This factsheet describes how to follow a Mediterranean-style diet for good health.
What is a Mediterranean-style diet?
A Mediterranean-style diet comes from the traditional eating pattern of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. These include Greece, Italy, and Spain.
This diet is based on healthy whole foods and includes very few processed foods.
A Mediterranean-style diet is based on these foods:
- extra virgin olive oil
- wholegrain breads and cereals
- legumes or beans (e.g. chickpeas, kidney beans or lentils)
- nuts and seeds
- fish and seafood
- onion, garlic and other herbs and spices (e.g. oregano, coriander, cumin etc.)
Can I include meat and dairy foods?
Yoghurt, cheese, milk and lean protein sources such as chicken, turkey or eggs are also eaten in a Mediterranean-style diet. Red meats and sweets are only eaten in small amounts. Processed meats (deli meats, bacon, ham, corned meats, salami or sausages) and packaged foods should be limited to rare occasions.
Can I drink alcohol?
Wine (especially red wine) is a traditional part of a Mediterranean-style diet. For people who choose to drink alcohol, wine is only consumed in small amounts and with meals.
Other eating tips in a Mediterranean-style diet
Following a Mediterranean-style diet is not just about what foods you eat but also about how you eat them:
- Try preparing fresh foods
- Ideally, share your meals with friends or family
- Eat meals and snacks without distractions (e.g. not in front of the TV or at your desk)
- Eat slowly so that the taste and flavour can be appreciated
Why is a Mediterranean-style diet healthy?
The Mediterranean-style diet is healthy because:
- it has a good balance of healthy fats
- it is high in fresh foods and has lower levels of highly processed foods
- It is high in fibre. This makes the diet filling without providing excess calories
- It is high in antioxidants and can reduce inflammation in the body
These benefits are related to following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern as a whole, not from single foods or nutrients.
Following a Mediterranean-style diet can help people with:
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- fatty liver disease
- chronic kidney disease
- depression or anxiety
This style of eating can also help to prevent people from developing the conditions listed above, as well as:
- some cancers, including bowel cancer
- cognitive decline, including dementia
What does Mediterranean-style eating look like?
This food pyramid shows the foods and drinks in a Mediterranean-style diet. At the base of the pyramid are the foods to eat the most. At the top are foods to eat in small amounts or less often. Enjoying meals with others and being active are also highlighted. If you have a liver disease it is best to discuss any alcohol intake with your doctor.
Mediterranean-style meal and snack Ideas
- Porridge: rolled oats made with milk/water, with fruit, honey and/or nuts
- Natural Greek style yoghurt with fruit, nuts or untoasted muesli, and honey
- Wholegrain breakfast cereal (e.g. Weetbix, Vitabrits, All Bran, Sultana Bran) with
- Toast (wholemeal or multigrain) with extra virgin olive oil and ricotta/cottage/feta cheese OR
- poached/boiled/scrambled egg OR grilled tomato and herbs OR baked beans
- Salad, including tomato and a dark leafy green such as spinach and canned beans or
- legumes, with extra virgin olive oil
- Sandwiches/wraps – wholemeal bread, roll, wrap or pita with salad. Use canned fish,
- beans, hummus or chicken breast as a filling. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil
- Wholemeal pasta with vegetables and extra virgin olive oil or tomato-based sauce. Try
- replacing meat with canned lentils or beans
- Vegetable soup, including chickpeas/lentils with vegetables, canned tomatoes and onion.
- Chicken breast: stir-fry, baked or grilled in extra virgin olive oil and mixed herbs with salad
- or vegetables and wholemeal bread or rice
- Homemade pizzas, with a wholemeal bread base and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Try
- vegetable toppings such as onion, eggplant and zucchini
- A small portion of lean beef, lamb, veal or kangaroo: stir-fry, baked or grilled in extra virgin
- olive oil with salad or vegetables and canned beans/lentils.
- Optional extra: 1 small glass of red wine with your meal
- A handful of nuts and/or seeds
- Fruit (fresh, canned or dried)
- Fresh vegetable sticks with hummus or tzatziki
- Natural Greek-style yoghurt
- Wholemeal crusty bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil/pesto
- Avocado on toast or wholegrain crackers (with extra virgin olive oil)
- Boiled egg OR feta/ricotta cheese on a slice of wholemeal bread or crackers
Mediterranean-style diet resources including information, research and recipes Websites:
Grains & legumes nutrition council https://www.glnc.org.au/
Nuts for life https://www.nutsforlife.com.au
The Mediterranean Diet https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781742610825/
The Heart Heath Guide https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781760785765/the-heart-health-guide/ Mediterranean diet cookbook and lifestyle plans https://treeoflifenutrition.com.au/cookbook/