dark chocolate. You might enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner.
- Throughout the day, you try to take short breaks to stretch or move about. Perhaps you invest in a standing desk. Perhaps you take an afternoon bike ride or go to a Pilates class.
The Mediterranean Diet typical day includes feeling happy, satisfied, and energized, knowing that you are giving your body the absolute best!
Interested in the Mediterranean Diet? Our gift to you!
Grab your free copy of our Mediterranean Diet Starter Guide & Recipe Book! It’s the ideal first step to get you going.
Disclaimer: If your doctor or medical team has advised you to limit or avoid certain food groups based on your specific health conditions, please always follow the advice of your doctor. Nothing on this website or in this post should be considered prescriptive in nature. (We have a Registered Dietitian who can work with you and your specific health history. You can schedule a free 15-minute consultation here.)
Hi, I’m Ashley! I’m a Mediterranean Diet expert, a family health champion, and a Mom of 3 little people. Any day of the week, you will find me in the kitchen cooking up festive new recipes using Mediterranean Diet principles. I love breakfast for dinner, long days at the beach, the perfect glass of wine, and spontaneous adventures. Originally from Atlanta, I now fondly call Virginia my home.