Starting a Mediterranean diet? Here’s how to follow one of the world’s healthiest diets

  • 4 Minutes Read
Sue Heikkinen
Sue Heikkinen, MS, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, ACE-PT - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

Want to lose weight but don’t want to sacrifice flavor or nutrition? Starting a Mediterranean diet may be your best bet! Here’s how to get nourishment and enjoyment from this time-tested and heart-healthy plan.

starting a Mediterranean diet

How to start a Mediterranean diet that achieves optimal success

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet refers to the traditional cuisines of the northern Mediterranean Sea, a region where people have lower rates of heart disease and heart attack. The Mediterranean diet is frequently named the best diet plan.

This eating plan focuses on heart-healthy, minimally processed foods that fight inflammation. Plenty of fruits and vegetables provide an abundance of fiber and antioxidants. A focus on healthy fats found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fish, means a generous intake of heart-wise fats and antioxidants. Added sugars are limited. These features explain why a Mediterranean diet is one of the world’s healthiest diets!

A Mediterranean diet is more than what you eat; it also involves an all-around healthy lifestyle. Relaxing meals, socializing, and daily physical activity are integral to Mediterranean living and appear responsible for some of the benefits of a Mediterranean diet.

Set your nutrition targets

Although monitoring macronutrients can be useful to your weight-loss plan, the quality of foods contributes to Mediterranean-style eating.

Here is MyNetDiary’s default macronutrient distribution for starting your Mediterranean diet, as well as suggested ranges:

To set targets, go to MyPlan and select Mediterranean as your Macronutrient Distribution Plan. You can adjust the distribution according to your goals and preferences.


Though the Mediterranean diet is relatively high in fat, it focuses on healthy, plant-sourced, unsaturated fats. Primarily, extra-virgin olive oil is a key component of this lifestyle . Eating fish two to three times a week provides a reliable source of beneficial omega-3 fats.

The Mediterranean diet easily meets MyNetDiary's guideline for less than 10% of calories from saturated fat.

Bonus: You may find this higher fat plan to be more flavorful and filling, making it easier to stay within your calorie goal.


Mediterranean eating provides protein from heart-healthy sources, including beans, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, and small amounts of dairy. You may choose a slightly higher protein goal, as long as you focus on these sources.


If you find carbohydrate restriction too difficult to maintain, this is the plan for you. Although not low-carb, the Mediterranean diet focuses on beneficial carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, legumes, and grains while limiting added sugar and nutrient-poor refined grains.

Vitamins and minerals

You are likely to meet your vitamin and mineral needs on this plan, due to the focus on minimally processed and nutrient-rich foods.

There's no need to guess if you are reaching your goals. You can set your MyNetDiary tracker to monitor over 100 nutrients!


Are you starting a Mediterranean diet for weight loss? The Mediterranean diet can help you meet your goal because it focuses on filling foods such as beans, vegetables, and whole grains. However, simply following a Mediterranean plan does not guarantee weight loss, so you should still monitor your calorie intake.

Stock your kitchen

Here are some ideas to get you started enjoying the flavors of Mediterranean cuisine:

Food group: Whole grains and starchy vegetables
Servings: 3 or more servings daily
Serving size:

Examples: Brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, whole grain bread, barley, and oats.

Food group: Fruits
Servings: 4 or more servings daily
Serving size:

Examples: Fresh, seasonal fruits when available, otherwise frozen and canned are good alternatives. Berries are especially rich in antioxidants

Food group: Vegetables
Servings: 4 or more servings daily
Serving size:

Examples: Fresh, seasonal vegetables when available, otherwise frozen and canned are good alternatives. Greens such as lettuce, kale, and chard are a rich source of nutrients.

Food group: Seafood
Servings: 2-3 servings weekly
Serving size:

Examples: Focus on fatty fish for omega-3s: salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster can also be included.

Food group: Meat, poultry, and other protein sources
Servings: 1 or fewer servings daily
No more than 1 serving red meat weekly

Serving size:

Examples: Chicken, turkey, plant-based meat substitutes such as tofu or tempeh.
Use meat as a side or for flavoring, not as a focus of meals.

Food group: Eggs
Servings: 0-4 weekly
Serving size:

Examples: Omelets or frittatas with added vegetables.

Food group: Legumes
Servings: 3 or more servings weekly
Serving size:

Examples: Dried, frozen, and canned beans, split peas, lentils and hummus (made from chickpeas).

Food group: Nuts and seeds
Servings: 3 or more servings weekly
Serving size:

Examples: Almonds, almond butter, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds.

Food group: Dairy foods or substitutes
Servings: 1 or fewer servings daily
Serving size:

Examples: Milk, yogurt, cheese, and non-dairy alternatives. Feta cheese, fresh mozzarella, shaved Parmesan, and Greek yogurt are popular choices.

Food group: Fats and oils
Servings: 4 or more servings daily (within calorie allowance)
Serving size:

Examples: Extra-virgin olive oil, used as your primary oil. Avocados, avocado oil, walnut oil, and canola oil are also good choices.

Food group: Spices and seasonings
Servings: Daily
Serving size:

Examples: Basil, cinnamon, cilantro, dill, garlic, lemon, oregano, thyme, and vinegar. Choose fresh and dried options.

Food group: Red wine (optional)
Servings: Men: 1-2 glasses daily
Women: 1/2-1 glasses daily

Serving size:

Examples: Enjoy in moderation!

Food group: Desserts
Servings: 1-2 servings/week
Serving size:

Examples: Choose fruit as a dessert alternative more often.
Dark chocolate is lower in added sugars and a source of antioxidants.

Try new recipes and cooking techniques

You will open up a new world of flavors with a Mediterranean diet!

MyNetDiary has hundreds of Mediterranean recipes in our Premium Recipe collection, so starting a Mediterranean diet will be easy for you. View these recipes by selecting the Mediterranean tag.

You can also import recipes from Mediterranean recipe websites such as Olive Tomato and Oldways into your MyNetDiary account. You can also make your favorite recipes more Mediterranean by increasing the vegetables, switching to olive oil, or adding beans or other plant-based protein sources. MyNetDiary will provide an updated analysis of your new recipe.

Find Support

The Mediterranean style of eating is flavorful and sustainable, but you may need some support when starting a Mediterranean diet. Engage with our MyNetDiary community on Facebook or our Community Forum. We have a team of Registered Dietitians available to answer your nutrition and fitness questions.

Still new to MyNetDiary? Learn more today by downloading the app for FREE.

Meal Planning & Diets->Healthy Eating Meal Planning & Diets->Mediterranean Style
Oct 20, 2023

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