All veggies are acceptable and beloved on the Mediterranean diet, but it's ideal if you stick to what's seasonal to maintain as much of a connection to the land and your local region as possible. In the fall and winter, lean toward Brussels sprouts, root vegetables, mushrooms, and kale. In the spring and summer, try eating more asparagus, artichokes, and zucchini. The best way to get in touch with what's in season?
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are staples of the Mediterranean diet, so load up on walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and more. Toss 'em into smoothies (soak them first if you don't have a high-powered blender) or use them to add crunch and interest to salads or grain dishes (yes, grains are allowed!
You'll likely be happy to know that unlike many popular diets today, the Mediterranean diet embraces whole grains in all their glory. Ideally, look for grains that haven't been processed at all—this means that rather than whole grain bread, seek out quinoa, buckwheat, wheat berries, farro, oats, and more. Use them as a base for grain salads or mixed with a milk of your choice for a hearty breakfast option (bonus points if you top your breakfast grain bowl with berries and some chopped nuts!).
Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, white beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and legumes of all sorts are allowed on the Mediterranean diet. Either make them from scratch (with an Instant Pot, it's shockingly easy!), or look for cans that are BPA-free. You can use any legumes to make salads with whatever fresh produce is in season, or roast chickpeas in the oven with spices and olive oil until they're crispy for a protein-packed snack.
Yes, yes—you knew we'd get to olive oil eventually. Look for extra-virgin olive oil—and for the most benefits, look for an olive oil that makes you cough a bit when you taste it. That cough comes from the polyphenol content (aka the part that makes it healthy). While some modern nutritionists don't cook with olive oil, the people living in the Mediterranean have for thousands of years—but if that makes you uncomfortable, use the olive oil raw in salad dressings or to finish dishes, and use avocado oil for high-heat cooking. Healthy fat is celebrated in the Mediterranean diet, so you can also fill up on olives and avocados.
Speaking of healthy fat, you'll want to get your omega-3s in, which means it's seafood time. Seafood is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, so eat anything fresh-caught in abundance. While wild-caught fish is wonderful, farmed fish can also be a great option (read more on this here). If you're looking to avoid mercury, choose smaller fish that are lower on the food chain but still provide ample nutritional benefits—think sardines and anchovies versus tuna.
Poultry and eggs
While red meat isn't typically a huge part of the Mediterranean diet, poultry and eggs are embraced. Mix up your poultry types—try duck and turkey in addition to chicken—and always look for eggs and poultry from pasture-raised animals for the most nutritional benefits.
You'll be happy to know that cheese and milk are both allowed on the Mediterranean diet. If you're going for dairy, always make sure it's grass-fed or pastured, and think beyond the typical cow's milk variety. People who live in the Mediterranean embrace sheep's and goat's milk, which offer different flavor profiles and can sometimes be easier to digest for people with lactose issues.
Spices and herbs
Mediterranean eaters embrace herbs and spices in abundance. In addition to packing a huge flavor punch, herbs and spices have tons of health benefits. Use them liberally—use dried spices when cooking grains or to make a rub for seafood or poultry, or sprinkle your eggs with your favorite spice blends. And don't sleep on fresh herbs—some roughly ripped basil can make fresh tomatoes pop, and fresh, torn mint makes a salad sing like nothing else. Another Mediterranean staple? Making a tea from fresh herbs. Just steep whatever you have on hand—rosemary, mint, thyme, oregano; it all works!—in hot water for five to 10 minutes, then strain and sip up!