The Complete Mediterranean Diet Food List and 7-Day Menu Plan

Explore the #1 Diet! The Mediterranean Diet. Get a complete Mediterranean Diet Food List and a 7 Day Menu Plan that is based on the authentic Mediterranean Diet. By Mediterranean Diet Expert, Author and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Elena Paravantes RDN.

MEDITERRANEAN DIET FOOD LIST AND 7-DAY MENU PLAN

Table of Contents

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean Diet is an eating pattern and lifestyle that was observed in certain areas of the Mediterranean at a certain time and this eating pattern was associated with longevity and other health benefits. I say certain areas because the initial guidelines were based on research and information gathered on the typical diet  of Crete, much of the rest of Greece, and southern Italy in the early 1960s. Therefore, it is important to clarify that this is not a diet that reflects the eating pattern of the whole Mediterranean region as is often mistakenly described.

Mediterranean Diet Basics

  • This way of eating is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, often consumed as a main course, meat is consumed a few times a month and extra virgin olive oil is used generously particularly in vegetable dishes.
  • Other plant foods that will supplement your diet will include fruit, nuts and seeds.
  • A Mediterranean diet does not depend much on packaged foods.
  • Local and seasonal food is preferred.
  • Extra virgin olive is the main source of fat in the diet, not other oils. It is used for all roasting, frying and sautéing.
  • Dairy will include mainly yogurt and cheese.
  • Fish and poultry are consumed moderately 1-2 times a week.
  • Beverages are mainly water, wine (with food), coffee, tea and herbal beverages.
  • Red meat including pork is consumed about once a week.

SCROLL DOWN TO GET THE COMPLETE MEDITERRANEAN DIET FOOD LIST AND MENU PLAN FOR FREE!

Mediterranean Diet Food List

The Mediterranean diet generally is not based on rare or exotic foods, nor is it about complex recipes. Most ingredients are easy to find. The original version, particularly the Greek diet which was the prototype of this now popular eating pattern, is based on simplicity. This is a plant based diet with the key components being vegetables and olive oil. Many of you have requested this Mediterranean Diet food list and here I present you with a free list (scroll down) with all the foods that can help you follow an authentic Mediterranean diet.

The list is based on a traditional Greek Mediterranean diet mostly which is the prototype of the Mediterranean Diet. Some unique aspects include the consumption of greens (horta), mainly small fish, and of course the importance of herbs not only for cooking, but for drinking. Herbal drinks are consumed very often and there has been ongoing research on the benefits of drinking these beverages.

It is important to note that a Mediterranean diet is also a sustainable diet, that means low on meat and going local and seasonal as much as possible. I am quite surprised when I see so-called Mediterranean recipes and almost all of them are composed of some sort of meat with vegetables on the side. That is not a typical Mediterranean meal, a typical Mediterranean meal is mainly vegetables and in most cases no meat, except for celebratory meals. Low on meat means good for the earth.

Another important aspect is the local and seasonal aspect. Try and consume vegetables, fruit and fish that are produced or grown as close to you as possible.

Below,  I go through all the food groups followed by a Mediterranean Diet Food List you can get for free:

What to Eat – Mediterranean Diet Food List

-Vegetables-

The key here is to be seasonal and as local as possible. No need to buy imported artichokes for example. What is more important is the method they are cooked and how they are consumed: cooked in olive oil and tomato usually, and consumed as a main course. I do recommend having on hand some frozen vegetables such as peas, spinach (for a quick spanakopita) and green beans when you cannot access fresh produce.

-Fruit-

Same concept, local and seasonal. It should be noted that Greeks consume more citrus in the winter which are an important source of antioxidants.

-Dairy-

Main sources of dairy is cheese and yogurt. I did not include milk in this list, but if you consume it add it to your list. It should be noted that dairy consumed within a Mediterranean diet is not low fat.

Meat and Poultry

Red meat is generally consumed once a week and chicken once a week. Meat is not the main attraction in any meal, unless it is a holiday or celebration. Common meat dishes include beef patties with herbs, chicken cooked in tomato, roasted chicken or roasted lamb.

Eggs

 Eggs play such an important role in the Mediterranean diet. As the diet had very little meat, eggs were a good form of protein and were consumed as a main meal.  Eggs are generally consumed as an evening meal or even for lunch accompanied with a salad. Usually as an omelette and sometimes fried in olive oil.

Fish and Seafood

The fish is mainly small and fatty. But remember even in Greece in the mountainous areas, fish was not necessarily consumed fresh, but mostly in a cured form. So you can go ahead and use canned sardines and anchovies.

Grains and Bread

The Mediterranean diet is not a high carbohydrate diet, in fact nutrition analysis show that only 40% of calories come from carbs. They most common carb is bread. Bread accompanies all the vegetable dishes. Once a week there will be a dish with pasta, and rice is often mixed with vegetables such as in spinach rice or leek rice.

