By Elena Paravantes, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Mediterranean Diet Expert
I’ve been asked many times to provide an authentic Mediterranean Diet meal plan, and when we say authentic, we mean it! The reason for this is that most “Mediterranean Diet” meal plans I see online are anything but. Sorry, but edamame beans, minuscule amounts of olive oil, canola oil, meat with every meal etc. are not part of a Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediterranean Diet is considered the Gold Standard of diets. It was voted Best Diet for 2018 from US News and is associated with numerous health benefits supported by strong evidence. This covers heart Health, Cancer Prevention, Psychological Health, Alzheimers, Fertility, Weight Loss and many more.
Now I have to say, I am not a supporter of rigid plans, however it is important to eat at somewhat regular times so you don’t end up feeling very-very hungry at any particularly moment of the day. Having said that, I also think it is important to be able to actually feel hunger, and look forward to eating a meal. While adding a snack here and there is good to keep blood sugar and hunger levels in balance, snacking can also backfire. Many times we eat a snack without being hungry or we depend on ready-made snacks such as granola bars, juices, smoothies etc. which not only add quite a few calories but also are a processed food with all that entails.
Below is a quick graphic of a meal plan on the traditional Mediterranean diet, it is the same meal plan that I also follow. Under the graphic you can find details, tips and links to the recipes. I provide a variety of choices for meals that you can mix and match with links to the recipes. For more ideas just head over to the Recipe Index and you will find a large selection of Mediterranean recipes.
The Authentic Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
Details, Tips And Recipes
Choice #1: Whole grain bread with an unsweetened nut butter (I use tahini)
Choice #2: Barley rusk with olive oil, crumbled cheese and olives
Choice #4: Full fat Greek yogurt with nuts, fruit and honey
Choice #5: Whole grain bread + a piece of cheese + tomatoes
*A seasonal fruit
Lunch in the largest meal of the day. If you have trouble doing that, you can switch dinner with lunch and try and have dinner somewhat early.
Choice #1: Lathero Dish (seasonal vegetables or beans cooked with olive oil, herbs, and tomato sauce accompanied by bread and cheese). This is what you will have 3-4 times a week. Typically this is green beans, peas, spanakorizo (spinach-rice) and cauliflower cooked in this way. This is accompanied by a slice of bread and feta. Click here for lathera recipes. Please note that one serving consists of 3-4 servings of vegetables.
Choice #2: Pita like spanakopita with a salad on the side. Click here for pita recipes.
Choice #3: Once or twice a week a chicken dish such as Greek style stewed chicken with a seasonal salad
-Snack- (if hungry)
*Tomato with a rusk and sometimes cheese + a serving of fruit
*1/2 cup Greek yogurt with fruit
Dinner is a lighter meal, so it is generally good to keep fairly light-avoid meats and heavy sauces. Typically it is a small serving of lunch or a meal rich in vegetables.
Wine (1 – 1 ½ glass) and a small meze platter (2-3 olives, a few pieces of cheese, tomato or carrot sticks)
Choice #1: A smaller serving of lunch
Choice #2: A large salad (in the winter mainly greens, in the summer tomatoes) with an olive oil salad dressing, grated or crumbled cheese, and nuts (walnuts, pine nuts or almonds). Click here for salads.
Choice 3: Roasted vegetables in olive oil (cauliflower or a mix –like briami). This is an easy and effortless way to get prepare vegetables and consume it as a main course.
Choice 4: Omelette with feta accompanied by a simple salad such as tomato and cucumber with olive oil or a green leafy salad.
Choice #5: Yogurt with rusks and fruit. This is a typical evening meal, partici;ay if lunch has been a bit larger.
*Once a week chicken and once a week another type of meat or fish, accompanied by salad or greens (horta)
*One or two meals a week contain some sort of pasta.
- Beverages: Aim to drink 1 ½ liters of water (6 cups) + herbal beverages a day. Avoid any other beverages except wine.
- Olive oil is the main source of fat, do not skimp. Benefits are seen at a consumption of at least 2 tablespoons a day. Olive oil also provides satiety (among many other benefits) which is important if you are eating a meal made only with vegetables.
- Lathera dishes usually last 2-3 days (in fact they taste better the next day). I also use frozen peas or green beans in the winter for my lathera.
- Pites can be assembled (and baked) and frozen.
- Try and eat your main (largest) meal as early as you can.
- Cheese and yogurt are your main dairy sources.
- Finally, this is meant meant to be a guide, as each person’s (calorie) needs varies depending on age, gender, physical activity level etc. However, I advise you check the Greek Nutrition Guidelines which basically represents the Mediterranean diet that includes a range of servings. Go here to check the Greek Diet guidelines.
Images by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved