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Mediterranean Diet Food Guide

Mediterranean diet guide pyramid
UW Health Heart and Vascular Care promotes the Mediterranean diet as a way to adopt healthier heart habits in your diet.
About the Mediterranean Diet
People who live in the area around the Mediterranean Sea have traditionally had a low risk of heart disease. Research studies show that when people in other parts of the world eat a diet similar to that eaten in Mediterranean countries, they reduce their risk of heart disease.
The Mediterranean diet contains an abundance of fruit, vegetables, and vegetarian proteins, moderate amounts of whole grains, and small amounts of red meat. Regular use of fi sh, olive oil, and nuts makes this diet higher in fat than the typical “heart healthy diet”, but the fat is mostly unsaturated, which can be benefi cial for the heart. The pyramid to the left and the chart below describe types and amounts of foods included in a heart healthy Mediterranean diet.
Exercise and Weight Control
Adequate exercise is very important. Start with a base of 30-60 minutes of exercise five times per week. Moderate exercise like walking, biking, or swimming is recommended. Even though the higher fat content of the Mediterranean diet can be healthy for your heart, large portions may lead to increased calorie intake and weight gain. If you are trying to lose weight, choose the smaller number of servings in each category, and make sure your servings sizes match those listed.
Food Groups and Servings
Food Groups/  Servings Serving Sizes, Examples and Notes 
Non-starchy vegetables
4-8 per day
½-cup of cooked vegetables, 1 cup of raw vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables include artichoke, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, caulifl ower, cabbage, celery, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, onions, green and wax beans, zucchini, turnips, peppers, salad greens and mushrooms 
2-4 per day
One small fresh fruit, ½ cup juice, ¼ cup dried fruit
Whole fruits are preferred because of the fiber and other nutrients they contain, but fruits canned in light syrup or their own juice, and frozen fruit with little or no added sugar are also good choices. Use only small amounts of fruit juice (8 oz per day or less), since even unsweetened juices can contain as much sugar as regular soda. 
Legumes and nuts
1-3 per day
Legumes: ½-cup kidney, black, garbanzo, pinto, soy, navy beans, split peas, or lentils, ¼ cup fat free refried beans or baked beans
Nuts and Seeds: 2 T. sunflower or sesame seeds, 1 T. peanut butter, 7-8 walnuts or pecans, 20 peanuts, 12-15 almonds
Aim for 1-2 servings of nuts or seeds and 1-2 servings of legumes per day. Legumes are high in fiber, protein and minerals. Nuts are high in fat, but the fat is mostly unsaturated and may increase HDL without increasing LDL cholesterol levels. 

Low-fat dairy


1-3 per day
1 cup of skim milk or light yogurt, 1 oz. of low-fat cheese
Soy milk, yogurt and cheese can take the place of dairy products. If servings of dairy or fortified soy are less than two per day, a calcium and vitamin D supplement is recommended. 
Fish or shellfish
2-3 per week
3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
Prepare fish by baking, sautéing, broiling, roasting, grilling or poaching. Choose fatty fishes like salmon, herring, sardines, or mackerel often. The fat in fish is high in omega-3 fats, so it has healthy effects on triglycerides and blood cells. 
Poultry, if desired
1-3 per day
3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
Bake, sauté, stir fry, roast or grill the poultry you eat, and eat it without the skin. 
Whole grains
4-6 per day
1 slice whole wheat bread, ½-cup potatoes, corn, peas or winter squash, ½ large whole grain bun, 1 small whole grain roll, six-inch whole wheat pita, 6 whole grain crackers, ½-cup cooked whole grain cereal (oatmeal, cracked wheat), ½-cup cooked whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or barley
Whole grains are high in fiber and have less effect on blood sugar and triglyceride levels than refined, processed grains like white bread and pasta. Whole grains also keep the stomach full longer, making it easier to control hunger. 
Healthy fat
4-6 per day
1 tsp. olive or canola oil, 2 tsp. light margarine, 1 T. of regular salad dressing or 2 T. of light salad dressing made with oil, 1 tsp. regular mayonnaise 1/8 of an avocado, 5 olives (high salt - limit if you have high blood pressure)
These fats are mostly unsaturated and contain little or no trans fat, so they will not increase LDL cholesterol levels. Remember that all fats are a concentrated source of calories, so keep the servings small, as recommended. 
1 per day for women, 2 per day for men
One drink equals one 12 ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1-½ ounces liquor (whiskey, vodka, brandy, etc).
People with high blood pressure or high triglycerides, or those taking certain medications may be advised to avoid alcohol completely. Ask your doctor to be sure.


  • Limit egg yolks to 4 per week.
  • Egg whites can be eaten in unlimited amounts.
  • Eat sweets infrequently – use fruit as your dessert.
  • Lean red meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal) can be included 3-4 times per month.



de Lorgeril, M, et al: Lyon Diet Heart Study, Lancet 1994; 343:1454-9.

Singh, RB, et al: Indo-Mediterranean Diet Heart Study, Lancet 2002; 360: 1455-61.