Fats and nuts

As noted olive oil is your main source of fat, you use it for cooking, baking and sautéing. Try and find the freshest extra virgin olive oil you can get your hands on. Get some tips here for buying olive oil.

Beans

Beans play an important role in the Mediterranean diet. We eat them about twice a week. In Greece we use mostly dry, but canned can work for convenience.

Pantry Items

Items that are not on the other list will go here. One of my most used pantry items are canned tomatoes that I use when making all those vegetable dishes on the winter.

Herbs and Spices

Greek cuisine is mostly a cuisine of herbs, and there a few spices that are used such as cinnamon sticks, all spice and occasionally cumin. Herbs are also used in beverages, and play an important in the health benefits of the diet.

Greens

This is another aspect of the diet that is important nutritionally. Try and include various greens in your diet. In Greece we lightly boil them and serve them with olive oil and lemon. Or you can make a pita (hortopita) with them.

THE COMPLETE MEDITERRANEAN DIET FOOD AND SHOPPING LIST

What to Drink

  • Your main go-to beverage is water.
  • Consume wine only with meals.
  • Drink herbal beverages as they are an important part of the diet. They are great source of antioxidants and also a source of hydration. Herbal beverages such as chamomile, thyme, sage and linden are drank often and have been associated with health benefits.
  • Coffee is also consumed once or twice a day.

Foods to Avoid on The Mediterranean Diet

  • Vegetable and seed oils such as corn oil and canola oil. While these oils may promote themselves as heart healthy they do not contain any antioxidants. Extra Virgin Olive oil is a source of a multitude of protective antioxidants.
  • “Mediterranean” processed snack foods. Many companies sell snack foods such as chips, breakfast bars that may contain some ingredient that may be associated with the Mediterranean diet, however they are highly processed and often full of added sugars or vegetable oils.
  • Soft drinks and other sweetened beverages. They do not even exist in the Mediterranean Diet.
  • Flavored yogurts. Yogurt should only contain milk and yogurt cultures, no corn starch, gelatin, added sugars, artificial flavors.
  • Ready Made Salad Dressings. Apart from the fact that many are made with unhealthy vegetable oils, even the ones containing olive oil have lost most of their nutrients (especially antioxidants) when sitting in a bottle .

4 Tips How to Start a Mediterranean Diet

So now that you have a bit of information on the background and basics of the diet, it is time to start. Luckily this diet is easy to follow and delicious, so it will not be too hard to get started. Here are some small changes you can make today:

  • Eat meat as a side dish. Red meat is limited to one serving a week, but if it’s hard to do that, how about trying to have red meat as a side, rather than a main course? You can eat red meat two times a week in this way, an example would be a vegetable casserole with 2 ounces of meat on the side.
  • Use olive oil as your main source of fat and the right amount. 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, it should your main source of fat in your diet and you should make sure you are using it correctly.
  • Keep cooking simple. A mistake a lot of people make when they start a Mediterranean diet is finding various “Mediterranean” complex recipes that require numerous and special or exotic ingredients, long preparation or recipes with foods that they don’t usually eat. Traditional Mediterranean recipes are usually easy and simple to make with real, seasonal ingredients that you most likely have on hand. Three starter recipes I recommend are: Greek Spinach and RiceTraditional Green Bean casserole and One-Pot Black-Eyed Peas. 
  • Make an effort to eat fish (canned is OK). Most of us just don’t get enough fish in their diet. If you find fresh that’s fine, but canned, marinated and cured fish is good too, as well as frozen. It is preferable that you consume small fatty fish such as anchovies and sardines.

7-Day Mediterranean Diet Menu Plan

Now that you have everything you need, check out the Mediterranean Diet Menu plan. Get the menu by clicking here: The Authentic Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan.

Mediterranean Diet Recipes

Check our expansive collection of authentic Mediterranean Diet Recipes by heading over to our Recipe Index. And if you want even more recipes and a Mediterranean Diet Guide that includes a 14-Day Menu, Lifestyle Tips then you will love my book! Check out The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners.

Want More Guidance?

Click below for a more detailed Mediterranean Diet Menu.

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Explore the wonderful Mediterranean Diet. Print this free complete Mediterranean Diet Food List that is based on the authentic Mediterranean Diet. By Mediterranean Diet Expert and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Elena Paravantes RDN.

Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved

*This post originally appeared on Olive Tomato in 2018 and has been updated with additional information.

References

Hellenic Ministry of Health and Welfare, Supreme Scientific Health Council. Dietary Guidelines for adults in Greece. Archives of Hellenic Medicine. 1999;16(5):516-524.

Keys A, Aravanis C, Blackburn H, Buzina R, Djordjevic BS, Dontas AS, Fidanza F, Karvonen MJ, Kimura N, Menotti A, Mohacek I, Nedeljkovic S, Puddu V, Punsar S, Taylor HL, Van Buchem FSP. Seven Countries. A Multivariate Analysis of Death and Coronary Heart Disease. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press; 1980.

