The Mediterranean diet has been used for decades as a way to improve health and promote weight loss, through a change in basic dietary principals.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional diet that those from Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece used to eat in the back in the 1960’s.
This way of eating rose in popularity when it became apparent that people from these countries were at a much lower risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases in comparison to individuals from other countries (with vastly different diets!).
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The traditional Mediterranean diet was typified by a high consumption of plant based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lots of whole grains, breads, legumes, potatoes, nuts and seeds.
In addition to a high consumption these foods, they also used a lot of olive oil, drank red wine regularly, and consumed moderate amounts of fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs.
So, as we can see, the Mediterranean way of eating is considerably different to the current western diet.
But does it actually have positive effects on health?
What the research Says
The Mediterranean diet has become increasingly popular over the last decade, and for good reason too!
There has been a huge amount of research supporting the use of the Mediterranean diet to improve health and decrease the risk of developing a number of disease and illnesses.
In particular, people who eat in the style of the Mediterranean diet have been shown to have significantly lower rates of heart attack, strokes, and cardiovascular disease in general .
Furthermore, these same people have been shown to have significant reductions in blood pressure, blood lipid levels, and obesity .
More recently, the Mediterranean diet has demonstrated the ability to reduce the risk of developing metabolic disease through a significant reduction in blood cholesterol levels . More impressively, this observed reduction was significantly greater than the reduction observed when following the low fat diet traditionally prescribed by health professionals as means to lower blood cholesterol!
Additionally, the Mediterranean diet has also shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes, irrespective of daily caloric intake and exercise interventions 
So to answer the above question, does the Mediterranean diet actually have positive effects on health?
Adopting a Mediterranean diet has shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic disease, type II diabetes, and has even been linked to a reduced rate of obesity, even without calorie restriction and an exercise intervention.
But how do we implement it?
The Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
Ultimately, this diet isn’t as strict as some other ways of eating.
It isn’t particularly restrictive, and follows a set of basic guidelines rather than specific rules.
While this may sound a little more difficult to follow than other diets that do provide a clear set of dos and don’ts, it is actually a positive, as it allows you to include more of the foods you enjoy and less of those you don’t. This means that the diet will be much easier to adhere to, making those changes more pronounced, and making the entire process more enjoyable.
These basic guidelines are relatively straight forward.
Eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds regularly.
Carbohydrates should come from legumes, potatoes, whole grains, and breads.
Protein should come from fish and seafood.
Use a lot of extra virgin olive oil.
Try to avoid sugar sweetened beverages, processed foods, refined grains, and refined oils.
Foods to avoid
To provider a little more clarity to this set of guidelines, the following foods should be avoided as much as possible.
Anything that contains added sugar, such as soda, candy, and ice cream (and table sugar…).
Any refined grains such as white bread and pasta.
All refined oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and cottonseed oil (just stick to olive oil).
Processed meats such as sausages, hot dogs, and pre-packaged burgers.
And any highly processed foods. These include anything labelled low fat or diet (effectively anything that looks like it was made in a factory)
Foods to enjoy
So pretty simply, the aim here is to eat food that is unprocessed.
This means that if it’s grown in the ground it is all good (ultimately any fruit and vegetables, nuts, or seeds). See, lots of options.
Legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas should be prioritized. As should tubers such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and turnips.
Any fish, seafood, or poultry are recommended, as are eggs and dairy (with special mention to greek yoghurt and full fat milk)
Whole grains should also be prioritized over anything processed. These include whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, and buckwheat.
Now, as we said earlier, the Mediterranean diet is not a strict diet, but rather a set of guidelines. This is because countries within the Mediterranean do have slightly different diets, but still demonstrate all the same health benefits as one another.
While this makes it difficult to set a strict diet, there are some further key recommendations that can be made based upon similarities between the diets.
Eat lots of plant based food, eat fish a minimum of 2 times per week (more is better), and drink a lot of water.
Furthermore, while those from Mediterranean countries traditionally drank a glass of red wine each day, this is optional and not necessary.
Black coffee and tea are also recommended, but sugar sweetened juice and sodas should be avoided like the plague (as mentioned above…).
Mediterranean Meal Plans
Now that we have a pretty good understanding of the principles of the Mediterranean diet, we can start putting it all together with meal plans that suit this way of eating extremely well.
Greek yoghurt with fresh berries and a handful of almonds or oats.
3 egg omelette with fresh veggies, tomatoes, onion and feta.
Oatmeal with walnuts, apple, and raisins.
Fried eggs (in olive oil, of course), asparagus and salmon.
Fruit salad and greek yoghurt.
Sandwich made with whole grain bread, salad, and smoked salmon.
Tuna salad with lentils and chickpeas.
Shaved turkey and vegetable sandwich made on whole grain bread.
Grilled fish and seasonal vegetables with olive oil dressing.
Toasted pita and 3 bean and vegetable salad with olive oil dressing.
Tuna and bean salad with herbs and olive oil dressing.
Grilled chicken salad, with olives, spinach, tomatoes, and feta cheese.
Grilled salmon served with brown rice and roast vegetables (cooked with lots of olive oil of course…).
Roast lamb with roast vegetables and a greek salad.
Potato and egg frittata with peppers and tomatoes, served with a greek salad with an olive oil dressing.
A piece of fruit.
A handful of nuts.
Carrot sticks with hummus.
Apple Slices with natural nut butter.
And there you have it, some simple meal plans that fit within the Mediterranean diet extremely well!
But what about if I am eating out?
While implementing this type of eating is easy at home, it may pose some difficulties when eating out with friends.
Fortunately there are a few key things you can do to ensure you stick with the plan.
Firstly, stick to fish or seafood as your main meal.
Secondly, request it to be cooked in olive oil if possible.
Lastly, limit your consumption of breads (and try to stick to whole grain).
And there you have it. By following those three key rules you shouldn’t have any issues sticking to the Mediterranean diet while eating out with friends.
So to conclude, the Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that promotes good metabolic and cardiovascular health, and can even promote weight loss.
It is not a strict diet, but rather a sort of guidelines that are easy to implement into your lifestyle (whether you are eating at home or out with friends).
By following the simple meal plans provided you can start reaping the benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet today!
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1. Estruch, Ramón, et al. “Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet.” New England Journal of Medicine 368.14 (2013): 1279-1290. Viewed at: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1200303
2. Fito, Montserrat, et al. “Effect of a traditional Mediterranean diet on lipoprotein oxidation: a randomized controlled trial.” Archives of Internal Medicine 167.11 (2007): 1195-1203. Viewed at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17563030
3. Salas-Salvadó, Jordi, et al. “Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes With the Mediterranean Diet Results of the PREDIMED-Reus nutrition intervention randomized trial.” Diabetes care 34.1 (2011): 14-19. Viewed at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20929998