The Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet based on how people eat in countries around the Mediterranean Sea.
The diet is ranked as one of the best or healthiest diets available.1 Research has shown it can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and dementia and support metabolic health.2
While more of an eating style and way of life than a diet, the Mediterranean diet is a plant-forward eating plan that includes lean protein, legumes, seafood, poultry, and low-fat dairy products. Other lifestyle habits like taking your time to eat, enjoying meals with family and friends, getting regular exercise, and adequate sleep are encouraged.
In this article, we’ll explain some simple ways to start incorporating Mediterranean foods and principles into your life.
What Foods Are in a Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating plan that incorporates fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds daily. It also includes lean protein foods like beans, seafood, poultry, lean meats, eggs, and low-fat dairy products.
While not a restrictive diet, it recommends limiting fried foods, red meats, desserts, and sweets.
This eating style is high in fiber and healthy fats while low in refined sugars and saturated fat. People who follow the Mediterranean diet have been shown to have a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, dementia, and certain types of cancer.2
20 Easy and Tasty Recipes for Every Meal of the Day
It’s easy to incorporate Mediterranean diet principles into your meals. Here are 20 recipe ideas to help get you started.
Mediterranean Diet Breakfast Recipes
Egg Sandwiches with Arugula and Tuna
This yummy breakfast sandwich incorporates many Mediterranean diet principles all in one sandwich: a heart whole grain bun topped with arugula and albacore tuna, and a gooey poached egg. The arugula gives it a delicious peppery bite, so all you need is a sprinkle of salt and pepper on the egg, but you can add a little whole-grain mustard if you desire.
Like avocado toast, whole grain toast uses hummus instead of butter. It’s a high-protein breakfast that will fill you up and get your morning off to a great start.
In this simple recipe, a thick slice of toasted whole-grain bread has a couple of tablespoons of plain or roasted garlic hummus spread over the top. Diced tomato, roasted red peppers, and microgreens are added for a veggie-filled, high-fiber breakfast.
Breakfast Egg Muffins
Egg muffins are an easy make-ahead breakfast. Whip up a batch of these on your day off and pop them in the freezer for a quick grab-and-go meal.
Scramble 6 eggs with a little milk (regular, almond, or soy). Add some chopped greens like baby spinach or kale and diced red peppers. Grease a 6-well muffin tin and divide the mixture between the 6 wells. Bake it at 350°F for 15 - 20 minutes, until the muffins puff in the center and are firm to the touch.
Quinoa & Chia Oatmeal Mix
While oatmeal is a delicious and hearty breakfast, you can kick it up a notch by adding some quinoa and chia seeds. They'll add protein and heart-healthy omega-3s.
Add quinoa to steel-cut oats and cook them together. Stir in a teaspoon or two of chia seeds along with chopped pecans or cinnamon-spiced apples for flavor. You'll have a healthy, high-protein, high-fiber breakfast without added sugar.
Mediterranean Diet Lunch Recipes
Mediterranean Grain Bowls With Lentils and Chickpeas
Grain bowls are an easy low glycemic lunch that you can pack and fill with various healthy ingredients. This Mediterranean-inspired bowl starts with a blend of farro and lentils as the base.
In this grain bowl, mix farro and lentils with chickpeas. Top it with feta cheese, diced tomatoes, sliced zucchini, fresh oregano, and mint. Drizzle with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil.
Italian-Style Tuna Salad
This Italian-style tuna salad isn’t your typical mayonnaise-loaded tuna salad. It’s filled with hearty veggies and beans and has an olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette.
Mix a can or pouch of tuna with chopped red onions, white beans, red and yellow bell peppers, and fresh basil. Toss the mix with pesto. Place the tuna salad mix on top of a bed of spinach or lettuce for a fresh and healthy lunch.
Whole Grain Greek Style Pita Chicken Sandwich
Leftover roasted chicken? A delicious way to use leftover roasted or rotisserie chicken is by mixing it with diced cucumbers, chopped tomatoes, and feta cheese. Toss it with red wine vinegar and olive oil, and add a spoonful or two to half a lettuce-lined pita bread. This Greek chicken salad can also be served over whole wheat couscous in a Mediterranean grain bowl.
