Getting Started with the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet refers to an eating pattern that has been followed by the countries around the Mediterranean Sea for centuries. This diet is associated with a number of health benefits, such as lowering risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based, nutrient-rich foods that work together to keep the body healthy and disease free.

The Mediterranean Diet Guidelines:

  • Start with a foundation of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Whole grains make up the core of the diet. Eating whole grains regularly reduces risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Each main meal should contain 1-2 servings of grains such as pasta, bread, or rice.
  • Fruits and vegetables are key components. Eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day is linked with lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Aim for at least 2 servings of vegetables for lunch and dinner and 1-2 servings of fruit per meal.
  • Legumes, such as beans and lentils, provide a great source of protein in the diet. Fish, like tuna, salmon, and herring, should be consumed at least twice per week. Very often red meat is replaced with beans, lentils, or fish. Eating red meat is linked with a higher risk of heart disease, but legumes and seafood can reduce the risk. If consuming red meat, aim for small 3-4 oz. portions once a week.
  • Low to moderate amounts of poultry is acceptable each week along with up to 4 eggs per week.
  • Olive oil is used as the main fat, replacing butter and margarine. One tablespoon per person can be used in cooking and salad dressings. Olive oil has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits. Cooking tomatoes with olive oil also increases the absorption of lycopene, an antioxidant that fights disease.
  • Regular physical activity, such as walking or working in a garden, are a part of the Mediterranean Diet. Aim for at least 30 minutes every day.
  • The diet includes drinking red wine in moderation, if it’s OK with your doctor. About 1-2 glasses per day for men and 1 glass per day for women can protect against heart disease.

Get started with these simple steps:

  1. Add more vegetables into your diet. Make them your main dish!
  2. Eat small portions of meat. Think of meat as a side dish or flavor for your main meal!
  3. Include dairy products into your diet in moderation. Try low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  4. Consume fish twice a week, including fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  5. Focus on a variety of healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
  6. Try whole grains, like brown rice and whole wheat foods, which naturally contain important nutrients.
  7. Swap your dessert for fresh fruit! Save ice cream, cookies, and cakes for special celebrations or holidays.

Now, try a recipe!

Check out these delicious recipes for meatless stuffed peppers and hearty white bean vegetable soup.


Dina Ironmonger is a Nutrition and Dietetic Technician, registered at the ProMedica Food Clinic. She has been with ProMedica for seven years and graduated with an Associate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in May of 2016 from Owens Community College. She enjoys gardening and cooking.