Everything You Need to Know About the Mediterranean Diet

By Vanessa Evens a Recent ASU Nutrition Student

We’ve all heard about the Mediterranean Diet, and I don’t know about you, but when I first thought about the Med Diet I pictured hummus, so much hummus, and olives. The Med Diet is so much more than that though, and it even allows you to have some of your very favorite vices, like red wine!


What is the Med Diet?

Here’s the skinny on the Med Diet. It is a whole-food, plant-based diet, but here’s the kicker…that doesn’t mean vegan or even vegetarian! This diet isn’t about telling you what not to eat so much as it is about telling you what to eat more of so that you can be the healthiest version of yourself.


First things first, what countries are on the Mediterranean? There are 21 countries on the Mediterranean, but some of the major ones include Greece, Turkey, Italy, Morrocco, Spain, and Lebanon. When you think of the cuisines from these places do you think of vegetables, because I do! Sure enough, veggies are the basis of the Med Diet.


What is included in the Med Diet?

With the Med Diet, the basis of every meal is vegetables. A good rule of thumb is that vegetables should fill half of your plate. The Med Diet also includes whole grains (including whole grain breads), healthy fats, legumes, olive oil, nuts, fruits, lean protein, eggs, seafood, low fat dairy, and red wine! These are the things that you can eat every single day. Did I lose some of you when you realized that bacon and steak weren’t on that list? Well guess what, this diet doesn’t exclude those things it just encourages you to not overindulge. That means you can still enjoy your favorite red meats a couple times a month!


What are whole grains?

Whole grains are grains that are eaten in their original whole state. Things like wheat, oats, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, bulgar, farro, millet, polenta, and couscous among many others. This does not include white rice or breads made from white flour, as those are processed and refined.


What are healthy fats?

Healthy fats are fats that come from plants primarily. This includes olive oil, nuts, seeds, beans, avocados, and some fishes. These fats tend to be heart healthy fats.


What are lean proteins?

Lean proteins include beef, chicken, turkey, and seafood. These are the proteins you should be trying to eat daily. Any other meat that you like can be eaten too. This includes beef, pork, lamb, duck, etc.


What dairy products are allowed?

Greek yogurt is a great option, as well as feta, chevre, parmigiano-reggiano, and ricotta. Greek yogurt in its plain state is a very versatile food that can be used in breakfasts, dips, smoothies, and so much more.


What foods should be avoided?

This one is simple because there aren’t a lot. The Med Diet encourages you to avoid refined and added sugars, as well as processed meats, and refined grains and oils. You are encouraged to use olive oil instead of margarine. That’s it!


What are the health benefits of the Med Diet?

The research supporting the Med Diet is extensive. The Mayo Clinic says that research has shown that this diet reduces the LDL (the bad cholesterol) build up in arteries as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular caused mortality. The Med Diet has also been linked to reduced risks of certain cancers, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimers Disease. The Mediterranean Diet has also proven to have a positive impact on weight and BMI, meaning that it can help you lose weight!


Is it expensive?

No! This is my favorite part. Because the Med Diet is based so heavily on produce, you can pick items that are in season and save some money. Arizona has an amazing agricultural bounty and it is not difficult to find delicious produce that is in season right here where we are. It also allows you to get creative if you want to, and try all sorts of fruits and veggies.


Is the Mediterranean Diet an actual “diet?”

No! The Mediterranean Diet should be seen as more of a lifestyle versus a diet. Because the Med Diet focuses more on what things to include in your diet versus what to avoid, it does not feel restrictive like so many diets do. Some other key components to the Mediterranean Diet include lifestyle and family time. The Med Diet encourages physical activity as well as spending meal times with loved ones. It truly is a lifestyle change.


What is the first step?

I encourage you to make your first step just to eat more vegetables. Remember, your goal is to make half of your plate vegetables. Step two is to eat all of those vegetables before the rest of your food, that way you won’t fill up before you eat all of your yummy produce! Don’t be afraid to incorporate these diet changes slowly if you need to. It is about progress, not perfection.



  1. Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan. (2019, January 26). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801
  2. Buettner, D. (2012). The Blue Zones: 9 lessons for living longer from the people whove lived the longest. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.


Other articles on the Med Diet:




Looking for more articles to help boost your healthy living? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some recipes that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the recipe section on our website.

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