Whether you're new to cooking, just starting your journey to healthier eating or looking to simplify your routine, this Mediterranean meal plan for beginners can help.

Emily Lachtrupp, M.S., R.D., C.D.
April 06, 2020
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If you're trying to eat healthier but not sure where to start, this easy Mediterranean diet for beginners is perfect. We aim to keep the plan simple by repeating breakfast and lunch options, occasionally using leftovers for dinner and choosing Mediterranean diet recipes that don't have super-long ingredient lists or a ton of steps. If you have prediabetes, diabetes, heart disease or are simply looking improve your health or follow the Mediterranean diet for weight loss, this plan can work for you. We capped the calories at 1,200 calories a day to promote a healthy weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week and included modifications to bump up the calories to 1,500 or 2,000 calories a day, depending on your needs.

What Is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle than a restrictive diet with food "rules." Its goal is to incorporate the nutritious foods that people traditionally eat in the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It includes plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils as well as seafood and healthy fats, like olive oil and nuts. It includes a moderate amount of chicken, turkey, eggs and fermented dairy, like yogurt or kefir, while limiting red meat, sweets and processed foods. Plus, the diet emphasizes the importance of cooking at home, enjoying meals with others and fitting in regular exercise, like walking.

Mediterranean Diet Health Benefits

The Mediterranean diet was voted the best diet by U.S. News & World Report for a reason—it has so many health benefits. Because this diet includes plenty of healthy fats, limits unhealthy saturated fats and includes plenty of fiber from fresh produce and whole grains, the Mediterranean diet can improve heart health. Plus, research also shows that the Mediterranean diet can help with weight loss, improve blood sugars and even support brain health.

How to Shop for the Mediterranean Diet

Like any successful grocery store visit, having a shopping list is key. It helps us stick to our plan, saves money and reduces the temptation to throw less-healthy food in our cart because of a promotion. You've probably heard the advice to shop the perimeter of the grocery store because it's healthier. While it's true that fresh produce, seafood, eggs, dairy and meat tend to be on the outer edges, there's a lot of good choices in the inner aisles as well! In the middle aisles, you'll find canned and dried beans, frozen fruit and vegetables, whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa as well as nuts and nut butter, olive oil, olives and canned seafood. To stay on track, avoid going to the store hungry, shop with a plan and only go down the necessary aisles to get the food on your list to avoid extra (and often less healthy) add-on items.

Mediterranean Diet Foods List

Olive oil

Fish, including canned and frozen fish

Beans and lentils

Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables

Herbs

Whole grains, like oatmeal, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice

Red wine, in moderation

Nuts, seeds and nut butters

Eggs

Fermented dairy, like kefir and yogurt

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals

Do these simple meal-prep steps at the beginning of the week, to may the busy week days less stressful.

  1. Make Cinnamon Roll Overnight Oats to have for breakfast on Days 2 through 6.
  2. Meal-prep the Vegan Superfood Buddha Bowls to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5.
  3. Whip up Garlic-Dijon Vinaigrette to have throughout the week.

Day 1

Helpful Cooking Tip of the Day: Sheet-pan dinners are a quick and easy way to get a healthy meal on the table without dirtying a lot of dishes. See more of our sheet-pan dinners for easy weeknight meals.

Related: See all of our Healthy Cooking How-To's

Breakfast (292 calories)

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup blackberries
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

A.M. Snack (32 calories)

  • 1/2 cup raspberries

Lunch (325 calories)

P.M. Snack (131 calories)

  • 1 large pear

Dinner (422 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Prepare Vegetarian Spring Egg Casserole through Step 2 tonight to have for dinner tomorrow.

Daily Totals: 1,202 calories, 74 g protein, 128 g carbohydrates, 32 g fiber, 49 g fat, 1,085 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter to breakfast.

To make it 2,000 calories: Include all the modifications for the 1,500-calorie day, plus add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack, and add 1 cup cooked quinoa to dinner.

Day 2

Helpful Cooking Tip of the Day: Homemade salad dressings are easier, cheaper and healthier than their store-bought counterparts. Check out our simple formula for how to make a delicious homemade vinaigrette.

Breakfast (231 calories)

A.M. Snack (66 calories)

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (62 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (484 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Reserve leftover Vegetarian Spring Egg Casserole to have for dinner tomorrow night.

