How would you like to be amazingly healthy at 104 years-old? Sign me up! One such spritely man living in Sardinia’s blue zone chops wood everyday at 9am for fun. He just might be the poster “child” for the benefits of living a mediterranean lifestyle.
While I am not necessarily keen on chopping wood at this ripe old age, I am keen to live a long and happy life with my family. And, a mediterranean diet will help us do just that.
Multiple studies have concluded that people living in Mediterranean countries eat healthier—they have, therefore, lower rates of chronic diseases and a longer life expectancy.
If you’re wondering, the secret is not some type of genetic lottery. Blue zones exist in several places around the world. Scientists have concluded that it’s the combination of diet and lifestyle that has resulted in this longevity. The medetrranean diet is popular because it incorporates these learnings, it has helped many people lose weight, and it’s delicious!
My family and I love the medetrranean diet. We saw its benefits when we lived in southern France. Now, our mission is to help other families live happier, healthier lives!
Want to know more? Then enjoy our guide on the Mediterranean diet meal plan with recipes. We’ve made special notes for gluten-free and other dietary restrictions.
We have featured 18 Mediterranean diet inspired recipes in this article, including Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwich, Baked Salmon with Zoodles, Red Lentil Mediterranean Soup, and Baked oatmeal with Blueberries and Bananas — just to name a few. We focus on easy to make, healthy meals that satisfy the Mediterranean diet definition. You can see all of our recipes that meet these requirements here. Most of our recipes include substitutions and alternatives that enable you to adapt them to your needs.
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Before we jump headfirst into the delicious recipes, It would be good to start with the basics. Here’s a quick guide to what you can and can’t include in the Mediterranean diet:
- What you can eat: Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, potatoes, whole-grains, bread, spices, herbs, fish, seafood, extra virgin olive oil.
- What you can eat in moderation: Cheese, yogurt, eggs, poultry, and carbohydrates.
- What you should only eat rarely: Red meat.
- What you should avoid: Sugar, sweetened beverages, refined grains, refined oils, processed meat and other processed foods.
The Mediterranean diet shifts the emphasis away from processed foods and is considered more of a way of eating than a traditional diet. There is not a single definition for this diet, but it generally results in a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables with the remaining balanced between lean-meats and carbs.
A Mediterranean diet avoids these foods:
- refined grains, like bread, pasta or dough made from white flour.
- refined oils, including canola oil and soybean oil.
- foods with added sugars, including pastries, sodas, and candies.
- processed meats, including deli meats and hot dogs.
- processed or packaged foods.
Do You Only Eat Italian Food on a Mediterranean Diet?
While my wife could eat lasagna (her favorite food) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday, I love variety. Of course, Mediterranean cuisines includes food from much of Spain, southern France, Greek, and Turkey, just to name a few. So, clearly you have some cuisine options even if you stay in the Mediterranean region.
What about tastes from around the world that follow the Mediterranean diet approach? My take is that if it makes you happy, then why not?
I don’t think there is anything magical about the individual flavors, what is more important is the mix of foods in the diet and lifestyle.
So, in the below Mediterranean diet, you will notice some less conventional options… ones that come from around the world. I think of the Mediterranean Diet more as the Blue Zone Diet.
“Where there is a will, there is a way” is the simple answer to all dietary restrictions. We have always been able to find a substitution that we can live with.
For simplicity of the narrative about diet restriction, we focused our discussion to just the food from the geographic Mediterranean region (not all Blue Zones).
The following is our take on how easy it is to follow the Mediterranean Diet if you have one or more of these dietary restrictions.
Gluten-Free: Living without pasta was not an option for us. So, we found several brands that make gluten-free pasta. See our discussion of the topic below. So, we we turned this “no” into a “yes” for can you follow a gluten-free Mediterranean diet.
Dairy-free: We drink a lot of oat and almond milk and often use dairy-free cheese slices for sandwiches, but we use cow cheese and yogurt in our Mediterranean food. We have not found a good substitute, so I do not think there is a good way to follow a dairy-free Mediterranean diet.
Nut-free: Yes, for the most part, nuts can be considered optional in the Mediterranean diet.
