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Fact File - Mediterranean Diet

Research has shown that changing from the Western Diet to a Mediterranean Diet (MD) can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, cancer and other diseases.






What does a MD consist of?

  • Generally rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes and cereals (especially wholegrains).
  • Plenty of sustainably sourced fish and white meat. Lean red meat is eaten infrequently.
  • Monounsaturated oils are used in place of saturated fats.
  • Moderate red wine intake with meals (but kept within the Government recommended guidelines of no more than 14 units per week for both men and women).


How could I benefit from changing to a MD?

  • Research suggests a decreased risk of cancer, heart disease and chronic conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
  • A positive impact made on Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease has also been noted.
  • A reduction in weight has also been observed.


How do I make MD changes to my everyday lifestyle?

  • Increase intake of vegetables, legumes, fruit and wholegrain cereals.
  • Decrease red meat intake and replace with fish and lean white meat alternatives as they are lower in fat and more sustainably sourced.
  • Change to mono-unsaturated based oils such as extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil.
  • Cut out processed ‘fast foods’ and ‘ready meals’ as this is where the majority of your saturated fat, sugar and salt intake is hidden.
  • Consume only moderate amounts of dairy foods, low-fat is preferable.
  • Try to avoid sprinkling salt on your food as it is already present in many food items.
  • Snack on fruit, dried fruit and plain nuts instead of crisps, chocolate and biscuits.
  • If you do drink, change to red wine, but have no more than 14 units throughout the week, spread over at least 3 days.
  • Aim to only drink water as it is the best non-alcoholic drink. Tea and coffee is acceptable in moderation but sugary soft drinks should be avoided.

These changes can be made as slowly or as quickly as you would like. But having them in mind will give you an end point goal.


Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid

Have the pyramid gives you a solid base for an understanding into what should be consumed on a daily or weekly basis when it comes to proportions. Having this in mind will help you to envisage your weeks worth of meals and what you need to prepare for when food shopping. (Click image to enlarge)



  1. Largest part of daily intake = Fruits, vegetables, salads and beans (pulses/legumes), along with some wholegrains. Every meal should be based on these foods.
  2. Two portions per week = Sustainably caught fish and seafood.
  3. Two portions can be consumed daily = White meat, cheese, milk, yoghurt and eggs.
  4. Consume occasionally = Red meat and sweets.



Fruit and vegetables

1 portion =

  • 1 slice of a large fruit e.g. half grapefruit, a third of a small mango or papaya,  1 slice of pineapple or melon (approximately 1 inch)
  • 1 medium fruit e.g. apple, banana, pear, orange
  • 2 small fruits e.g. plum, Satsuma
  • 1 small cup of small fruits e.g. grapes (approximately 10), cherries, berries, strawberries
  • A portion of dried fruit is about ½-1 tablespoon - this is equivalent of 2 dates, 3 apricots, 2 prunes
  • 150mls unsweetened fruit juice (limit to once a day).
  • 2-3 tablespoons (tbsps) vegetables
  • 1 bowl of salad


Meat, fish, poultry and alternatives (eggs, pulses and nuts)

1 portion =

  • 180g (6oz) white fish
  • 90g (3oz) oily/tinned fish
  • 120g (4oz) chicken/turkey/lean meat  (approximately the size of a ‘deck of cards’)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of pulses
  • 1 large or 2 small eggs


Bread, cereals and potatoes (starchy foods)

Choose wholegrain varieties

1 portion =

  • 3 tablespoons (1 cereal bowl) of cereal –e.g. weetabix, branflakes, porridge, shredded wheat.
  • 1 slice of granary, rye, wholemeal or seeded bread
  • 2 “egg-sized” potatoes, or half a jacket potato (1/3rd if very large) – with skins
  • 2 tablespoons of grain (60g cooked) e.g. wild, brown rice, quinoa or couscous


Milk and dairy products

1 portion =

  • 25g (1oz) hard cheese (approximately the size of a ‘matchbox’)
  • 50g (2oz) soft cheese
  • small pot (100-150g) low fat, diet or light yoghurt
  • 180mls (1/3pt) low fat milk


Fats and sugars

Choose virgin olive oil as the main source of oil, some vegetable oils can also be used. All oils (fats) are high in calories so if you need to watch your weight, go sparingly.

Aim to avoid foods high in fats and sugars, which are often in processed foods, these also maybe high in salt. Keep these to a special occasion only and use sugar-free varieties where possible. If you enjoy the occasional snack, aim for a small handful of plain nuts or dried fruit.


Water and alcohol

Water – It is essential to keep hydrated so aim to drink approximately 6-8 glasses/1.5L a day.

Alcohol – Alcohol (red wine) can be consumed during meals, but no more than 14 units per week, spread over at least 3 days.


Non-dietary factors to consider

The lifestyle of the Mediterranean diet also plays an important part of healthy living and aims to include factors such as physical activity, eating socially and controlling portion sizes.

Aim to include at least 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week, if you have not carried out much exercise recently increase gradually.


The Mediterranean diet can be high in fat (unsaturated fat) mainly sourced from virgin olive oil, it is important that if you need to control your weight then you may need to choose fewer servings from some or of each food group, exercise will also help with weight control.


This fact file is intended for adults as a general guide only and not a substitute for professional advice or a diagnosis. If you are on certain medication or suffer from a medical condition, seek individual advice from your health care professional. Date produced August 2016.


For full details of our Employee Nutrition Services, please find our brochure here and to chat through how this may be implemented in your workplace please call Anna on 07778 218009.

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