3 simple steps to a Mediterranean Diet

We could all learn a thing or two from the lifestyles of people living in the Mediterranean! The Mediterranean diet is not a quick fix or fad diet – it’s a way of life. 

That’s why as part of our Fresh Start offering, we’ve added FIVE Mediterranean inspired recipes to our subscription every week this summer. Focusing on wholegrains, New Zealand produce, leafy greens and nuts, fish and quality oils, these recipes are the perfect balance of healthy and delicious. Check out the menu here.

The science continues to show us that the Mediterranean Diet ticks all the boxes for supporting optimal health and wellbeing. We now see good evidence of the benefit for managing weight, blood pressure, cholesterol; reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes; and promoting healthy ageing and longevity (1-9). But what does that mean for your own diet and how can you get started? Our Dietitian Lily ‘Lentil’ has popped together three simple steps to help you move towards a Mediterranean way of eating.

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Foods in the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece, and Italy. But it’s important to realise that in New Zealand although we can try to follow these cuisines, we need an adapted approach that’s relevant to the local foods we have available and our household budget.

A Mediterranean diet is not about any single food or nutrient. It’s the overall combination of anti-inflammatory foods with antioxidant properties (AKA the ‘whole dietary pattern’) which is likely to improve our health and wellbeing. The high proportion of plant foods mean the Mediterranean diet is high in fibre, antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals.

Includes plenty of colourful plant foodsSmall amounts of fish, chicken, eggs and dairyVery little red meat and highly processed foods
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh fruit &vegetables
Nuts and seeds
Fish & seafood
Cheese, yoghurt
Red meat
Highly processed foods
Refined grains
Processed meats
Foods high in added sugar

And let’s not forget the lifestyle. It’s not all about food and people living in the Mediterranean take great enjoyment in preparing meals, slowing down, sharing food with family and friends. Eating with others can improve mental wellbeing and help us to build a positive relationship with food (10-11).

3 simple steps

You can adapt any style of diet or cuisine to be more ‘Mediterranean’ by following these three simple steps.

Step 1) Dial up the plants

From leafy greens to avocado and quinoa – plants are at the centre of the plate. Often vegetables are those that are abundant in summer like capsicum, tomatoes and courgette so take advantage while these vegetables are in season. Try adding edamame beans to a stir-fry, hummus to a sandwich or canned chickpeas to a salad to increase the ratio of plants in your meals.

Step 2) Swap to Extra virgin olive oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet – not only has it been proven to benefit health, it’s also great to cook with, and makes food taste better. Swap from canola or rice bran oil to olive oil as your all-purpose oil as it can be used in cooked and raw dishes.

Step 3) Sub out ham and bacon

A Medi diet minimises meat but in particular it has very small amounts (if any) of processed meats like bacon, ham and salami. Stuck for pizza toppings Why not try cooked veggies, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. Build your cooked breakfast around eggs, cooked mushrooms and asparagus and you’ll hardly miss the bacon!

FSA Bruschetta Salmon Rocket Salad with Balsamic Glaze Fresh Basil 2 1


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  2. Steffen LM et al. A modified Mediterranean diet score is associated with a lower risk of incident metabolic syndrome over 25 years among young adults: the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study. Br J Nutr. 2014; 112: 1654–61.
  3. Mancini JG et al. Systematic review of the Mediterranean diet for long-term weight loss. Am J Med. 2016; 129: 407–415.e4.
  4. Bendall CL et al. Central obesity and the Mediterranean diet: A systematic review of intervention trials. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2018; 58: 3070–84.
  5. Guasch-Ferré M et al. The Mediterranean diet and health: a comprehensive overview. J Intern Med 2021; 290: 549–566.
  6. Becerra-Tomás N et al. Mediterranean diet, cardiovascular disease and mortality in diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized clinical trials. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020; 60: 1207–27.
  7. Rosato V et al. Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Eur J Nutr. 2017;58(1):173-91.
  8. Dinu M, Pagliai G, Casini A, Sofi F. Mediterranean diet and multiple health outcomes: An umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018; 72: 30–43.
  9. Jannasch F et al. Dietary patterns and Type 2 diabetes: A systematic literature review and meta- analysis of prospective studiesJ Nutr. 2017; 147: 1174–82.
  10. Chae W et al. Association between eating behaviour and diet quality: eating alone vs. eating with others. Nutr J. 2018;17(1):117-.
  11. Poulimeneas D et al. Exploring the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and weight loss maintenance: the MedWeight study. Br J Nutr. 2020;124(8):874-80.