Pasta e Ceci (Italian Chickpea Soup)
This classic Italian soup is simple and full of fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Made from chickpeas, garlic, and pasta, you can use many ingredients to mix up this recipe. Add tomato paste for a rich tomato flavor, and top it with some fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
Mediterranean Diet Dinner Recipes
Garlic Roasted Salmon & Brussels Sprouts
Seafood is a large part of the Mediterranean diet. It is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein.
Salmon is an easy fish to prepare and is available in most grocery stores. Sprinkle a salmon fillet with black pepper, salt, and a minced garlic clove. Place it skin-side down on a parchment-lined sheet pan with halved Brussels sprouts tossed in olive oil. Place the pan in a preheated oven and roast at 425°F until the salmon is firm and the Brussels sprouts are browned.
Vibrant Orange and Arugula Salad with Shrimp
Arugula is a dark leafy green commonly found in the Tuscan region of Italy. It has a sharp, peppery flavor that is delicious with citrus fruit, which is why this salad is so amazing. Add some orange segments with grilled shrimp and pomegranate seeds to make this a hearty meal.
Scallops With Citrus Ginger Sauce
Scallops may sound like a fancy dinner, but they are fast and easy to cook. Heat a little oil in a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. When it sizzles, add the scallops and let them cook until they easily release from the pan (2- 3 minutes). Flip them over and cook until browned. Place them on a plate with steamed broccoli rabe and a ginger orange dressing for a citrusy bite.
Poached Chicken And Winter Vegetable Soup
Nothing is better on a cold winter night than a comforting bowl of soup. This tomato-based soup is full of colorful veggies and diced chicken breasts.
Mix a little tomato paste with chicken stock and add some diced chicken breasts. Poach the chicken in the stock with carrot and celery pieces, peppers, and any other veggie you have. Toss in some baby spinach at the end and season it with fresh basil. This heart soup is sure to warm you up.
Mediterranean Diet Snacks
Fig & Honey Yogurt
Figs are a fruit widely found in the Mediterranean region. They are naturally sweet and full of fiber and antioxidants. Cooked figs are often used to reduce the amount of sugar in recipes.
Most grocery stores usually offer fresh figs in late June or August and September. Add sliced fresh figs to a dish of Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey for a sweet and healthy Mediterranean-inspired snack.
Vegetables with Hummus Dip
Hummus is a staple in many Mediterranean countries and an easy snack. You can make your hummus with a can of chickpeas, a couple of garlic cloves, olive oil, and tahini paste. Puree all the ingredients in a food processor and you’re done! Enjoy a couple of tablespoons with cut-up vegetables for a filling afternoon snack.
Healthy Almond Trail Mix
Trail mix is an easy snack and great for keeping on hand when you need a quick snack that you can take on the go. Trail mix is full of healthy fats and high-fiber ingredients that can boost energy in the middle of the afternoon.
A blend of almonds, pistachios, and walnuts with some dried fruit for a quick and easy snack. Pack them up in small bags to take to work or nibble on after your workout. It will give you that extra little boost of energy you need to get through the afternoon while keeping your blood sugar stable.
While munching on an apple or banana may be a super easy snack, why not take it up a notch by mixing up a healthy fruit salad? Combine fresh berries with kiwi, watermelon, or cherries for a delicious snack. Serve it with a cup of plain Greek yogurt for protein to help keep your blood sugar in check and fill you up.
Mediterranean Diet Desserts
Chocolate Cherry “Nice” Cream
Do you love ice cream but want something that isn't full of sugar and fat? This easy “nice” cream fits perfectly into the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Nice cream uses bananas to make a nice and sweet, creamy frozen treat without adding cream or sugar. Puree frozen bananas with frozen cherries until it is smooth and creamy. Mix in a handful of dark chocolate chips and freeze in a freezer-safe container. Enjoy a scoop after dinner!
Almond Butter Stuffed Dates with Chocolate
Dates are common in North Africa and help sweeten many Mediterranean desserts. These little bite-sized treats are sweet and savory. They are a delicious healthy treat to add to a dessert tray.
Slice the date in half lengthwise. Take out the pit and fill the center with a teaspoon or two of almond butter. Close the date and dip it in a little melted dark chocolate and place them on a parchment-lined pan. Let the chocolate firm up before you dive into these little treats!
