If you’re thinking of going on a Mediterranean diet meal plan, you're bound to have come across the many health benefits of this diet. From lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes to aiding with weight management, the Mediterranean diet is one of the most popular diets across the globe, loved by researchers and nutrition professionals alike.
Fast-food, refined sugars, and processed food are all restricted on this diet. Instead, it focuses on incorporating whole foods such as nuts, seafood, quality dairy, vegetables, olive oil, and whole grains, to support heart health and stabilize blood sugar levels.
To understand more about the Mediterranean diet, we asked our experts what we should add to our shopping list, what a five-day Mediterranean diet plan looks like, and their top tips for following it. If your main reason for adopting this diet is for weight loss, check out our guide to how to follow a Mediterranean diet for weight loss, which has all the tips you need to start seeing results. And if you're a vegan, don't worry - check our guide on how to eat a vegan Mediterranean diet.
What to eat on the Mediterranean diet
“One of the major benefits of the Mediterranean diet is that it helps support the endothelium, which is the smooth layer inside the heart,” says clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer. “Endothelial cells help control blood pressure regulation and, in turn, this equates to a lower risk of stroke.”
If you choose to embark on a Mediterranean diet meal plan, you’ll be eating a lot of different vegetables, which means you’ll be having plenty of color variety. This, as Sawyer explains, is a sure-fire way to improve your health.
“Eating a rainbow diet provides a wealth of essential nutrients that are widely deficient in the typical Western diet, especially energizing B-vitamins and magnesium. The Mediterranean diet is also naturally low in refined sugars, which are the biggest reason for putting on weight. The more refined and sugary foods we consume, the more our blood sugar will become dysregulated, the greater our insulin response and the more fat will be stored.”
Another bonus of this diet is that it includes plenty of protein, from fish and lean meats such as chicken to nuts and dairy.
“People on a Mediterranean diet meal plan tend to feel much more energized because many of our known nutrient deficiencies will be plugged,” says Sawyer. “Specifically iodine, which is needed for cognition and brain sharpness and found in fish. It also contains lots of B-vitamins for energy and liver detoxification, and iron, which is needed for energy. So, we’re always going to feel much better when following this diet and by doing so, we can mitigate many of the risk factors associated with the onset of degenerative disease.”
If you’re convinced of the Mediterranean diet’s benefits and want to try it yourself, then Sawyer and registered dietitian Reema Patel of Dietitian Fit & Co have come up with a simple five-day Mediterranean diet meal plan that you can follow at home.
Suzie Sawyer is a clinical nutritionist with over 20 years experience, having graduated from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (U.K) in 2003. She has worked with individuals, as well as leading food supplement manufacturers.
Reema Patel is a registered dietitian and member of the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the British Dietetic Association (BDA). She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition & Dietetics from the University of Surrey, U.K, and a Master of Science in Sports and Exercise Nutrition from Loughborough University.
Mediterranean diet meal plan: Breakfast
Day 1: Poached egg on seeded sourdough toast – eggs are one of the best sources of protein and make a great start to the day.
Day 2: Buckwheat pancakes with berries – why not whip up some buckwheat (which is gluten-free for those sensitive) pancakes, and load them with colorful berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and cherries – all in season during the summer months.
Day 3: Smashed avocado, sprinkled with chopped walnuts on rye toast – avocados are a great source of healthy fats.
Day 4: Whole grain toast with ricotta and watermelon – here you get carbohydrates from the toast, healthy fats from the ricotta, and nutrients from the watermelon.
Day 5: Spinach omelet with a side of asparagus, mushrooms, and olives – a good source of protein, and the spinach, mushrooms, and asparagus provide you with added nutrients.
Mediterranean diet meal plan: Lunch
Day 1: Traditional Greek salad made with cucumber, onions, tomatoes, feta and olives – this salad is full of healthy fats and vegetables for essential nutrients.
Day 2: Sliced tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh basil – a classic combination, this traditional Med salad is full of good-for-you fats and antioxidant-rich tomatoes.
Day 3: Grilled fresh sardines with a green salad (lettuce, rocket, cucumber, and onion), with focaccia bread dipped in olive oil – the sardines provide a good source of protein for this dish.
Day 4: Chicken sandwich with arugula or lettuce and hummus – this simple sandwich is perfect if you’re in a rush.
Day 5: Falafel with couscous and green beans – an easy pack-lunch option, make the falafel from a packet rather than using ready-made ones. Fry them in olive oil for a crisp finish.
Mediterranean diet meal plan: Dinner
Day 1: Foil-baked salmon with lemon and dill, new potatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, and roasted asparagus – full of nutrients and healthy fats, this is a one-sheet bake, meaning you won’t have piles of washing up to do.
Day 2: Hearty minestrone soup with small pasta, kidney beans, white beans, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, tinned tomatoes, rosemary, bay leaf, and paprika – make this ahead and save for lunch the following day.
Day 3: Fresh tuna steak, with mashed sweet potato, sautéed kale, and roasted tomatoes with basil – the Mediterranean diet features lots of fish for healthy protein and fats.
Day 4: Stuffed bell pepper with minced turkey, cheese, and Italian seasoning – great for upping your protein intake.
Day 5: Portobello mushroom pizza and salad – when baked with olive oil and garlic, and then topped with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, these portobello mushrooms provide the perfect ‘fake pizza’ option.
Tips for following the Mediterranean diet meal plan
Sticking to a lifestyle change can be hard. To help you out, we’ve come up with some expert tips that will make following the Mediterranean diet a breeze.
- Try mindful eating: “With a range of colorful and tasty foods reminiscent of relaxing in sunny climes, the Med diet and lifestyle is a good way to enjoy your food, decrease your stress and boost your health all at the same time,” says Caroline Hind, a registered nutritional therapist for Vitaminology.
- Top your vitamin intake in the winter months: “We should always ensure nutrient deficiencies don’t cause more serious issues, by taking a high-potency multivitamin and mineral every day,” says Sawyer. “Most of us aren’t lucky enough to live in the Mediterranean, therefore we should take some additional vitamin D even through the summer, as it’s important to our overall health.”
- Cook with olive oil: Olive oil is a huge component of the Mediterranean diet and one of the healthiest fats around. Use it in cooking and drizzle it over the top of salads to reap its benefits.
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Stacey Carter is a Freelance Health Writer who has written print features and digital content for titles such as Woman & Home, Natural Health, Women’s Health, Get The Gloss, and Stylist. You'll find her covering a wide variety of health-based topics, talking to leading figures in the fitness industry, and investigating the latest trends in wellness. When she’s not at her laptop, weekend hikes, testing out new recipes in the kitchen and LISS-style workouts are her favourite ways to switch off.