Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

The Mediterranean Diet pyramid is very simple and focuses on the consumption of healthy unrefined, unprocessed foods.

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid History

The pyramid was developed by Oldways, Harvard School of Public Health and the European Office of the World Health Organization in 1993. This pyramid continues to be on of the best known visual guides to the Mediterranean diet and is considered the “gold standard” eating pattern that promotes lifelong good health.

The Mediterranean diet pyramid was created using the most current nutrition research to the represent a traditional healthy Mediterranean diet. The diet was based on the 1960 dietary traditions of Greece, Crete and southern Italy. During this time chronic disease was among the lowest in the world and adult life expectancy was among the highest even though medical services were limited.

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid eating pattern

Dietary data from the Mediterranean region show that they have enjoyed the lowest recorded rates of chronic disease and highest adult life expectancy. This pattern is corroborated by more than 50 years of epidemiological and experimental nutrition research.  The frequency and amounts suggested are nonspecific as variation of the meal components was considerable. The following list contains more detail regarding the components of the Mediterranean diet.

They are: (in no particular order)

  • An abundance of vegetables
  • Minimally processed foods. Seasonly fresh foods are recommended over canned options.
  • Olive oil is the main source of fats.
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Fresh fruits as the daily dessert
  • Seafood
  • Grains
  • Red Wine – moderate consumption
  • Exercise- not a food but a big component of the Mediterranean lifestyle

For a more complete listing visit the Mediterranean Diet Food list. You may also want to read the Mediterranean Diet food glossary to get familiar with some new food terms.

The following chart will help you better understand the food components of the Mediterranean Diet and how they are consumed.

Eat Monthly: Red Meat

Eat Weekly: Sweets, Eggs, Potatoes, Olives, Legumes, Nuts, Poultry, Fish

Eat Daily: Dairy, Olive Oil (used in cooking), Fruit, Vegetables, Non-refined grains. (whole grain bread and pasta, brown rice, etc), Red Wine – In moderation.

Mediterranean Food Glossary

As you learn more about the Mediterranean diet and its associated components you may come across a few terms that are new. Below are some of the more popular terms and phrases you may come across.

Arborio Rice: [ar-BOR-ee-o] A short-grain rice whose starch helps turn risotto creamy.

Arugula: [ah-ROO-gah-lah] A salad green with a peppery, mustard flavor.

Baba Ghannouge: [ba-ba-gha-NOOJH] Roasted eggplant mixed with lemon juice, tahini, and spices. Sometimes served as a dip.

Bouillabaisse: [BWEE-ya-base] A traditional fish stew from France’s Provençe region, including fish, shellfish and vegetables such as leeks, potatoes, tomatoes and celery

Bruschetta: [brew-SKETT-a] An Italian dish made by topping toasted bread with olive oil and various accompaniments like tomatoes, basil, artichokes, garlic, eggplant and cheese.

Couscous: [COOS-coos] A grain-like food made by rolling flour and liquid between the fingers to create little balls. Couscous can be made from wheat or many other grains.

Dukkah: [DUE-kuh] A crumbly mixture of nuts, herbs and seeds. Bread can be dipped in olive oil and then in dukkah.

Falafel: [fuh-LAH-fel] A Middle Eastern dish made from ground chickpeas or fava beans and spices that have been shaped into patties and fried or baked.

Fattoush: [Fah-TOOSH] A Mediterranean salad made with tomatoes, vegetables, and torn-up pieces of bread.

Feta Cheese: [FEH-ta] A type of cheese, cured in brine, popular in Greece, Turkey, and throughout the Middle East.

Gazpacho: [gahz-PAH-cho] A cold tomato-based soup made with raw vegetables, originating in southern Spain.

Hummus/Hommos: [HUM-us] A thick paste made from chickpeas, tahini, oil, lemon juice and garlic; served as a dip or spread.

Meze / Mezze: [MEZ-ay] An array of small dishes served as an appetizer or meal in many areas of the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Moudammas: [MOO dah mess] Cooked fava beans; a popular dish in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Moujaddara: [moo-JUD-a-rah] A popular Arabic dish made of pureed lentils and spices.

Mousakka: [MOO-sah-kah] A famous eggplant casserole popularly made in the Middle East and Greece.

Paella: [pie-YAY-ya] A classic Spanish dish made with rice and seafood.

Pasta e Fagioli: [PAH-stah ay fah-JOE-lee] A traditional Italian soup with pasta, beans and vegetables.

Pesto: [PESS-toe] A paste made of greens, olive oil and other ingredients.Pesto made from basil and pine-nuts is also popular.

Pita: [PEA-tah] A flat pocket bread typical of the Middle East.

Ratatouille: [rah-tah-TWEE] Eggplant, tomatoes, onions, peppers, olive oil and herbs in a delightful stew.

Tagine: [tah-JHEEN] A slow-cooked North African stew, named after the conical clay pot in which it is cooked.

Tahini/Tahina: [tah-HEE-nee] A sesame seed paste used in several Middle Eastern dishes like hummus and baba ghannouge.

Tapenade: [tah-peh-NAHD] A thick Provençal spread most commonly made from puréed black olives, capers, and anchovies. Several other ingredients like roasted red peppers and artichokes can be used.

Tzatziki: [tsah-TSEEK-kee] A Greek and Turkish sauce made of yogurt and cucumbers, with olive oil, garlic, salt, and other optional ingredients such as mint or lemon juice.