How to Lose Weight on a Mediterranean Diet – 5 Tips

June 9, 2016

Mediterranean Diet Weight LossYou can lose weight on the Mediterranean Diet. New research coming from the now known PREDIMED study, a long-term nutritional intervention study aimed to assess the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet in the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases, showed that people lost slightly more weight when following a Mediterranean diet, compared to a low-fat diet. They also had the least increase in waist circumference compared to the low-fat diet. Of course this is not the first time the Mediterranean diet has been associated with weight loss, another study in 2008 published in the New England Journal of Medicine also showed that there was greater weight loss with the Mediterranean diet compared to a low-fat diet. Other studies have also associated the Mediterranean diet with a healthy weight in children as well as in pregnant women.

So it is not something new. Now, to clarify, many people associate the Mediterranean diet with lots of pasta and olive oil. That is a misconception, the traditional Mediterranean diet that had as a prototype the Cretan diet is mainly plants and olive oil with some carbs interspersed, it is a moderate to high fat diet with a moderate amount of carbohydrates.

If you want to lose weight following a Mediterranean diet here are my 5 tips that work.

1. Eat your main meal early in the day

Traditionally within a Mediterranean diet, lunch is the main meal , it being consumed between 1 to 3 pm. By moving a larger meal early in the day, you reduce the risk of overeating later. In fact a Spanish study showed that people who ate their largest meal before 3 pm lost more weight.

2. Eat vegetables as a main course cooked in olive oil

I cannot stress this enough but this type of dish is the magic of the Greek diet. By eating a vegetable dish cooked in olive oil and tomato not only are you satisfied, but you are consuming 3-4 servings of vegetables in one sitting. These dishes are of moderate caloric level and low in carbs. Accompany it with a piece of feta cheese and you are set. Another benefit of eating vegetables as a main course is that because it is not a carb rich meal you will avoid the sleepiness that follows. For some Greek basic vegetables based main courses click here.

3. You should drink water mostly and sometimes tea, coffee and wine (for adults)

Yes, it is standard in some countries (like the US) to drink milk with meals, but is it really necessary? No. With the Mediterranean diet most dairy comes from cheese and yogurt, so save your calories and use them by eating solid food rather than liquid calories. The same goes for juice. Nobody really needs juice, eat your fruit. They are filling and you get all the fiber and nutrients. As for coffee and wine, each has its place in the Mediterranean diet, but they do not replace water. Traditional Greek coffee has been associated with several health benefits and so has wine.

4. Consume the right amount of olive oil

More and more research is confirming what we here in the Mediterranean already know: good fat does not make you fat. Yes, calories count, but in order to sustain a vegetable based diet you need something to provide satiety and flavor; and that is olive oil. Olive oil not only makes all those vegetables delicious, it makes the meal filling. That does not mean, however, that you should be pouring olive oil mindlessly on everything. A good amount that is also associated with all the health benefits is about 3 tablespoons a day.

5. Move

The Mediterranean diet is not only a diet, it is a lifestyle, so moving around is imperative. Walking is fine, but general movement throughout the day is key. It’s not enough to go to the gym for an hour in the morning and then sit at your office or on the couch the rest of the day. Take walking breaks, do some stretches every hour, do housework and if you can walk somewhere, do that instead of driving.


Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved

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  • Reply Pippa Moore February 13, 2023 at 5:40 pm

    “That does not mean, however, that you should be pouring olive oil mindlessly on everything. A good amount that is also associated with all the health benefits is about 3 tablespoons a day.” – I feel like if I follow the recipes I will consume more more than 3 TBSP. Can you please clarify?

  • Reply Gail Dunning September 24, 2022 at 7:27 pm

    Since I last posted, my life has been turned upside down. My husband was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent treatment which involved a 50 mile round trip 5 days a week, had a few complications and mishaps and I have become his caregiver. The cancer is gone, but he still has many problems.

    I am now faced with the gain of a few pounds due to non compliance with my diet. I am having trouble getting back on track, because I seem to use food, especially sugar, as a tranquilizer. Consequently, I am hungry all the time.

    Anyway, I need to remind myself that during the year plus I stuck to healthy eating, I was not hungry all the time, I ate lots of food and NEVER – NOT ONCE – FELT DEPRIVED. Not to mention that my weight loss, while not fast, was steady and completely painless! That’s my pep talk to myself and anyone else who has faltered.

    One good thing I have done is find a walking friend. I am pretty slow and out of shape, but I can do it.

    • Reply September 30, 2022 at 8:40 am

      Hi Gail, Sorry about your husband, good to hear that the cancer is gone. Try to practice self-care, and be easy on yourself. Bravo on finding a walking friend!

  • Reply Rhonda Christman February 7, 2022 at 5:34 pm

    Hi Elena. I love your cookbook and have tried a few of the recipes so far–all are amazing! I do have a question: Some of the recipes call for mint, and I am not a fan of mint. What do you suggest using instead?


  • Reply Pat January 28, 2022 at 9:57 pm

    Hi Elena, I have a question regarding weight loss on the Mediterranean Diet. I decided after some research, and listening to Dr. William Li, who wrote the book, How To Beat Disease, say that the Mediterranean diet is THE best way of eating. I’ve been eating a Whole Food Plant Based low fat and high carbohydrate diet. I never really feel or stay satiated very long after eating this way. I find I don’t have that problem when eating a Mediterranean diet, and I know it’s because of the fats in the diet, however I am having a hard time when I see the number of calories and the very high fat content in a lot of the recipes in your cookbook, which by the way is beautiful, easy to follow and full of lots of information. I am willing to eat some fish, eggs, dairy but no red meat, pork or chicken.

