What is a Mediterranean diet?

A Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, France, Greece and Spain.

Mediterranean cuisine varies by region and has a range of definitions, but is largely based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, cereal grains, olive oil and fish.

The Mediterranean diet has been associated with good health, including a healthier heart. A 2013 study found that people following a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

You can make your diet more Mediterranean-style by:

  • eating plenty of starchy foods, such as bread and pasta
  • eating plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • eating some fish
  • eating less meat
  • choosing products made from vegetable and plant oils, such as olive oil

The diet is similar to the government's healthy eating advice set out in the eatwell plate, which shows the foods needed for a balanced, healthy diet.

The eatwell plate shows how much you should eat of each food group.

This includes everything you eat during the day, including snacks. So, try to stick to these guidelines:

  • Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, rice or potatoes. Choose wholegrain varieties wherever you can, or eat potatoes with their skins on for more fibre.
  • Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day. Find out how you can get your 5 A DAY.
  • Choose some lean protein, which can be meat, fish, eggs, beans or pulses and other non-dairy sources.
  • Include some milk and dairy foods, such as cheese and yoghurt. These are great sources of protein and calcium.
  • Have only a small amount of foods high in fat and/or sugar, or eat them less often.

It's a good idea to try to get this balance right every day, but you don't need to do it at every meal. You might find it easier to get the balance right over a longer period, such as over the course of a week.

Page last reviewed: 19/03/2015

Next review due: 19/03/2017


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 137 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

observer59 said on 28 January 2014

It is now very clear to me that the Mediterranean diet is the correct way to go. I am169kg and have type2 diabetes.
I never feel very well and have to watch everything I eat. I have to take metformin and insulin. I would say avoid my condition at all cost by eating the right thing before it's too late. If you think about it eating natural stuff like fruit and vegetables makes complete sense.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Losing weight - Getting started

Develop healthier eating habits, be more active and get on track to start losing weight with our 12-week weight loss guide.

Weight loss pack

The eatwell plate

Use the eatwell plate to get the balance of your diet right. It shows you how much to eat from each food group

Food and diet

Find out how to achieve a healthy, nutritious diet to help you look and feel your best