May = Mediterranean Diet Month

The Mediterranean Diet is worthy of being recognized and celebrated as it is one of the more well-researched and highly recommended eating patterns for its many benefits related to disease prevention and healthy aging. Some benefits include lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease and events (mainly heart attacks and strokes), lowering the risk for cancer, and lowering the risk for metabolic diseases (diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure). It can also help people lose weight, support a healthy gut microbiome, and support brain health for longevity.

How? This diet is high in prebiotic fiber, nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega 3, and low in highly processed foods and sugar.

The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the eating habits of those living in countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, like Spain, France, Italy, and Greece. Ancel Keys, an American scientist, was the first to study the association of the Mediterranean lifestyle with cardiovascular disease in the 1950’s. He attributed their low rates of disease to their culture rich in traditional foods – bread, olive oil, fish, vegetables, fruit, and wine. He went on to develop a model for eating this way in America.

Ancel’s Mediterranean diet model emphasizes:

  • High intake of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, which are minimally processed, seasonally fresh, and grown locally.
  • Olive oil as the principal source of fat.
  • Low to moderate dairy consumption (mainly from cheese and yogurt).
  • A few servings of fish and lean poultry weekly.
  • Small and infrequent consumption of red meat.
  • Small amounts of sweets containing sugar or honey, incorporating fresh fruits as much as possible.
  • Small amount of wine with a meal (no more than 1 drink for women, 2 drinks for men).
  • Less salt. Use herbs and spices for flavor.

There are some ways you can easily incorporate more of these principles into your own eating habits without having to travel to Europe.

  • Swap refined grains for whole grains – whole grains include barley, farro, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and whole wheat bread.
  • Swap other oils in your kitchen for olive oil – cook with it, use it as a base for salad dressings, then swap the butter on your bread for olive oil.
  • Add a serving of vegetables to each meal – increase the amount you are already having or set goals to try one new vegetable every week.
  • Snack on nuts instead of processed snacks – switch those snack crackers for a handful of mixed nuts. One handful per day is recommended.
  • Plan to eat fish at least twice – swap other proteins out for more fish.
  • Try adding beans to your dish – it’s budget friendly and can make for a good meat substitute.
  • Reduce the amount of added sugar you eat – use fruit to add sweetness.

Mediterranean-style menu ideas:


  • Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts
  • Vegetable omelet cooked in olive oil with whole grain bread


  • Minestrone soup and green salad drizzled with olive oil
  • Vegetable pizza with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil


  • Grilled cod filet with vegetables over farro
  • Bean burger on a whole grain bun with vegetables


  • Angel food cake with berries
  • Fruit sorbet


  • Olives and hummus with whole grain crackers
  • Fruit and nut trail mix

Talk to your Dietitian about other ways to make your eating habits more Mediterranean-friendly in honor of this month and beyond for your health.

-Natalie Day, MS, RDN, LD

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *