How to Follow a Mediterranean Lifestyle


By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN

Interested in a Mediterranean lifestyle? Here are all the ins and outs you need about the best Mediterranean food to eat, how to get started with Mediterranean cooking, and what to put on a Mediterranean menu.


With these tips, following a Mediterranean lifestyle diet, or even a vegetarian Mediterranean diet is oh-so possible!


Guess what? The Mediterranean diet isn't going out of style anytime soon. And you know, it just happened to be crowned the best diet of 2020 (and 2019!) by U.S. News & World Report. So yeah, it's pretty awesome.

OK great, but what exactly is the Mediterranean diet and how do you follow it? The thing about the Mediterranean diet is it's more of a lifestyle plan, meaning you can follow it forever and ever, and I highly doubt you'll ever get tired of it, versus an actual diet.


This also means there's no single or "best" way to follow the eating style. And ta-dah! That's where I come in. 


In this Mediterranean lifestyle blog post, I'm giving you all the guidance you need on eating like a true Mediterranean by sharing the foods to load up on, foods to eat in moderation, plus energizing snack ideas. 


But first, I'm explaining the pros and cons of the Mediterranean diet to help you decide if this eating style is right for you. To be transparent, there are very few Mediterranean diet cons.


My general nutrition guidance more or less follows the basics of the Mediterranean diet, so these ideas will help you stick to a healthy eating style with much less stress.


By the way, if you love structure when it comes to meal planning, take a sec to check out my new mix-and-match printables for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacktime, and beyond.


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What Are the Pros and Cons of the Mediterranean Diet?


While traveling to Italy several years ago, I visited Villa Pagnoncelli Folcieri in Bergamo, home to a multi-generational family winery that makes the most amazing red moscato I’ve ever had (well, the only red moscato I've ever had!), with layers of earth and fruit flavors.


This red wine and many of the foods I ate while in Italy, including delicious olive oil drizzled on everything from pasta to pizza, are part of the Mediterranean style of eating. Oh man, am I daydreaming about that trip right now!


When it comes to what and how to eat, new trends seem to pop up daily. So how do you figure out which fads to follow and which ones you're better off skipping?


One food trend that continues to gain traction is the Mediterranean Diet, consisting primarily of balanced whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, fish, nuts, and whole grains.


I love both the delicious flavors and the many health benefits of Mediterranean-style eating. We’ve long known eating this way—which involves a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish, and poultry; moderate in red wine; and low in red meat—may help you live longer and help your heart health.


It's safe to stay that the Mediterranean Diet is one nutrition trend that's here to stay! In fact, it's not really a "diet" and is much more of a lifestyle, which is what I prefer.


Even when it wasn't in the news so much, the Mediterranean diet has been popular for decades and decades and decades. What are the pros and cons of a Mediterranean lifestyle?


Well, let's start with the pros. A study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine shows that Mediterranean-style eating may boost your brain health!


The study authors looked at the exact make-up of the eating style and what should be included. In the study, 334 older and healthy Spanish volunteers ate either a Mediterranean diet, plus about 5 ounces of olive oil daily, a Mediterranean diet plus about 1 ounce of mixed nuts daily, or a low-fat diet.


The study shows that different types of healthy fats may offer different brain benefits: The people eating a Mediterranean diet plus nuts saw a bigger memory benefit than those in the other groups.


After about four years, people on the Mediterranean-plus-olive-oil diet scored best on cognitive tests.


Study authors believe that the large amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients in that diet help protect the brain and may even help prevent brain degeneration from taking place—which may counteract some age-related cognitive decline.


Want to know more about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet? You're in luck because I'm laying out all the facts on the eating style's health benefits, plus any drawbacks to consider, in my Food Network article.


Spoiler: In addition to health perks, the Mediterranean diet offers benefits for the planet.


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Mediterranean Diet Foods to Eat


When you're focusing your diet on Mediterranean cuisine, here are some tasty ingredients to use in your Mediterranean dishes.

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables (make a Greek salad!)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Feta cheese
  • Lemon juice
  • Almonds
  • Herbs
  • Spices

And don't forget to include time with family and friends, as well as physical activity. These things are all important, in addition to a healthy Mediterranean diet eating plan!


And remember, you can make a tasty Mediterranean salad with the above ingredients!

On the Mediterranean Diet? Here's What Not to Eat


Ready to live a Mediterranean lifestyle? Before you wander around the grocery store to fill up your grocery cart, take a look at my Food Network list to learn which ingredients you should more or less steer clear of and which ones you should load up your cart with.


While you're at it, also check out this Mediterranean diet food list in Well+Good that I contributed to.


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Amy's Mediterranean Recipe to Try