    I’m trying to understand how I can lose weight eating those many calories and fat. Can you enlighten me as to how this will happen. After eating a very low fat, high carbohydrate diet it is hard to get my head wrapped around it all and all I can think is that I will be putting on more weight instead of taking it off. I have been trying to eat the lower calorie recipes but there are so many more I’d like to try. Thank you.

  • Reply Gail Dunning December 11, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    The Satsuma oranges are ripe! My neighbor has a tree and started supplying me with them last year not too long after I embarked on the the Mediterranean diet. Yesterday, she brought me some from this years crop. They are so pretty and so good. They make me smile!

    AND, as of this morning, I have lost 30 lbs!

  • Reply cheryl November 17, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    Hi I’m 60 in January obese as the doctor said! Do you think I should start Mediterranean diet now, as I would like to lose a bit of weight by then and healthier! What you suggest at Xmas still do the med diet?

    • Reply Gail Dunning December 4, 2021 at 5:23 am

      Cheryl, I was frightened about my high blood pressure and my obesity especially because it seems to make Covid worse, so I quit my bad diet “cold turkey”. What I do is when a celebratory meal comes along, I try to eat in moderation. For thanksgiving, I volunteered to bring pre dinner snacks which included a little salami and a giant pile of veggies with ranch dip. I indulged in a little salami, a few kalamata olives and a whole bunch of veggies without dip. That way I wasn’t so inclined to overeat at the table.

      I got the Covid booster the other day. Between that, my healthy diet and loosing some weight, I’m hoping to stay alive for a while longer. I can’t believe I’m going to be 80 next year. Yikes!

  • Reply Gail Dunning November 9, 2021 at 4:21 pm

    Well, I’m not exactly settling the world on fire with speed, but I’m up to 28 lbs lost now. My near term goal is 2 more pounds. My slightly farther out goal is to loose 7 more pounds. At that point I will be out of the obese category and merely overweight. LOL. My doctor was impressed that I had stuck with the plan for over a year.
    I love broccoli! I eat it several times a week.

    The best thing about this approach to eating is as long as I keep my kitchen stocked with food on the shopping list and eat regular meals, I don’t have to mess with a food diary, count anything or be ravenously hungry.

  • Reply Gail Dunning September 24, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    In a few days, it will be a year that I have been following this traditional way of eating. Today, I reached a milestone. I have lost 25 pounds! I am proud of myself! I don’t think. I have ever stuck to a diet for an entire year. I didn’t set out to lose weight; I wanted to lower my blood pressure. Unfortunately, my blood pressure is still not good enough to stop any of the meds I take, but at least it is stable.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN October 10, 2021 at 7:07 am

      Congratulations Gail!! Bravo! Try adding more potassium rich foods to your diet (you probably are) as they can help control blood pressure. Some high potassium foods include: apricots (dry or fresh), artichokes, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, dates (dry or fresh) and bananas.

  • Reply Gail Dunning September 11, 2021 at 6:53 pm

    I had lost 24lbs, but due to noncompliance, I gained 2 lbs back. I am back on track now, but those two pounds have been a real struggle. Another 3/4 lbs and I will be caught up. My advice: use the shopping list and don’t deviate.

    The good news is that I went to a small family reunion in Santa Barbara. I had a wonderful time and enjoyed my meals and didn’t gain. It was “a little of this, a little of that” at home that did the damage.

    I am addicted to Mediterranean Feta Toast at the moment. This is a good thing.

  • Reply Abby July 8, 2021 at 3:38 pm

    Can you direct me to the recipe in the photo for the article? Looks like a yummy open-faced sandwich.

  • Reply Gail Dunning June 29, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    Update: today is exactly 9 months since I started this diet and I have now lost 21lbs. It really has been relatively painless. I wonder how many satsumas, cherry tomatoes and avocados I’ve eaten? A lot, I know! And lots of beans, too.

  • Reply Georgia March 19, 2021 at 6:24 pm

    How do you feel about avocado oil. I know it is not traditionally Greek but it seems to have similar properties. Thanks for all the work you do and great information.

  • Reply Gail Dunning March 6, 2021 at 7:54 pm

    My doctor suggested the Mediterranean Diet. I went on line and read all the studies and ran across Elena’s website.

    I have lost 17 lbs since September, and it was pretty painless. I’ve been purchasing according to the shopping list, and that’s all I eat. I have made food from Elena’s cookbook, and I have made up my own recipes. Some of my food looks Greek, some of it looks Californian, but it is all loaded with beautiful, colorful fruits and vegetables and BEANS! Olive oil, sardines and mackerel…I have almost eliminated red meat and have only had a few pieces of chicken since I started.

    Aside from health benefits, I don’t have to count calories or be food obsessed because I am so hungry. For me, this is huge.

    I certainly have strayed into the junk food world on a few occasions. I probably wouldn’t be having so much fun if I didn’t like fish, and olives so much. I think I’ll go make me a mezze for lunch.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN March 7, 2021 at 3:00 pm

      Thank you Gail! Congratulations on your weight loss! Such a beautiful description of the your food. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply Tammy May 11, 2021 at 8:23 pm

      wow that is great! I am trying to lose weight and want to start a Mediterranean lifestyle. Do you exercise? Do you measure the foods?

      Thanks Tammy

  • Reply Helen Pappin January 26, 2021 at 12:02 am

    Hi Elena, Thank you very much for such great healthy recipes and the information and history included. I have cooked a lot of the recipes and shared them with my family and we have all loved them. Thank you also for taking so much time to put all of this together, I looked forward every day to the new challenges posted and feel at this stage that it will become part of my everyday diet. I also feel a lot healthier and have more energy. I always said I would visit Greece after seeing the movie and reading the book – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, such beautiful scenery and interesting story. One day, when the world settles down again, I hopefully will…
    Best wishes

    Helen P

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