How to Start a Mediterranean Diet in 5 Steps

September 6, 2017
How to follow the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has been studied for over 60-70 years now. Starting with the Seven Countries study and continuing from there with several large observational studies, research repeatedly has shown that compliance to the Mediterranean diet appears to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions

The diet was initially based on the traditional diet of Greece (particularly Crete) and Southern Italy circa 1960’s. While it can never be exactly replicated, you can follow a Mediterranean diet wherever you are.

Not Sure Where to Start?

So how do you follow this diet? Drizzle olive oil on your bread? Add feta cheese and parmesan to your recipes? Drink wine every night? While these habits may sound Mediterranean, in terms of authentic Mediterranean diet and health benefits, what counts is a pattern of eating and not necessarily specific foods. For starters, here are 5 changes you can make to your diet right now and you can start with one of these and try it out for a week or so and then add the next. Than you can checkout my 5 Day  Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan as well as the Mediterranean Diet Shopping List.

How to Start Following a Mediterranean Diet


1. Switch to olive oil and do not skimp on it.

olive oil cooking

Trying to follow a Mediterranean diet using very little olive oil defeats the purpose. Olive oil is the basis of the diet and many of the benefits appear to come from the good monounsaturated fats but also the polyphenols in the olive oil. However to get the benefits, you must replace other fats with olive oil, making it your type of fat in the diet. In addition olive oil is what helps with such a high consumption of vegetables. Greeks consume many vegetables and one of reasons for this is because they cook them with olive oil which makes it easier to eat large amounts.

2. Eat vegetables as a main course.

Mediterranean Diet Food List

The high consumption of vegetables is a main characteristic of the Mediterranean diet. Greeks consume almost a pound of vegetables a day. In order for this to be accomplished vegetables such as green beans, peas, eggplant, artichoke, and okra are cooked in olive oil, tomato and herbs and accompanied with bread and feta cheese. A dish of these vegetables can provide 3 servings of vegetables.

3. Learn to cook a few basic Mediterranean meals.

spanakorizo Greek spinach and rice

The Mediterranean diet is about real food. That does not mean one has to cook from scratch everyday but learning 2-3 basic dishes will greatly improve your diet. Here are my 3 suggestions:

Spanakorizo (Spinach and Rice)

Greek Style Green Beans 

Greek Lentil Stew

4. Go vegan one or two days a week.


When we look at the traditional Greek diet, the Greeks abstained from animal products about 200 days a year for religious reasons. This most likely played an important role in the health benefits that were seen in that population. Check out the guidelines here.

5. Stop adding meat to everything.

I often see in recommendations for healthy eating plenty of vegetable dishes but also quite a bit of meat. We do not need that much meat (even if it is lean), and studies have shown that reducing meat is correlated with better health. Try the following guidelines: red meat once a week, chicken once a week and fish once a week.

EXTRA TIP: Get a Mediterranean Diet cookbook and guide to help you get started.

Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners

There are many Mediterranean diet cookbooks out there. However, the majority are written by individuals who have no experience or knowledge of the diet and do not contain recipes that are in line with Mediterranean diet principles nor are they in any way authentic. As a person who has been raised on the diet and a Nutritionist, my book is the ideal cookbook and guide for anyone who either wants to start a Mediterranean diet (and lifestyle) or add 100 authentic Mediterranean diet recipes (none of those westernized recipes) to their collection. The book includes 100 recipes, a 2 week menu plan, a detailed food list, advice and tips for living an authentic Mediterranean lifestyle based on my life-long experience who has been raised on this diet and lifestyle.
Get your copy >> The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners


How to start the Mediterranean diet

More Resources to Help You Start the Mediterranean Diet

Photo by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved

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