Mediterranean Food Guide
People who live in the area around the Mediterranean Sea have a lower risk of heart disease. Researchers have
recently shown that following a Mediterranean diet decreases heart disease by 30% in people whom are at-risk.
This lifestyle is built upon daily exercise along with a lot of fruit, vegetables, plant-based proteins, whole
grains, fish and smaller amounts of poultry and red meat. Fatty fish (salmon), olive oil, and nuts make this diet
higher in fat than the classic “heart healthy diet.” These fats are mostly unsaturated, and when consumed in
place of saturated fat, are good for the heart. The pyramid above and the chart on the next page describe
the types of food and serving sizes in this heart healthy meal plan.
Physical Activity- The Mediterranean Diet pyramid is built upon daily physical activity and exercise. Aim for
at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week. Moderate-to-vigorous exercises include
walking at a brisk pace, biking, or swimming, among other activities that elevate your heart rate. Always choose
activities that you enjoy and that are safe, in order to be active throughout your life.
Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight – The high fat content of the Mediterranean is healthy for your
heart, but may lead to increased energy intake and weight gain if you don’t pay attention to how much you are
eating. If you are trying to lose weight, choose the smaller number of servings from each food group, and try to
make your serving sizes match those listed.
One serving is ½ cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup raw vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables include artichoke, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts,
cauliflower, cabbage, celery, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, onion, green and wax
beans, zucchini, turnips, peppers, salad greens and mushrooms. (Potatoes, peas, and corn are
One serving is a small fresh fruit or ½ cup juice or ¼ cup dried fruit
Fresh fruits are preferred because of the fiber and other nutrients they contain. 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 (6 oz per day or less), since even unsweetened
juices can contain as much sugar as regular soda.
Legumes: One serving is ½ cup cooked kidney, black, garbanzo, pinto, soy (edamame), navy
beans, split peas, or lentils, or ¼ cup fat free refried beans or baked beans
Nuts and Seeds: One serving is 2 Tbsp. sunflower or sesame seeds, 1 Tbsp. peanut butter,
7-8 walnuts or pecans, 20 peanuts, or 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 unsaturated fat, and may increase HDL
without increasing LDL cholesterol levels.
One serving is 1 cup of skim milk, non-fat yogurt, or 1oz of low-fat (part-skim) cheese
Calcium-fortified soy milk, soy yogurt, and soy cheese can take the place of dairy products. If
servings of dairy or fortified soy are less than 2 per day, we advise a calcium and vitamin D
2-3 times a
One serving is 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
Cook 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.
1-3 times a
One serving is 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.
One serving is about 1 ounce of any of these:
1 slice whole wheat bread ½ cup potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, or peas
½ large whole grain bun 1 small whole grain roll
6-inch whole wheat pita 6 whole grain crackers
½ cup cooked whole grain cereal (oatmeal, cracked wheat, quinoa)
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.
Food Groups Servings sizes, examples, and notes
One serving is one of any of these:
1 tsp. olive or canola oil 2 tsp light margarine
1 Tbsp of regular salad dressing 2 Tbsp 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.
No more than
one drink for
women or two
drinks for men
One drink equals one 12 ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces liquor (whiskey,
vodka, brandy, etc).
People with high blood pressure or high triglycerides, or those taking certain medicines
may be advised to avoid all alcohol. Ask your doctor to be sure.
Other Food Groups:
ξ Eggs: Limit egg yolks to 4 per week. Egg whites can be eaten in unlimited amounts.
ξ Sweets: Eat sweets less often – use fruit as your dessert.
ξ Red Meat: Lean red meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal) can be eaten 3-4 times per month.
1. Estruch, R, et al: Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet,
New England Journal of Medicine 2013; 368: 1279-1290.
2. de Lorgeril, M, et al Lyon Diet Heart Study Lancet 1994; 343:1454-9.
What is the most important thing you learned from this handout?
What changes will you make in your diet/lifestyle, based on what you learned today?
If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions please contact UW Health at one of the phone numbers
listed below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition.
Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s
Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.
Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at: (608) 287-2770.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you have any questions. If
this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be
used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your
doctor or others on your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright 1/2016
University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Clinical Nutrition Services Department
and the Department of Nursing. HF#410