Vegan and Vegetarian: If you are vegan, then you know how to substitute out meat and dairy, but I do not like the non-dairy options for most Mediterranean meals, so I would say “yes” to vegetarian and “no” to vegan.
Keto, Paleo, Whole30, and Atkins: Keto, Whole30, and Atkins basically do not allow you to eat whole grains since they are carbohydrate dense food, but these are staples within the Mediterranean diet, so these dietary restrictions are not super compatible with the Mediterranean diet. That said, Whole30 and Atkins allow more carbs over time, which makes them become more like Paleo, and at this point they become more compatible with a Mediterranean Diet.
DASH: This low-sodium diet differs from the Mediterranean Diet mainly by which flavors of food you prefer. The Mediterranean includes more fish, lean meat, and sweets. So, yes, a DASH Mediterranean diet is very doable.
Kid-Friendly: Italian, Greek, south French, and Turkish food may look different than many of the foods of northern Europe, north America, and Australia, but many Mediterranean flavors are kiddo crowd pleasers.
Conventional Breakfast: A Healthy Start to the Day
Here’s what you can include in a healthy Mediterranean breakfast:
- Greek yogurt.
- Fruits, such as strawberries, dates, figs, oranges or apples.
- Vegetables, such as tomatoes or potatoes.
If you’re a person who prefers something quick during the morning rush, you need a simple breakfast.
Fill a bowl with some Greek yogurt, top it with sliced fruits, nuts or oats. For a bit of sweetness, opt for a teaspoon of natural honey or cinnamon.
Another quick breakfast would be oatmeal topped with raisins or fruits.
Mediterranean Avocado Toast
If you’re an avocado toast fan (who isn’t?), you’re going to love this Mediterranean spin. The dish consists of a whole-wheat toasted bread, sliced avocado, tomatoes and topped with cottage cheese.
If you don’t like cottage cheese, you can add fresh mozzarella or swap the cheese for a hard boiled egg.
It’s a really simple breakfast to make, so excellent for stressful mornings. Avocado is high in healthy fats as well as different vitamins, including C, E and K.
Lunch: A Healthy Midday Meal
Around lunchtime, I usually find myself tired and in need of a pick-me-up to get me through the rest of the day. But, instead of eating something unhealthy, see the following healthy options:
- Whole-grain bread sandwich.
- Tuna salad.
- Tomato salad with feta cheese.
- Broiled salmon with vegetables.
- Grilled chicken with vegetables.
- Lentils soup.
Easy Chicken Salad
This chicken salad is packed full of colors as well as flavors. Grill the chicken to get a nice char on the outside while it’s moist and flavorful on the inside.
Add sliced onion, avocado, colorful cherry tomatoes, cucumber and hummus. Although it’s a salad, it’s very filling thanks to the different elements that are high in healthy fats and protein.
Italian Chicken Wraps
For lunch, nothing beats a good wrap–and there are plenty of options on the Mediterranean diet. This wrap, in particular, focuses on the flavors of Italy. It’s packed with delicious grilled chicken, tomatoes, onion, arugula salad, cheese and a rich tomato sauce.
Although it’s a wrap, it can easily be made the night before for an easy-to-grab lunch or you can quickly wrap it in the morning.
To make your Italian wrap an even bigger success, opt for large tortillas to ensure all the goodness fits. The tighter you wrap it, the less messier it becomes–but I still recommend that you pack a napkin.
Dinner: Guide to a Super Supper
If you’re a busy parent like I am, you probably know how easy it is to resort to fast, unhealthy meals for dinner. However, with the Mediterranean diet, you’ll have plenty of healthy choices. Here are a few things you can incorporate into the dinner:
- Mediterranean lasagna (see recipe below).
- Broiled or grilled salmon with vegetables and brown rice.
- Grilled lamb, tzatziki and baked potatoes.
- Tuna salad.
- Homemade Mediterranean pizza.
- Grilled chicken with vegetables or brown rice.
This family recipe is one of our favorites. It’s popular with adults and children. It’s simple to make, so don’t feel fret about it taking over an hour to make. There is only about 15 minutes of prep time. The rest is its baking time. You can prepare it ahead, and it freezes and reheats excellently.
