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 Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet

A Mediterranean diet refers to food and lifestyle choices that are based on the traditions of countries located on the Mediterranean Sea. It focuses on eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy fats, and eating less dairy, meat, eggs, and processed foods with added sugar, salt, and fat. This way of eating has been shown to help prevent certain conditions and improve outcomes for people who have chronic diseases, like kidney disease and heart disease.

What are tips for following this plan?

Reading food labels

  • Check the serving size of packaged foods. For foods such as rice and pasta, the serving size refers to the amount of cooked product, not dry.
  • Check the total fat in packaged foods. Avoid foods that have saturated fat or trans fats.
  • Check the ingredient list for added sugars, such as corn syrup.


  • Buy a variety of foods that offer a balanced diet, including:
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables (produce).
    • Grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Some of these may be available in unpackaged forms or large amounts (in bulk).
    • Fresh seafood.
    • Poultry and eggs.
    • Low-fat dairy products.
  • Buy whole ingredients instead of prepackaged foods.
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in-season from local farmers markets.
  • Buy plain frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • If you do not have access to quality fresh seafood, buy precooked frozen shrimp or canned fish, such as tuna, salmon, or sardines.
  • Stock your pantry so you always have certain foods on hand, such as olive oil, canned tuna, canned tomatoes, rice, pasta, and beans.


  • Cook foods with extra-virgin olive oil instead of using butter or other vegetable oils.
  • Have meat as a side dish, and have vegetables or grains as your main dish. This means having meat in small portions or adding small amounts of meat to foods like pasta or stew.
  • Use beans or vegetables instead of meat in common dishes like chili or lasagna.
  • Experiment with different cooking methods. Try roasting, broiling, steaming, and sautéing vegetables.
  • Add frozen vegetables to soups, stews, pasta, or rice.
  • Add nuts or seeds for added healthy fats and plant protein at each meal. You can add these to yogurt, salads, or vegetable dishes.
  • Marinate fish or vegetables using olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh herbs.

Meal planning

  • Plan to eat one vegetarian meal one day each week. Try to work up to two vegetarian meals, if possible.
  • Eat seafood two or more times a week.
  • Have healthy snacks readily available, such as:
    • Vegetable sticks with hummus.
    • Greek yogurt.
    • Fruit and nut trail mix.
  • Eat balanced meals throughout the week. This includes:
    • Fruit: 2–3 servings a day.
    • Vegetables: 4–5 servings a day.
    • Low-fat dairy: 2 servings a day.
    • Fish, poultry, or lean meat: 1 serving a day.
    • Beans and legumes: 2 or more servings a week.
    • Nuts and seeds: 1–2 servings a day.
    • Whole grains: 6–8 servings a day.
    • Extra-virgin olive oil: 3–4 servings a day.
  • Limit red meat and sweets to only a few servings a month.


  • Cook and eat meals together with your family, when possible.
  • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine pale yellow.
  • Be physically active every day. This includes:
    • Aerobic exercise like running or swimming.
    • Leisure activities like gardening, walking, or housework.
  • Get 7–8 hours of sleep each night.
  • If recommended by your health care provider, drink red wine in moderation. This means 1 glass a day for nonpregnant women and 2 glasses a day for men. A glass of wine equals 5 oz (150 mL).

What foods should I eat?


Apples. Apricots. Avocado. Berries. Bananas. Cherries. Dates. Figs. Grapes. Lemons. Melon. Oranges. Peaches. Plums. Pomegranate.


Artichokes. Beets. Broccoli. Cabbage. Carrots. Eggplant. Green beans. Chard. Kale. Spinach. Onions. Leeks. Peas. Squash. Tomatoes. Peppers. Radishes.


Whole-grain pasta. Brown rice. Bulgur wheat. Polenta. Couscous. Whole-wheat bread. Oatmeal. Quinoa.

Meats and other proteins

Beans. Almonds. Sunflower seeds. Pine nuts. Peanuts. Cod. Salmon. Scallops. Shrimp. Tuna. Tilapia. Clams. Oysters. Eggs. Poultry without skin.


Low-fat milk. Cheese. Greek yogurt.

Fats and oils

Extra-virgin olive oil. Avocado oil. Grapeseed oil.


Water. Red wine. Herbal tea.

Sweets and desserts

Greek yogurt with honey. Baked apples. Poached pears. Trail mix.

Seasonings and condiments

Basil. Cilantro. Coriander. Cumin. Mint. Parsley. Sage. Rosemary. Tarragon. Garlic. Oregano. Thyme. Pepper. Balsamic vinegar. Tahini. Hummus. Tomato sauce. Olives. Mushrooms.

The items listed above may not be a complete list of foods and beverages you can eat. Contact a dietitian for more information.

What foods should I limit?

This is a list of foods that should be eaten rarely or only on special occasions.


Fruit canned in syrup.


Deep-fried potatoes (french fries).


Prepackaged pasta or rice dishes. Prepackaged cereal with added sugar. Prepackaged snacks with added sugar.

Meats and other proteins

Beef. Pork. Lamb. Poultry with skin. Hot dogs. Bacon.


Ice cream. Sour cream. Whole milk.

Fats and oils

Butter. Canola oil. Vegetable oil. Beef fat (tallow). Lard.


Juice. Sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Beer. Liquor and spirits.

Sweets and desserts

Cookies. Cakes. Pies. Candy.

Seasonings and condiments

Mayonnaise. Pre-made sauces and marinades.

The items listed above may not be a complete list of foods and beverages you should limit. Contact a dietitian for more information.


  • The Mediterranean diet includes both food and lifestyle choices.
  • Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Limit the amount of red meat and sweets that you eat.
  • If recommended by your health care provider, drink red wine in moderation. This means 1 glass a day for nonpregnant women and 2 glasses a day for men. A glass of wine equals 5 oz (150 mL).

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.