Some diets are extremely rigid, but the Mediterranean diet uses simple guidelines to improve your eating habits without leaving you feeling hungry or restricted. That's mainly why it was named the Best Diet of 2021 for the fourth year in a row by the U.S. News & World Report.
There's no one diet that's eaten by the 21 countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, and instead of drawing on dishes common in the Mediterranean, the diet focuses on the wealth of healthy foods available in that area. Because it's near a large body of water, seafood is on the Mediterranean diet menu, as are vegetables, olive oil and some wine.
Are You Getting Enough Fruits and Veggies?
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, and How to Get Started
If health issues or weight loss are a concern, the Mediterranean diet may be a great lifestyle choice. According to the University of Pennsylvania Medicine, the Mediterranean diet is associated with:
- Prevention and treatment of diabetes
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Lower risk of high cholesterol levels
- Weight loss
We can thank many of these benefits to the diet being low in animal food sources and high in plant sources, including fruits and vegetables.
How to Eat on the Med Diet
- Get plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains
- Make olive oil your go-to choice of fat
- Opt for a moderate amount of poultry and fish
- Enjoy low-fat dairy such as cheese and yogurt in moderate amounts
- Have red meat in small amounts
- Enjoy a glass of wine in small amounts and mostly with meals
Your 4-Week Mediterranean Meal Plan
Planning your meals for the week is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success. The Mediterranean Diet focuses on a range of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats.
This 4-week meal plan reflects this method with a variety of recipes focusing on a plant-forward approach with the incorporation of lean protein and dairy sources. It's designed to provide a full week of meals using 12 recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert.
So for each day of each week, you'd choose one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner. Feel free to supplement with additional fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and seeds as you make your way through the week.
Once you are comfortable with these dishes, feel free to mix and match them. It's fun to experiment and try new things — and it just might help you stick to the diet longer and feel more satisfied!
- Lentil Pasta With Creamy Red Pepper Sauce and Spinach
- Instant Pot Whole Chicken paired with Seeds and Greens Bulgur Buddha Salad
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo served on top of your favorite whole grain, like brown rice or quinoa, and a side of sautéed cauliflower or broccoli.
- Baked Falafel with pita bread, tzatziki and chopped cucumber, romaine and tomatoes.
- Smoked Salmon Avocado Toast with fruit of choice
- Warm Italian Pasta Salad With Charred Broccoli and Bell Pepper
Tip: Watch Portion Sizes
While the Mediterranean diet is healthful, there aren't any specific recommendations for portion size or calorie intake, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. So while the food you're eating is healthy, you can still gain weight if you don't monitor portion sizes.
For example, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (found in nuts, olives and fish) in the Mediterranean diet are healthier for your heart than saturated fat, they're calorie-dense. Fat has 9 calories per gram, no matter what kind of fat it is.
Because of this, portion size is key when eating nuts or other high-calorie foods regardless of how nutritious they may be.
Not ready to commit to a full month? Try this 7-Day Meal Plan to get started.
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