For more Mediterranean goodness, you can make a quick Greek-style tomato salad or even a tzatziki to go with the lasagna.
Other Mediterranean Dinner Options
Mediterranean cuisine has an enormous amount of variety. For example, I am a huge fan of pork tenderloin, which fortunately for me can make a nutritious and delicious dinner perfect for this diet.
Or, if you are vegan and looking for some Mediterranean options, then you might find a traditional plate of meatless spaghetti and “meat” balls intriguing.
Or, if you are following a low-carb or paleo diet, then you might like some fathead pizza. We provided three options in this article, all of them gluten-free, but here was the headliner:
As you can see, you have a wide variety of options on a Mediterranean diet.
Gluten-Free Mediterranean Diet
One of the saddest moments in my life is when I first realized that I might not be able to eat pasta again because of all the gluten in pasta. Not to mention that eating pasta would materially complicate following any meditrannean diet.
There is good news, though! You can find replacements for wheat-based pasta. Most of them are corn-based, which turn into tasteless brown mush that I detest. But, we have found options that we love. My daughter prefers this brown rice based brand and I prefer this quinoa-based brand. For variety, we sometimes eat red lentil based ones, too.
It’s worth noting that we have probably tried every gluten-free brand pasta in the known universe. Most are “meh”, if I am being generous.the ones I cited above are by far the best ones we’ve found yet. You do need to stir them more when cooking to keep the pasta from sticking together, though. This is especially true of the brown rice ones. The texture of the quinoa one is especially close to good quality wheat-based pasta. Thanks to these brands, everyone can now enjoy a meditrranean diet and its benefits!
Gluten-Free Whole Grains in the Mediterranean Diet
A good list of gluten-free whole grains you can use are here. Whole grains are an important part of the mediterranean diet, so you might need to be a little creative with this topic. I consider myself a pragmatist, so I use many whole grains that are not, well, native to the Mediterranean region. It will take some experimentation to find the ones you prefer, but we like brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, and oats. Now, I am sure some purist would not approve of this approach. But, I promise to not tell if you don’t!
Gluten-free Breakfast Ideas for a Mediterranean Diet
For a healthy gluten-free breakfast, I love smoothie bowls. They’re packed full of nutrients and provide you with a boost of energy to get you started. Here are some gluten-free Mediterranean diet breakfast ideas:
- Smoothie bowls (see my favorite below).
- Breakfast salad with kale and eggs (yolk can be as runny as you like).
- Homemade falafel.
- Mediterranean breakfast casserole.
Beet Smoothie Bowl
Smoothie bowls are packed full of all the nutrients fruits have to offer. You can top the bowl off with any topping you’d like, such as nuts, berries, fruits or honey.
I like beets smoothie but you can make any kind of smoothie bowl your heart desires. Other popular options include a pineapple, mango and coconut smoothie or a simple strawberry and banana combo.
One smoothie bowl pro tip I can offer is to prep your fruits in advance. Cut them into small slices or pieces, place in a ziploc bag and store in the freezer. Avoid using fresh fruits since they won’t give you the right consistency.
You will need a strong blender, so make sure you stick to the end to see my personal favorite.
Gluten-Free Lunch and Dinner Ideas for a Mediterranean Diet
Gluten-free ideas for lunch and dinner:
- Kale and quinoa salad.
- Salmon with zoodles.
- Spaghetti squash with spinach and garlic.
- One-pan roasted chicken and cauliflower.
Salmon with Zoodles
Salmon is an oily fish rich in omega-3. Paired with delicious zoodles, and you have a healthy Mediterranean dish. The entire dish takes about 15 minutes from start to finish, so you’ll have no excuse not to make it.
The salmon is covered in a delicious garlic za’atar rub that gives it so much flavor, you’re basically going to be drooling. Place the salmon on top of your zoodles in a baking tray and in the oven it goes. Sit down and enjoy a glass of red wine while dinner makes itself.
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Can you tell I like wraps? With this recipe, we’re taking inspiration from Greece, however. Grilled chicken wrapped in crispy lettuce leaves, can it get any better? Inside the wrap is sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes and a slice of orange for a sweet-acidic flavor.
