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.
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If you're trying to eat healthier but are unsure where to start, this easy Mediterranean diet meal plan 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 or heart disease, simply looking to improve your health, or following 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 also 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 exercises, like walking.

a group of Mediterranean Diet foods such as fruit, eggs, vegetables, seeds, and nuts
Credit: Melina Hammer

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. A 2018 review published in Current Nutrition Reports shows that the Mediterranean diet can even support brain health.

How to Shop for the Mediterranean Diet

Spread of recipe ingredients

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 in the perimeter of the grocery store because that is where fresh produce, seafood, eggs, dairy and meat tend to be located. Still, there are 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 and 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

Vegetarian bowls

Weekdays tend to be busy—do these simple meal-prep steps at the beginning of the week to minimize stress over meal planning.

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

Day 1

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

Related: See all of our Healthy Cooking How-Tos

Breakfast (453 calories)

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (145 calories)
  • 1/4 cup blackberries (16 calories)
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts (292 calories)

A.M. Snack (39 calories)

  • 1/2 cup raspberries

Lunch (325 calories)

P.M. Snack (106 calories)

  • 1 medium pear

Dinner (422 calories)

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

Daily Totals: 1,345 calories, 80 g protein, 126 g carbohydrates, 33 g fiber, 64 g fat, 1,088 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Add 1/2 whole-wheat English muffin with 1 tablespoon of 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

Dish of the Vegetarian Spring Egg Casserole recipe

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 (236 calories)

A.M. Snack (73 calories)

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (77 calories)

  • 1 medium orange

Dinner (437 calories)

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

Daily Totals: 1,204 calories, 54 g protein, 138 g carbohydrates, 32 g fiber, 37 g fat, 1,132 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

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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.

Breakfast (236 calories)

A.M. Snack (73 calories)

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (37 calories)

  • 1 medium bell pepper, sliced

Dinner (437 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,164 calories, 54 g protein, 128 g carbohydrates, 30 g fiber, 37 g fat, 1,129 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

white bean & veggie salad

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.

Breakfast (236 calories)

A.M. Snack (160 calories)

  • 22 unsalted dry-roasted almonds

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (73 calories)

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Dinner (360 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,210 calories, 51 g protein, 126 g carbohydrates, 35 g fiber, 46 g fat, 875 mg sodium

To make it 1,500 calories: Increase to 1/3 cup almonds and add 1 medium 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

Summer Shrimp Salad

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 (236 calories)

A.M. Snack (122 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Lunch (381 calories)

P.M. Snack (45 calories)

  • 1 clementine

Dinner (462 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,246 calories, 60 g protein, 155 g carbohydrates, 32 g fiber, 48 g fat, 1,088 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

Stuffed Sweet Potato with Hummus Dressing

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 (236 calories)

A.M. Snack (73 calories)

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Lunch (325 calories)

P.M. Snack (122 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Dinner (472 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,228 calories, 53 g protein, 202 g carbohydrates, 44 g fiber, 26 g fat, 1,260 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

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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 (453 calories)

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (145 calories)
  • 1/4 cup blackberries (16 calories)
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts (292 calories)

A.M. Snack (122 calories)

  • 1 medium apple

Lunch (325 calories)

P.M. Snack (45 calories)

  • 1 clementine

Dinner (437 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,382 calories, 70 g protein, 131 g carbohydrates, 32 g fiber, 69 g fat, 1,165 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 Sheet-Pan Roasted Salmon & Vegetables