Willett WC, Sacks F, Trichopoulou A, Drescher G, Ferro-Luzzi A, Helsing E, Trichopoulos D. Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Jun;61(6 Suppl):1402S-1406S.

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56 Comments

  • Reply Jackie Price October 16, 2021 at 7:19 pm

    I live in Mexico and rusks just don’t exist here. What can I substitute instead?

  • Reply Tom from Philadelphia March 17, 2021 at 12:36 am

    Hello,
    I was diagnosed with diabetes last week. My doctor suggested the Mediterranean Diet (or if I understand correctly, the Cretan Diet). I have been following the diet and I already feel better. I just want to say thank you for this resource.

  • Reply Mikki February 12, 2021 at 2:22 pm

    I’m new here and very excited to eat this way. I was looking around for an anti inflammatory way to eat because of knee pain which doc gives me drugs for I know 2 things I need to do and that is eat better and lose some weight. Looks like I found a way to do both in this diet. I’ll let you know how my first recipe goes.

  • Reply Sandra January 10, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    I also have gastritis and acid reflux, for many years. I’m going to try this diet and minimize the tomato base meals. I find fresh tomato i tolerate better than sauce. I also will omit fresh onion but I do ok with cooked shallot, leek or fennel. The best reference to learn about acid reflux I’ve found is The acid watcher diet, by Dr Aviv. It contradicts a lot of ingredients here but lots of great info and if your new to this life it’s a good base to learn how to live with gastritis and herd. Hope this helps. I’d also love to hear the answer to you questions above.

  • Reply Katie Speciale January 7, 2021 at 1:29 am

    Hello. Great site you have here!
    I’m suffering with gastritis and some gerd from the inflammation. I been reading that a mediterranean diet will help heal me. I’m worried about the tomato content in this. Do you have experience with gerd patients and or gastritis patients? Has this diet benefitted them? I’m at whits end trying to figure out what to and what not to consume. The internet is so contradictory. Thank you so much !

  • Reply Katie January 7, 2021 at 1:25 am

    Hello,
    I been diagnosed with gastritis and getting gerd symptoms with it. I read a mediterranean diet is good for healing the gut. Worried that the tomato base in this way of eating will cause the acid reflux to act up. Anyone reading this experience reflux or gastritis and if so does this way of eating help your symptoms? Thanks

  • Reply Valerie Doerfler July 20, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    Hi Elena again, my husband does not tolerate rich cheese even though Feta is a main ingredient in many recipes. I am adding feta to my servings but is there a milder cheese besides feta or goat, etc that I can put on his dishes or can I use like shredded mozzarella? Thanks, Valerie

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN July 20, 2020 at 2:30 pm

      Hello Valerie, feta cheese is actually lighter than mozzarella both in terms of calories and fat. He can use another type of cheese to accompany a meal but as an ingredient I would not suggest it as it would give a different texture and flavor.

  • Reply Valerie Doerfler July 9, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    Hi again Elena,
    I wanted to ask about smoothies because I go to work at 5:30 in the morning to be at school to prepare for class by 6:50 and I love to make a smoothie for breakfast and drink it on the way. I also really love the protein powder that I use because it has so many nutrients and greens in it and it is plant based. Being a vegetarian for so long, I really like the ease and benefits I get from it every morning. I use almond milk and frozen fruit with a banana and the powders I add (A few others too). Would I still be able to eat the smoothie for breakfast and benefit from this diet the rest of the day? I noticed you have mentioned in some of your posts to just eat the fruit and not a smoothie but I can’t get all the same benefits from a few pieces of fruit that I can from the smoothie in such a compact and easy way to eat my breakfast. I usually have fresh fruits for a snack. Thanks for your advice and recipes. I am excited to start cooking them next week.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN July 9, 2020 at 3:46 pm

      Hi Valerie, Yes. But you would need to take account of how many fruit you are adding in the morning. You would also need to check what is in the powders, oftentimes the nutrients in powders are not absorbed as they would be from unprocessed foods.

      • Reply Valerie Doerfler July 17, 2020 at 9:03 pm

        Great thank you for your help and advice!

  • Reply Nancy June 15, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    I don’t eat dairy products. I have not been officially diagnosed with a dairy allergy, but I feel better when I don’t eat them. Can I substitute vegan cheese and yogurts?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN June 21, 2020 at 6:50 am

      Hi Nancy, yes you can either omit dairy products altogether. In fact in the traditional Greek diet (which was the prototype of the Mediterranean diet) they did not eat dairy for 200 days a year. If you will use vegan dairy products be aware of some the ingredients used to make them.

  • Reply Debbie February 23, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    This site is great. I loved reading all of the comment and responses. Very informative and useful information.

  • Reply ECfromDC February 1, 2020 at 9:20 am

    Can I do riced cauliflower or quinoa instead of rice?
    I can’t do regular rice or bread.

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