If you wish to make your wraps ahead, I recommend that you prepare the ingredients and store them in individual containers. Make the wrap in the morning and bring to work for lunch or keep in the fridge ready for dinner.
Vegan Diet Mediterranean Meal Ideas
Vegan diets have shown to help with weight loss and help to improve heart health by lowering cholesterol levels. Combining your vegan diet with the Mediterranean diet is as easy as it gets. Delicious vegan options:
- Whole grains: Quinoa, brown rice, rolled oats, whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pita bread.
- Plant-based protein: Black beans, lentils, hummus, chickpeas, tofu.
- Nuts & seeds: Pecans, chia seeds, cashews, almonds, tahini.
- Healthy fats: Avocado, olives, olive oil.
- Fruit: Apples, clementines, pears, dried apricots and figs.
- Vegetables: Edamame, shallots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, corn, kale, Brussels sprouts, onion, artichoke hearts, salad greens, carrots, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms.
- Fresh herbs: Cilantro, oregano, parsley, chives.
- Spices: Turmeric, chipotle powder, cumin.
- Dairy alternatives: Unsweetened soy, almond and coconut milk.
I love oats in the morning. Overnight oats has been super popular recently, but I prefer to keep it simple with quick oats. Top your bowl off with anything your heart desires– so much delicious goodness in sliced apples, nuts and a drizzle of organic honey. This recipe is very versatile. Enjoy!
Lunch and Dinner Ideas
Delicious lunch and dinner ideas:
- Green salad with hummus and pita bread.
- Creamy Mediterranean lentil soup.
- Artichoke and tomato gnocchi.
- Chickpea curry with brown rice.
- Stuffed sweet potato.
Mediterranean Lentil Soup
Nothing beats a warm creamy lentil soup. This recipe uses coconut milk that further helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and helps with weight loss. You can easily make this soup ahead or store it in the fridge for up to three days.
If you like to do meal prep, add lentils, onions, carrots, garlic, herbs, spices and broth to separate freezer bags. When needed, remove from the freezer and cook as directed.
Thai-Style Tofu Salad
This easy salad consists of four simple ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen. It consists of a kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts mix, frozen edamame, Sriracha-flavored tofu and a peanut vinaigrette.
It’s packed full of important nutrients including protein and it’s simple to make ahead of a busy week. Dive the ingredients into four storage containers and keep in the fridge for a grab-and-go lunch or quick dinner.
Family-Friendly Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet isn’t a strict diet that cuts out everything that you and your family like to eat. It’s more a change of lifestyle that can suit the entire family easily.
Here are a few tips to get your kids on board smoothly:
- Start with what they already like: Your kids are bound to already like some fruits and vegetables. Include generous portions of these crowd pleasers when introducing something new. You can build upon this success.
- Introduce new condiments: Instead of ketchup or store-bought salad dressing, let your kiddo dip their carrots or cucumber slices in hummus instead.
- Introduce seafood: Seafood is an important part of the Mediterranean diet; however, not all kids like seafood. Start out slowly by letting your kiddo taste a shrimp or incorporate it into one of their favorite dishes.
- Homemade pizza: Kids love pizza, but they’re often high in saturated fats and salt. Making a Mediterranean-style pizza at home is an excellent way to get your kids involved in the kitchen as well. Here is a keto and gluten-free pizza dough option that you can topwith fresh mozzarella and other fresh ingredients.
- Healthy snacks: Hangry toddlers are no fun to deal with–but instead of letting your kids munch on cookies, opt for yogurt, fresh fruits, nuts or berries.
Breakfast for the Whole Family
- Baked oatmeal with fruit and almonds.
- Smoothie bowl made with your kid’s favorite fruits.
- Whole-grain bread topped with unsweetened nut butter and berries.
- Buckwheat pancakes with fruit and natural honey.
My kids love something baked in the morning, but instead of buttery pancakes, they prefer baked oatmeal. We top it with their favorite fruit or berries, as well as a little honey or maple syrup for sweetness.
Baked oatmeal can easily be baked the night before if you’re often running late in the mornings. You can also cut it into bars and save in airtight containers–if your kiddo has a sweet craving, let them snack on a baked oatmeal bar.
