Registered Dietician Nutritionistaurie Terwilliger smiles in the sunshine

by Laurie Terwilliger, RDN

It’s everywhere! On the internet, cooking shows, talk shows, the radio, in magazines, and maybe your friends, family, or doctor have mentioned it. But, what exactly is the Mediterranean Diet and why does everyone keep talking about it?

It’s not another fad diet that promises easy weight loss.  Instead, the Mediterranean Diet promotes the lifestyle, foods, and recipes that are commonly eaten by people living in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and southern France; countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

The reason for this diet’s popularity centers on reported health benefits such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers. The Mediterranean Diet focuses not only on nutritious, fresh and tasty foods but also portion sizes. Try the tips below to get you started on your new Mediterranean Diet lifestyle:

Eat more brightly colored vegetables such as red cabbage, eggplant, summer squash, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, arugula, celery, spinach, dark green lettuce, leeks, onions, garlic and other favorites.

Eat a variety of fresh fruits (tangerines, apricots, apples, pears, melons, grapes) and try some new ones such as figs, dates, pomegranates and cherries. Have fruit for dessert in place of high fat ice cream, cookies, candy or cakes.

Use heart healthy oils daily with olives and olive oil at the top of the list.  Add avocados, nuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds to salads, whole grains or cereals.

Choose whole grains such as bulgur, barley, and brown, black or red rice with meals or whole grain pasta and bread.

Eat more bean or vegetarian meals and less red meat.  Try vegetable soups with white beans, chickpea and vegetable whole grain pilaf, feta cheese and vegetable pizza or whole grain pasta topped with vegetables and olives.  If you do eat meat, choose lean meats and keep portions to 3 oz or less per meal (the size of a deck of cards)

Eat fish two times a week.

Use more spices and less salt, butter or margarine.  Typical Mediterranean spices include basil, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, marjoram, savory, fennel, parsley, sage, rosemary and pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg.

Try this easy pizza recipe for a quick lunch or dinner.

Mediterranean Pita Pizza

Recipe by Oldways

Mediterranean Diet








Be creative in choosing vegetable toppings: red, orange, or yellow peppers, thinly sliced onions or carrots, sliced spinach (add it under the cheese), chopped artichoke hearts, or left-over veggies from last  night’s dinner.

Prep time:  10 minutes     Total time:  30 minutes     Yield:   4 Servings      Serving Size:  1 pizza


4 small whole-grain pitas

1 cup tomato sauce

½ cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

4 cups sliced mixed vegetables

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the pita rounds on a baking sheet (use two sheets if necessary).
  2. Using the back of a spoon, spread about ¼ cup of tomato sauce evenly on top of each pita.
  3. Top each pizza with some grated cheese. Arrange your choice of vegetables on top, then drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned.
  5. Note: You can use a toaster oven to make one or two pizzas at a time if you don’t have a full oven.


  1. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Can you tell me more about the Mediterranean diet?
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