Daily Totals: 1,224 calories, 54 g protein, 138 g carbohydrates, 35 g fiber, 57 g fat, 1,119 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter to A.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Include all the modifications for the 1,500-calorie day, plus increase to 1 cup Greek yogurt at A.M. snack, add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack, and increase to 1 avocado at dinner.

Day 3

Helpful Cooking Tip of the Day: If you're struggling to fit in breakfast, try overnight oats. They're quick, healthy and the perfect on-the-go breakfast for busy mornings. See all of our overnight oat recipes here.

Breakfast (231 calories)

A.M. Snack (66 calories)

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (37 calories)

  • 1 medium bell pepper, sliced

Dinner (484 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,199 calories, 54 g protein, 130 g carbohydrates, 35 g fiber, 57 g fat, 1,123 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1 clementine to lunch and add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Include all the modifications for the 1,500-calorie day, plus increase to 1 cup yogurt and add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter at A.M. snack and increase to 1 avocado at dinner.

Day 4

Helpful Cooking Tip of the Day: Canned beans are a quick and easy addition to any meal. They are high in fiber and protein, which helps keep you full. Whether you're new to preparing meals at home or simply short on time, our no-cook salads are perfect.

Breakfast (231 calories)

A.M. Snack (170 calories)

  • 22 unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (66 calories)

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Dinner (360 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,208 calories, 50 g protein, 126 g carbohydrates, 36 g fiber, 63 g fat, 869 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Increase to 1/3 cup almonds and add 1 large pear at A.M. snack, plus increase to 1 cup Greek yogurt at P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Include all the modifications for the 1,500-calorie day, plus add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter to breakfast, add 1 clementine to lunch, and add 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast to dinner.

Day 5

Helpful Cooking Tip of the Day: A little meal prep at the beginning of the week helps make sure you can eat healthy during busy days and evenings. If you're new to meal prep, check out our beginner's guide to meal prep for helpful hints.

Breakfast (231 calories)

A.M. Snack (95 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (35 calories)

  • 1 clementine

Dinner (463 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,204 calories, 59 g protein, 149 g carbohydrates, 33 g fiber, 48 g fat, 1,083 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to lunch.

To make it 2,000 calories: Include the modification for the 1,500-calorie day, plus add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter to breakfast, add 1 clementine to lunch, and add 2 Tbsp. almond butter to P.M. snack.

Day 6

Helpful Cooking Tip of the Day: Eating small snacks throughout the day helps prevent you from getting too hungry, which makes it easier to stay on track with your health goals. Aim to eat snacks with fiber, like fruits and vegetables, or protein, like yogurt or nuts, because both of these nutrients help you stay satiated.

Breakfast (231 calories)

A.M. Snack (66 calories)

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Lunch (325 calories)

P.M. Snack (95 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Dinner (472 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,189 calories, 52 g protein, 198 g carbohydrates, 45 g fiber, 26 g fat, 1,257 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Increase to 1 cup yogurt at A.M. snack, add 1 medium orange to lunch, and add 2 Tbsp. almond butter to P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Include all the modifications for the 1,500-calorie day, plus add 30 unsalted dry-roasted almonds to A.M. snack and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 7

Helpful Cooking Tip of the Day: If you think you need a ton of meat on your sandwich to feel full, think again. Hummus is a great and easy addition, plus our Veggie & Hummus Sandwich has 13 grams of protein from hummus and whole-grain bread and a whopping 12 grams of fiber to keep you full all afternoon.

Breakfast (292 calories)

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup blackberries
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

A.M. Snack (95 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Lunch (325 calories)

P.M. Snack (35 calories)

  • 1 clementine

Dinner (456 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,202 calories, 66 g protein, 124 g carbohydrates, 33 g fiber, 55 g fat, 1,195 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Increase to 2 clementines and add 1/3 cup unsalted dry-roasted almonds to P.M. snack.

To make it 2,000 calories: Include all the modifications for the 1,500-calorie day, plus add 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 1 1/2 Tbsp. almond butter to breakfast and add 2 Tbsp. almond butter to A.M. snack.

Watch: How to Make Greek Roasted Fish with Vegetables