The Complete Mediterranean Diet Food List + 5-Day Menu Plan and Printable PDF List

Explore the #1 Diet! The Mediterranean Diet. Get a complete Mediterranean Diet Food List and a 5 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 . The Mediterranean diet has multiple health benefits including protection from heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. It also appears to protect from Alzheimer’s disease, improves mood and helps maintain a healthy weight, and aid in weight loss. 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.

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumbers
  • Green beans
  • Okra
  • Zucchini
  • Garlic
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Celery leaves
  • Beets
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Frozen (spinach, peas, green
  • beans)

-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.

  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Lemons
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Cherries
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Figs
  • Apricots
  • Dried Fruit: Raisins, Figs, Prunes, Apricots, Dates

-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.

  • Strained (Greek) Yogurt
  • Sheep’s milk yogurt
  • Feta cheese
  • Fresh cheese such as ricotta
  • Parmesan
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • Graviera
  • Mitzithra

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.

  • Chicken (whole, legs etc.)  
  • Ground Beef
  • Veal
  • Pork

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.

  • Anchovies (fresh or canned)
  • Sardines (fresh or canned)
  • Cod
  • Shrimp
  • Octopus
  • Calamari

Grains, Bread, Pasta, Rice

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.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Tahini
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Pine Nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Sesame seeds

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.

  • Lentils
  • White beans
  • Chickpeas (Garbanzo)
  • Butter beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Yellow Split Pea (fava)
  • Pinto Beans
  • Borlotti Beans

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.

  • Canned tomatoes
  • Tomato Paste
  • Olives
  • Sundried Tomatoes
  • Capers
  • Balsamic/red wine vinegar
  • Honey
  • Wine

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.

  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Cumin
  • All Spice
  • Cinnamon
  • Pepper/sea salt
  • Herbal teas (chamomile, mountain tea, sage, thyme, mint)

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.

  • Chicory
  • Dandelion
  • Beet Greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Collard greens
  • Endive
  • Chard
  • Amaranth
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.

5-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.


SAVE IT FOR LATER AND PIN IT

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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73 Comments

  • Reply Brenda McNabb-Stange January 14, 2020 at 7:26 pm

    I have a question about the spices. My husband is highly allergic to capsaicinoids based spice (e. g. jalapeno, chili, cayenne, red pepper). Are any of the spices in this cooking in that category (e.g. cumin, caramom. coriander, ainse, Aleppo Pepper)?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN January 15, 2020 at 5:58 am

      Hi Brenda, No, those spices you mention are typically not used in Greek-Mediterranean cuisine, occasionally cumin, but mostly herbs are used such as oregano, mint, basil, and dill.

  • Reply Barbara Schwenzer January 12, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    Hi I’m loving this site and I’m excited to start eating this way. Question tho how many times a week should we eat eggs? Is there a limit ?

  • Reply Madeline October 25, 2019 at 12:11 am

    I’m realizing that there are nuances to how I can tweak the Mediterrean Diet to help make it work for me even more. I live in a warmer climate so we have seasonal fruit such oranges. And since I also believe that we should use as much of the plant as possible I found that the outer peel can be dried and made into a tea. Another seasonal herb here that can be dried and made into tea comes from the calyxes of a particular species of hibiscus. Often I combine the orange peel with the hibiscus in a tasty tea.

    We also get ephemeral seasonal fruits such as mangoes, lychees and more, which are heavenly delights.

    After our earlier conversation about alternative starches to wheat, I thought about two grains that I like. One is millet, which I found grows in Greece! I reflected on my own ancestral traditional dietary roots in Eastern Europe. A favorite food there is buckwheat, which despite its name is not related to wheat and is gluten-free. Also Russia and nearby countries are some of the major oat growers in the world. When I studied herbal medicine, I learned about another use of a whole plant. The dried stems of oats, the oatstraw, can be brewed into a tasty and very healthful tea. It’s one of my personal favorites.

    I like the idea of expanding the idea of the healthy Mediterrean way of life in these way!

  • Reply Madeline October 21, 2019 at 2:53 am

    Sorry to bother you again, but I have one more question. Since the folks who followed this diet herded goats and sheep and made cheeses from their milk, did they also make butter from that milk?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN October 22, 2019 at 7:16 am

      Yes, a very common butter which they still make today is sheep’s milk butter. It has a strong flavor.

  • Reply Madeline October 18, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    Hi, this sounds great. I’ve been wanting to learn about the Mediterranean Diet for quite some time. My brother has been encouraging me to eat a Keto diet and claims he has lost 50 pounds on it. But it sounds dangerously unbalanced to me and as you say, it isn’t a diet that any historically known pros and cons.

    One thing I have heard about Keto is that it can help people who have epilepsy that doesn’t respond to medication. Doctors have known about this the 1920’s, but back then they didn’t recommend it to anyone other than those who had that condition. Well, I have epilepsy, but I’m doing fine on my meds, so I don’t think I need to go on Keto, and my doctor has not recommended it to me.

