Try the Mediterranean Diet for Weight Management

The eating style is linked to a range of health benefits. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most valuable.

A table is filled with healthy, Mediterranean-inspired salads and appetizers, including a green salad in the foreground

Updated on May 18, 2023.

If you’re familiar with the Mediterranean diet, you might know it’s been linked to a slew of health benefits, including improved heart health and lower risk of diabetes and cancer. It’s also a delicious way to help manage your weight.

Multiple studies have shown that, compared with people who favor other types of cuisine, people who eat Mediterranean-themed fare are less likely to gain weight over time.

Weight-maintaining help

It's a fact of life: We all tend to gain weight as we get older.

A 2022 study published in the Journal of Obesity looked at nearly 14,000 U.S. adults from 2011 to 2018. Researchers found that over the course of 10 years, participants’ average weight gain was more than nine pounds. That breaks down to just under a pound each year for the average American. Over time, weight gain can increase your risk for a number of conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.

But a Mediterranean diet may help. Sticking to a Mediterranean style of eating was tied to a 9 percent lower risk of being overweight or obese, according to a review of studies involving 240,000 adults published in 2022 in Advances in Nutrition.

Following a Mediterranean diet doesn’t only help prevent weight gain. It can also help you lose weight and maintain it once you reach your target weight. When it was compared to other long-term diets, it performed better than low-fat diets in multiple studies. A 2020 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who closely followed a Mediterranean diet were twice as likely to be able to maintain their weight loss as those who followed it loosely or followed other diets entirely.

Benefits beyond weight loss

The nutrients that the Mediterranean style of eating emphasizes can amplify the health-promoting effects of weight loss. Here’s how:

Fill up on fiber

Mediterranean-style foods—which lean toward fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—are naturally high in fiber, which can help you feel more satisfied with fewer calories. Water-soluble fibers found in Mediterranean staples like fruits and beans can also help lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (aka LDL, or “bad” cholesterol).

Tame inflammation

The eating style is high in a variety of anti-inflammatory antioxidant nutrients. Inflammation is linked to obesity, as well as the development of many other conditions, including diabetes and cancer.

Power up with plants

The diet is largely plant-based, which may prevent insulin resistance, a major player in obesity and diabetes.

Pick the best fats

Mediterranean eating highlights monounsaturated fat (found in olive oil) which is less likely to cause insulin resistance, inflammation, or fat storage than saturated fat (found in foods like butter and red meats, both of which are deemphasized in the Mediterranean style).

Add Mediterranean flair to your cooking

So how can you make your menu more Mediterranean? For starters, be sure to include a couple of servings of vegetables or fruit at each meal. And choose whole grains over white or refined grains, olive oil over butter, and fish over red meat whenever possible.

Though it may sound exotic, eating Mediterranean doesn’t have to bust your budget. Here are a few ways to make each meal a little more Mediterranean with ingredients you can find in most grocery stores:

Enjoy a protein-rich breakfast

Top plain, low-fat, or nonfat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and serve with a slice of whole-grain toast topped with no-sugar-added nut butter (even peanut butter counts).

Stay fresh and light at lunch

Try a crunchy salad topped with feta cheese and olives, a zesty soup made with tomatoes and beans, or a sandwich on a whole-grain wrap with bell peppers, cucumbers, and a few slices of last night's rotisserie chicken.

Have a simple, filling dinner

Create a meal around a simple grilled or poached salmon topped with tangy marinara sauce, with sides of roasted vegetables and nutty couscous.

Don't forget snacks

Try a meze plate (a sampling of simple appetizers) of warm whole-wheat pita with hummus, marinated olives, and spiced nuts.

Article sources open article sources

Lotfi K, Saneei P, Hajhashemy Z, et al. Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet, Five-Year Weight Change, and Risk of Overweight and Obesity: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Adv Nutr. 2022;13(1):152-166.
Tucker LA, Parker K. 10-Year Weight Gain in 13,802 US Adults: The Role of Age, Sex, and Race. J Obes. 2022;2022:7652408.
Agnoli C, Sieri S, Ricceri F, et al. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and long-term changes in weight and waist circumference in the EPIC-Italy cohort. Nutr Diabetes. 2018;8(1):22. 
Mirabelli M, Chiefari E, Arcidiacono B, et al. Mediterranean Diet Nutrients to Turn the Tide against Insulin Resistance and Related Diseases. Nutrients. 2020;12(4):1066. 
Hussain T, Tan B, Yin Y, et al. Oxidative Stress and Inflammation: What Polyphenols Can Do for Us?. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:7432797.
DiNicolantonio JJ, O'Keefe JH. Good Fats versus Bad Fats: A Comparison of Fatty Acids in the Promotion of Insulin Resistance, Inflammation, and Obesity. Mo Med. 2017;114(4):303-307.
Tosti V, Bertozzi B, Fontana L. Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet: Metabolic and Molecular Mechanisms. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2018;73(3):318-326. 
Mancini J, Filion K, Atallah R, et al. Systematic Review of the Mediterranean Diet for Long-Term Weight Loss. The American Journal of Medicine. 2016;129(4):407–415.E4.
Poulimeneas D, Anastasiou CA, Santos I, et al. Exploring the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and weight loss maintenance: the MedWeight study. Br J Nutr. 2020;124(8):874-880.

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