By now, you probably know just how great the Mediterranean diet is. It consistently ranks among the top diets to follow—perhaps because instead of outlining strict calorie or carb requirements, it’s centered on picking filling, nutritious options. Research has shown that following the diet can lower the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure, and it might even prolong your life.
But the best part of the Mediterranean diet might be that it allows indulgence: Favorites like eggs, olive oil, and fresh fruits and veggies are all fair game for breakfast. (Can you imagine a better breakfast spread?) Here are the basics of the Mediterranean diet, plus tips and tricks for sticking to it each morning.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Unlike other diets, which can dictate which types of foods aren’t allowed, this diet is really more a way of life. “The Mediterranean diet is almost rich in everything,” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., a New York-based nutrition consultant and author of The Small Change Diet. “We talk about it as a special diet, but it’s basically well-balanced, healthy eating where all foods fit.”
In the Mediterranean diet, certain foods are emphasized and others are limited (but not cut out entirely). Fruits and veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds, seafood, whole grains, olive oil, low-fat dairy, poultry, and eggs are the staples of the diet, Gans says.
Limited foods, meanwhile, are the ones that you should probably be avoiding anyway: refined grains and oils, red meat, processed foods, and foods with added sugar. “Red meat, [for example,] isn’t avoided,” Gans explains. “Just eat more fish, poultry, and legumes, and gear your meals more plant-based. Focus less on the saturated fats.”
By loading up on the foods listed above, you’ll get tons of nutrients at every meal. “The Mediterranean diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, and monounsaturated fats—those are the healthy fats, the nuts, the seeds, the olive oil,” Gans explains. These nutrients may play important roles in reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, “one of the biggest benefits” of the diet, according to Gans.
How to build a healthy Mediterranean breakfast
The laidback nature of the Mediterranean diet is good news for home chefs, but figuring out how to create a healthy breakfast—and sticking to that plan as much as possible—can be a challenge. Thankfully, it’s almost like a game of mixing and matching, depending on your cravings.
“An ideal breakfast would be two slices of 100% whole-grain bread with two scrambled eggs sautéed with some spinach and tomatoes, and maybe a little avocado,” Gans explains. “You’re getting healthy fats, protein from the eggs, and whole grains.”
But Gans emphasizes that you should feel free to experiment with different veggies, fruits, proteins, and basically anything else. If you’re mindful of your ingredients, you can make just about any meal to the standards of the Mediterranean diet.
With the right combination of protein, fiber, and carbs—which you’ll get from all of the staple foods in the diet—Gans says, Mediterranean breakfasts will also keep you feeling full, satisfied, and attentive until lunch. “What’s beautiful about the Mediterranean diet is that you don’t need any fancy formulas, you don’t need any math skills [to count calories],” Gans says. “It’s just common sense.”
Is your stomach growling yet? Make your way through this list, which includes recipes that pack in all of the Mediterranean diet’s top foods. (Spoiler alert: You’re going to see a ton of eggs and veggies, plus staples like olive oil, cheese, yogurt, fruit, and whole-grain bread. Yum!)
Sautéed Dandelion Toast
Nutrient-rich greens and onions make this toast shine, but favorites like lemon juice, feta, and Greek yogurt on top of whole-grain toast keep it grounded (and super-satisfying).
Spinach and Goat Cheese Egg Muffins
Chard Breakfast Skillet with Egg, Onion, and Tomato
You’ll find even more greens (plus tomatoes, onion, garlic, and eggs) in this super-easy skillet, which makes eating Mediterranean food both fun and about as healthy as it gets.
Snow Pea and Ricotta Toasts
This recipe, just like the Mediterranean diet itself, places veggies front-and-center. In this case, snow peas provide plenty of fiber and folate, while ricotta and honey add a dash of sweetness.
Grain Bowl With Sautéed Spinach
For a light breakfast that’s still filling, throw together avocado, tomato, leftover grains, and a fried egg. This recipe is also dairy-free, in case you happen to be cutting back.