Kid-Approved Lunch and Dinner Ideas
What I love about the Mediterranean diet is that your kids won’t be feeling like it’s a diet. Here are some kid-approved lunch and dinner ideas:
- Mediterranean quiche with sun-dried tomatoes, onions, fresh herbs and cheese.
- Cornflakes crusted fish.
- Homemade non-fried chicken nuggets.
- Stuffed butternut squash.
- Homemade Mediterranean pizza.
Crispy Potato Chip Crusted Fish
Getting your kids to eat more fish isn’t always easy; however, these potato chip or cornflakes crusted fish fillets are sure to win them over.
This recipe uses cod, but you can also opt for any other white fish that your kids enjoy. Pair the fish with roasted potato wedges or a yogurt dip with cucumber, dill and a little bit of garlic. Don’t go overboard on the garlic since it can be too hot for young children.
Or, here is a classic kid-approved meal with a healthy twist. Instead of deep-frying, bake it in the oven. It will put a smile on everyone’s face. We serve in our home with sweet potato chips and a green.
Popular Frequently asked questions
Can You Eat Peanut Butter on the Mediterranean Diet?
Peanut butter is an excellent snack throughout the day. Eat it with apple slices or on a slice of whole-grain bread.
Can You Drink Red Wine on the Mediterranean Diet?
Red wine is good to drink on this diet in moderation. Although red wine has shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, drinking excessive amounts is not advised.
Weekly Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan Example
To meal plan successfully you should choose meals that are nutritious, easy to cook and save in larger quantities, varied in flavor, but use enough of the same ingredients so you can buy in bulk. While these are not very complicated concepts, it does take some planning to make it all come together. If you are new to meal planning, you might enjoy our guide about how to meal plan like a pro. Also, if you are looking to up your meal planning game by purchasing the right meal planning kitchen gear, then you might like our guide about meal prep tools that will make you smile.
To help get you started, I’ve put together a quick sample meditrranean diet weekly menu plan for you below. Naturally, if you will need to tweak this according to any health issue or preferences you might have :
- Breakfast: Easy, Healthy Oats with Nuts and Cream.
- Lunch: Italian Chicken Wrap.
- Dinner: Sacrilegious lasagna.
- Breakfast: Baked oatmeal with Blueberries and Bananas
- Lunch: Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwich
- Dinner: Pork Tenderloin with Couscous
- Breakfast: Simple Avocado Toast.
- Lunch: Greek Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Dinner: Crispy Potato Chip-Crusted Fish Fillets.
- Breakfast: Left over Baked oatmeal with Blueberries and Bananas.
- Lunch: Left over Crispy Potato Chip-Crusted Fish Fillets.
- Dinner: Classic Fathead Pizza Crust.
- Breakfast: Easy, Healthy Oats with Nuts and Cream.
- Lunch: Left over Italian Chicken Wrap.
- Dinner: Left over Pork Tenderloin with Couscous.
- Breakfast: Simple Mediterranean Avocado Toast.
- Lunch: Mediterranean Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwich.
- Dinner: Vegan Red Lentil Mediterranean Soup.
- Breakfast: Left over Baked oatmeal with Blueberries and Bananas.
- Lunch: Left over Greek Chicken Lettuce Wraps.
- Dinner: Left over Homemade Mediterranean pizza.
You can find all of our recipes that meet the Mediterranean diet definition here. If you create an account, then you can organize them into personalized meal plans and grocery shopping lists.
Tools to Help With the Mediterranean Diet
- Blender for smoothies: A personal blender, like this from Ninja, is easy to use and can crush ice and frozen vegetables to make smoothies.
- Cookware set: Good cookware, such as this from Home Hero, will help you to cook endless Mediterranean meals.
- Baking pan: If your family enjoys Mediterranean pizzas, you’ll need a good baking pan, like this one from Lodge.
Mediterranean Diet Made Easy
Mediterranean diets are full of healthy, tasty options. Adapting to one is a lifestyle change that the entire family can do without feeling like you’re missing out on your favorite foods.
Include lots of healthy fats, such as olive oil, and whole grains, such as oats or quinoa. Find Mediterranean diet-friendly snacks for you and your kids, such as peanut butter and apple slices.