Mediterranean Diet Food List: How to Follow This Popular Meal Plan

Mediterranean Diet Food List: How to Follow This Popular Meal Plan

Unlike other diets, the Mediterranean diet doesn't have strict rules or cut out any food groups. Instead, it focuses on fresh produce, healthy fats, fish, and whole grains.




For the fifth year in a row, the Mediterranean diet won best overall diet in the US News & World Report's annual ranking, and there's a reason why: Research has linked the popular way of eating to a longer lifespan and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and age-related memory decline.


Unlike other popular diets, the Mediterranean diet doesn't involve strict rules like calorie counting or macro tracking. Instead, followers consume foods that are part of the traditional diet of people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea—lots of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and fish. If this sounds like an eating style for you, here's an overview of the specific foods that make up the bulk of the Mediterranean diet, plus the foods you should limit.

For the fifth year in a row, the Mediterranean diet won best overall diet in the US News & World Report's annual ranking, and there's a reason why: Research has linked the popular way of eating to a longer lifespan and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and age-related memory decline.



People who follow the Mediterranean diet eat four or more servings of vegetables a day and three or more servings of fruit, making produce a key staple. For reference, only 10% of American adults eat the recommended two to three cups of vegetables daily and just 12.3% eat the advised one and a half to two cups of fruit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Produce consumed on a Mediterranean diet includes:


Artichokes

Beets

Broccoli

Brussels sprouts

Cabbage

Carrots

Celery

Cucumbers

Eggplant

Leafy Greens

Mushrooms

Onions

Peppers

Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Zucchini

Apples

Apricots

Berries

Cherries

Citrus

Dates

Figs

Grapes

Melons

Peaches

Pears

Pomegranates

The vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants found in these fruits and veggies can help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer (the two leading causes of death in the US), and they may also boost your mental health. A 2020 study in the journal Nutrients also found that adults who consumed at least five servings of produce per day saw improvement in general well-being, sleep quality, life satisfaction, mood, curiosity, creativity, optimism, self-esteem, and happiness—not to mention a reduction in stress, nervousness, and anxiety.


While that all sounds great, it can be overwhelming trying to eat that much produce in a 24-hour period. My tip? When deciding what to eat for a meal or snack, start with produce first. Whip leafy greens and fruit into a breakfast smoothie. Swap a lunchtime sandwich for an entree salad, and replace half your dinner portion of pasta with spiralized zucchini or any vegetable. Round out the day with snacks like fruits and nuts or veggies with hummus.



People in the Mediterranean region tend to consume three to four servings of whole grains daily, with one serving equal to a half cup of cooked whole grain or slice of bread. Whole grains found in a Mediterranean diet include:


  • Barley

  • Buckwheat

  • Corn

  • Millet

  • Oats

  • Whole wheat

  • Whole grain bread

  • Whole grain pasta

  • Whole grain rice


Even though Americans are eating more whole grains, less than 16% of total daily grain consumption comes from whole grains, according to the CDC. This is concerning, given a 2018 review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high consumption of whole grains was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and overall death.


Try upgrading your refined grains to their whole counterparts. For example, swap a breakfast pastry for a bowl of oatmeal; opt for brown rice over white at dinner, or replace your white bread sandwich for a lunchtime salad made with cooked quinoa.



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