Sheet Pan Egg Tacos
These tacos have a flavor profile that’s more Tex-Mex than Mediterranean, but they fit right in with the crowd, thanks to eggs, dairy, olive oil, and plenty of veggies.
Savory Spanish Oatmeal
Ever had savory oatmeal before? This low-calorie breakfast features plenty of those all-important whole grains in the form of oatmeal, plus a plant-powered sauce you’ll want to put on everything.
Blueberry-and-Mixed Nut Parfait
Tired of veggies in the morning? Indulge your sweet tooth without breaking your diet with this parfait, which makes the most of berries, nuts, seeds, and protein-rich Greek yogurt.
Shakshuka is a centuries-old Mediterranean favorite that could be eaten at any meal, but makes an especially good breakfast on chilly mornings. It’s basically eggs in tomato sauce—perfection.
Salmon Hash with Sunny-Side Up Eggs
Eggs and salmon, two staples of the Mediterranean diet, make for a filling breakfast, especially when combined with diner favorites like potatoes and peppers.
Savory Lentil Waffles
Take waffles in a new direction with these plant-powered breakfast treats. You’ll eat an entire salad’s worth of lentils, arugula, raisins, and red onions without realizing it.
For a savory take on the French favorite, combine Mediterranean staples like chickpeas, eggs, and lemons with bright cilantro and spicy curry. It’s just about the perfect brunch.
Curry-Avocado Crispy Egg Toast
You’ve never had avocado toast quite this satisfying before. This recipe upgrades the a.m. classic with lime, cilantro, and flavor-packed curry powder.
Healthy Herb Frittata
We bet you’ve never had a frittata this jam-packed with herbs before. Scallions, parsley, cilantro, and dill pack in tons of flavor (and nutrients), while eggs and crème fraîche act as a savory base.
Salmon Cake Eggs Benedict
Calling all brunch lovers: This meal (made with canned salmon) provides tons of omega-3s, satisfies your egg craving, and packs in tons of plants. You have to try it.
Quinoa, Black Bean, and Avocado Salad
Avocado and tomato already star in countless other morning meals, even if you’re not used to eating salads for breakfast—and finished with beans and quinoa, the result is chock-full of filling fiber. Add an egg if you want to make it more breakfast-y.
Butternut Squash & Spinach Toast
More of a deconstructed breakfast sandwich than a toast, this easy dish takes just 25 minutes and boasts enough protein and fiber to keep you feeling full—while only including 265 calories.
Vegan Avocado Smoothie
Sunny-Side-Up Eggs on Garlicky Greens
The Mediterranean diet offers perfect harmony between plants, whole grains, and dairy. What better way to celebrate that balance than with this sweet, sharp toast?
Sweet Potato Kale Frittata
Mediterranean Lentil Salad
At first glance, this might not look like a morning meal. But favorites like avocado, feta, spinach, and raisins lend a distinctly breakfast-y flavor profile. The lentils will keep cravings at bay, too.
Tomato and Egg Stacks
Like a reimagined eggs Benedict, this recipe is particularly high in protein. The acid of the tomato and the smoke of the mozzarella perfectly complement a poached egg on top.
Mushroom, Ricotta and Fried Egg Tartine
Seriously, toast is one of the easiest ways to fit all the Mediterranean staples into one dish. This tartine mixes different families of veggies: mushrooms, greens, and herbs.
Cheesy Avocado Omelette
Who doesn’t love an omelette? This one is a perfect mix of healthy ingredients, but its main draw is being absolutely packed with protein and fiber, meaning a day with zero cravings.
Vegetarian Breakfast Casserole
Yep, you can make a casserole for breakfast and still manage to eat healthy. This one hides two sweet potatoes, a head of broccoli, and more vegetables inside. Plus, it freezes up to three months.
Rosemary Roasted Vegetable Bowls
Brussels sprouts absolutely belong at your breakfast table. Roasted alongside sweet potatoes and beets, then topped with an egg, you’ll start craving them in the morning, too.
And last but not least, you have to try migas, which brings together scrambled eggs, crispy tortillas, refried beans, avocado, and cheese into one big (Mediterranean!) breakfast.
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