    A question I have is that I’m senstive to gluten, and lactose intolerant. I can eat butter and yogurt because they they don’t have lactose. I don’t eat much butter, mostly olive oil. So the recommendations of cheese and bread would not work for me. Have you any suggestions about if there’s anyway I could modify the diet?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN October 22, 2019 at 6:16 am

      Hi Madeline, Since you can eat yogurt, it is absolutely fine not to eat cheese. In fact a lot of the lathera dishes (vegetable casseroles) can be accompanied with some thick Greek yogurt instead of feta. You can also omit wheat bread and consume other sources of starch.

      • Reply Madeline October 24, 2019 at 8:03 pm

        Thanks. I tried some feta anyway and found that I can tolerate it. Good old Mediterrean Diet!

  • Reply Becky August 12, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    Thank you so much for all the information ! You are helping me improve my life! Any updates on the book?

  • Reply Dawn August 4, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    I was wondering if there are any authentic recipe books suggested. I know alot of them are not truly tge Mediterranean diet even though they claim to be

  • Reply Mily July 15, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    I do not see eggs on the list.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN July 20, 2019 at 4:44 pm

      Hi Mily, It’s been updated

    • Reply Lynda Peoples October 20, 2019 at 11:12 pm

      Has anyone in this forum lost weight on the Mediterranean diet?? Is there a lot of cooking involved in following the Mediterranean diet??

  • Reply Mia July 14, 2019 at 7:34 am

    Thank you for the excellent information and recipes. I am really looking forward to changing my eating habits accordingly. The only thing is I live in SA and don’t recognise some of the ingredients at all…eg many of the cheeses. My other hesitation is that I am a single mother of 2 young boys with a full time job and do not want to fall into becoming bored of eating vegetables because of lack of time to prepare them in different ways….I have noticed some quick recipes in your list, I will keep looking. I really appreciate that you have provided all this information free of charge and that it is obviously about your genuine interest and passion than money making. Many thanks.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN July 20, 2019 at 5:21 pm

      Thank you Mia! Yes, there are plenty of vegetable dishes , and you can make them ahead too!

  • Reply Shelly Mitchum June 28, 2019 at 6:35 pm

    Great info! I’m excited to start this new way of eating. 🙂

  • Reply Robin May 31, 2019 at 4:14 am

    Are avocados not part of the Mediterranean diet?

    • Reply Christiane June 1, 2019 at 9:39 pm

      I wondered about that too.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN June 4, 2019 at 5:11 am

      Hi Robin, Avocados were not cultivated in the Mediterranean, hence they were not part of the Mediterranean diet simply because they do not grow here. Only recently have they been cultivating them on the island of Crete. However, as they are a good source of monounsaturated fat you can incorporate them in your diet.

  • Reply Pat Haas May 20, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    I really need to start eating this way. Do you send out weekly articles/recipes, or is there a good book for beginners? I am 68 1/2 years old. I have diabetes (on oral medication) moderate exercise but have a huge amount of belly fat and I’m sure visceral fat. I’m female also

  • Reply Joanne M Krul January 29, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Is the Mediterranean diet the same as Keto diet. I’m confused. Need to lose weight20 lbs i’ve gained since quitting smoking. And I have high cholesterol and don ‘t want to go on pill. Help

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN January 30, 2019 at 8:36 am

      Hi Joanne, No the Mediterranean diet is not the same as keto. The difference is that the Mediterranean Diet has hundreds of studies supporting it, while the keto diet only has a few studies and it is not clear if it is safe long term. Also the main difference in terms of food is that the Mediterranean diet allows all food groups as opposed to the keto diet that restricts carbohydrates. It is also high in saturated fat (bad fat) and can lead to nutrient deficiencies among other side effects.

  • Reply Betty December 15, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Excellent site! Very informative and not overwhelming,

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN December 20, 2018 at 9:57 am

      Thank you Betty!

    • Reply Wanda Gibson May 24, 2019 at 1:10 am

      Recently diagnosed with high cholesterol 302 Dr. suggested Mediterranean diet please help feeling I just lost my best friend aka red meat! I have 6 mos to lower cholesterol and absolutely do not want to take the meds to lower! Is oatmeal acceptable on the diet? As I know it aids in lowering cholesterol! Help

      • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN August 8, 2019 at 8:39 am

        Hi Wanda. Thank you for reaching out. There are plenty foods in the Mediterranean Diet that can aid in lowering cholesterol: Beans, peas, okra, eggplant, dried fruit, nuts, barley rusks, olive oil, apples, pears all can lower your cholesterol. Oatmeal while not traditionally part of the Mediterranean diet is perfectly acceptable.

      • Reply Karen DeLamater September 9, 2019 at 7:21 pm

        Hello,

        I have been following some Mediterranean recipes from Pinterest for quite a while, but I’m not losing any weight. I am eating lots of vegetables, fruits, seafood and some poultry. What am I doing wrong?

  • Reply Richard Putz September 16, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    I truly enjoy this website. The shopping list is something I take with me on my trips to Whole foods and Kroger.
    This is the only true Greek Mediterranean lifestyle website. Thank you!

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