Poached Pears with Walnuts
Poached pears in red wine, toasted chopped walnuts, and a spoonful of whipped ricotta cheese sound decadent. This easy dessert is perfect for a special dinner at home. The red wine gives the pears a beautiful ruby color, and the walnuts add protein and healthy plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.
Peel the pears and remove the bottom of the center stem with a spoon or melon baller. Place a couple of cups of red wine, orange juice, a few tablespoons of honey or agave syrup, and a cinnamon stick in a pan.
Heat the wine to a boil and add the pears, turning them into a liquid to coat them. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pan, and allow the pears to cook for 20 - 30 minutes, occasionally turning them. When a fork easily pierces the fattest part of the pear, they are done. Remove them from the liquid and allow them to cool. Reserve some of the poaching liquid to serve the pears.
Serve the pears in a little of the liquid with a bit of whipped ricotta and toasted walnuts.
Avocado Dark Chocolate Mousse
Looking for something a little more decadent but healthy? How about dark chocolate mousse made with avocados? The rich buttery texture of an avocado replaces the heavy cream and eggs. Puree a couple of avocados with melted dark chocolate, vanilla, almond milk, and agave syrup for a bit of sweetness. You’ll be amazed at how rich and creamy it is!
4 Tips to Enjoy a Mediterranean Diet a Lifestyle
The Mediterranean diet is a full lifestyle approach to healthy living. People in the Mediterranean area eat a healthy diet, focus on family and friends, and incorporate activity into their daily lives.
It is no doubt that the food you eat is important, but there are other things in a Mediterranean lifestyle that are important for your overall health. Here are four lifestyle approaches you can also focus on to live more of a Mediterranean way of life.
Increase Your Daily Activity
Keeping active is an important part of the Mediterranean lifestyle. While this can be a scheduled activity like a regular workout at the gym, unscheduled daily activity is important too. Take the elevator instead of the stairs, park the car further from the store, or head out with friends to walk around the neighborhood.
Spend more time outside and breathe some fresh air. No matter where you live, experts recommend getting at least 2 hours outside weekly. In one study, people who spent at least 2 hours outside reported better health and well-being.4
Having close family and friend connections has been shown to improve individuals' moods and overall health. Research has found that people, especially older adults, who are more isolated and have fewer social networks are at an increased risk for depression and anxiety.5
Having strong connections has also shown better adherence to a healthy diet. In one study of over 1300 young adults, those with the strongest family and social connections had lower rates of psychological distress and improved healthy eating scores.6
Get Adequate Sleep
Getting enough restful and good-quality sleep is increasingly important to our overall health. Being well rested helps our productivity and mood, but more importantly, it has been shown to help reduce the risk of chronic disease and improve metabolic health.7
Learn More About Healthy Nutrition with Signos’ Expert Advice.
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Topics discussed in this article:
- US News and World Report. Best Diets Overall 2023. https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall Accessed January 11, 2023.
- Sleiman D, Al-Badri MR, Azar ST. Effect of mediterranean diet in diabetes control and cardiovascular risk modification: a systematic review. Front Public Health. 2015;3:69. Published 2015 Apr 28. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2015.00069
- Hanson S, Jones A. Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(11):710-715. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094157
- White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B.W., Haartig, T., Warber, SL, Bone, A., Depledge, M.H., Fleming, L.E. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports 9 (7730) https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3
- Berge JM, Miller J, Watts A, Larson N, Loth KA, Neumark-Sztainer D. Intergenerational transmission of family meal patterns from adolescence to parenthood: longitudinal associations with parents' dietary intake, weight-related behaviours and psychosocial well-being. Public Health Nutr. 2018;21(2):299-308. doi:10.1017/S1368980017002270
- Mieziene, B., Emeljanovas, A., Novak, D., & Kawachi, I. (2022). Social Capital Promotes a Healthier Diet among Young Adults by Reducing Psychological Distress. Nutrients, 14(23), 5187. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14235187
- Cappuccio FP, Miller MA. Sleep and Cardio-Metabolic Disease. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2017;19(11):110. Published 2017 Sep 19. doi:10.1007/s11886-017-0916-0
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tips for Better Sleep. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html Accessed January 11, 2023.