As we mentioned previously, the Mediterranean diet is not so much a “diet” as it is a lifestyle. The wide variety of foods you can eat means you never need to feel deprived or limited by your options.
The following foods can be eaten daily:
- As many non-starchy vegetables as you want, in as great a variety as possible. These can include leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, romaine or green leaf lettuces. Also, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, green beans, onions, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, hot peppers, and cucumbers. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and hard squashes are more filling and calorie dense, so don’t go overboard on those.
- Fruits, the more colorful the better. Include apples, berries, pears, oranges, grapes, melons, and peaches. Don’t overdo the high sugar fruits like dates, bananas, or raisins.
- Nuts, seeds, and nut butters including almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. Peanut, cashew, or almond butters are excellent if they don’t have added sugar.
- All legumes including beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, and chickpeas which are also excellent sources of fiber as well as non-meat protein.
- Whole grain oats, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta and bread.
- Herbs and spices like garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, oregano, turmeric, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper.
- Healthy fats including extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados, and avocado oil.
Eat fish and seafood often, at least twice a week. Options include salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, and mussels.
Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt can be eaten moderately – perhaps once or twice per week.
Water, tea, and coffee are your best beverage options; a glass of red wine with dinner is fine.
Stay away from:
- Foods with added sugar like candies, cookies, and ice cream, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages. Having an occasional dessert is ok, as long as you don’t do eat regularly.
- Refined grains like white bread, white rice, or white pasta, tortillas, chips, and crackers.
- Trans fats in margarine, fried foods, and processed foods.
- Refined oils like soybean, canola, cottonseed, or grapeseed oils.
- Processed meats including sausages, bacon, hot dogs, and deli meats.
- Ultra-processed or fast foods that come packaged and ready to eat.
- Red meat should be avoided or be very limited.
You’ll find that the number of foods that are allowed more than make up for the ones you should avoid. Remember also that following the Mediterranean diet doesn’t mean you are limited to European flavors. The same foods are used in other ethic cuisines like Latin, Caribbean, Indian, or African…just to name a few. Don’t hesitate to experiment with different herbs and spices, as well as the endless varieties of fruits and vegetables.