The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that people in Italy, Spain and Greece eat. Design a vegetable garden to supply yourself with tons of the food this diet is based upon. The diet focuses on daily servings of fruits and vegetables. The more, the healthier.

Researchers noted that people who live in the Mediterranean regions are exceptionally healthy compared to Americans, and had a low risk of many lifestyle diseases. Numerous studies have now shown that the Mediterranean diet can help with weight loss, and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes and premature death. It has also been found to be a better option than the standard low fat/low calorie diet.

People around the Mediterranean have traditionally follow a diet that’s rich in plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, breads, legumes, potatoes, nuts, and seeds. The main dietary fat is extra virgin olive oil, and people also consume moderate amounts of red wine, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs. Red meat plays only a small part in the Mediterranean diet.

Several randomized controlled trials, which are reliable and effective methods of research, have looked at the possible benefits of this diet. Most people who joined these studies had health problems, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or a high risk of heart disease. Most of the studies looked at common health markers, such as weight, heart disease risk factors, and markers for diabetes. Some larger studies also looked at rates of heart attacks and death. None of the diets in the research trials involved reducing calories or increasing physical activity.

There is no right way to follow the Mediterranean diet, as there are many countries around the Mediterranean sea, and people in different areas may have eaten different fruits and vegetables, in differing amounts. But the basics are the same - very little meat and sugar, and not very often, and lots of vegetables and fruit. It's a pretty easy diet to figure out. If you grow your own food and herbs in your garden, you'll find it more enjoyable than eating store-bought produce, and it's easier to stay on this healthy course if you can Pick and Go. You'll also get some beneficial exercise and time in the sunshine.

READ LABELS on store-bought foods and produce. Grow Your Own, or Buy Local.

  • Eat: Non-GMO organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil. Organic is best, and it's not a mystery word if you're a gardener - it just means that your food is thoughtfully and sustainably grown, not grown with chemical pesticides, fertilizers, treated soils, grown from genetically modified seed, sitting around in stores with waxy coatings, filled with fillers additives, or artificially colored.
  • Eat in moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese and Greek yogurt.
  • Eat only rarely: Red meat.
Don't Eat

Avoid these unhealthy foods and ingredients:

  • Don’t eat: Sugar-sweetened cereals, sweet desserts high in sugar and with empty calories, foods with added sugars, preservatives, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other highly-processed foods.
  • Refined grains: White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, etc.
  • Trans fats: Found in margarines, certain oils, and various processed and fried foods.
  • Refined oils: Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and others. Stick with healthy olive oil in salads, dips, sauces and in toppings.
  • Processed meat: Do not indulge in processed sausages, sliced deli meat or mystery meat hot dogs. These have sugars, cholesterol, potential by-products and a lot of sodium.
  • Designer diet foods and highly processed foods: Avoid anything labeled “low-fat” or “diet” that looks like it was processed in a factory, or deceptively advertised as healthy and good for you.

During the summer months, you can grow a big harvest of fresh, non-gmo and pesticide free fruits, vegetables and herbs to incorporate in your diet. Most can be canned, frozen, or dehydrated to supply you with healthy eats throughout the winter. Just like we did with the original suburban Victory Gardens. Today, we have so many ways and tools for preserving, that make it less of a chore and more of a goal. Raised beds and big pots, hanging baskets, vertical growing, balcony, terrace and patio gardening, indoor gardening with grow lights, indoor and outdoor window boxes, Fruit Trees espaliered or growing in pots,  edible landscaping, rooftop gardens, and a whole lot more ways and means to grow our food easily in any size space. You can save lots of space using varieties of "patio" vegetables. Lots of dwarf and trailing tomato varieties and fruits are easily grown and are quite ornamental on a patio, terrace, balcony or deck.. Bush beans, mini cucumbers, eggplants and melons are also available for those with space constrictions. There are even mini pumpkins and squash. If you have the room, you can add a beautiful garden arch and grow table grapes.

While you're here, be sure to grab some of our free garden design plans that will help you pick a perfect design for your gardens. Or design a Victory Garden planted with fruits and veggies for your Mediterranean Diet.

Many fruit and vegetable varieties are perennial - they will sleep in winter, and return in the spring, and can be the backbone of your summer Mediterranean food gardens. An indoor windowsill can be a garden of herbs in winter. Big pots can contain dwarf fruit trees and fruit shrubs, tomato plants, peppers, peas and beans. Raised beds can be filled with anything you like - lettuces, kale, spinach, baby broccoli, cauliflower. Scallions, asparagus, chives, garlic chives, oregano and many herbs can be grown with just about any method, and they are perennial. 

There are many hardy fruits, like strawberries, mulberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries that return every year. Most can grow vertically or in hanging pots, so it would be easy to grow these in small spaces, and on trellises or staked. Several fruit tree varieties are dwarf - these bear full size fruit on little trees. Most fruits are shrubs, and can be grown on patios and decks. Lots of dwarf varieties of these, as well.

Here are some ideas of Mediterranean style veggie gardens that can be quite ornamental. 
Feel free to download our free garden design plans.

The garden plans shown below for download include an illustrated version of the planted garden, a detailed layout 
diagram, a list of recommended plants for the garden shown, and complete instructions for installing the garden. 
You can substitute veggies you love for those that are recommended in the designs. 
Download these .pdf's  by clicking the pics below.

More Free Vegetable Garden Design Plans For Download On This Page-->

Vegetables, Fruits and Foods You Can Grow or Farm For The Mediterranean Diet, and ideas for your garden.

Here's a list of Italian mini orchard fruits
Growing a Small Space Orchard in your Backyard
Latino Vegetable Gardens

Potagers - Kitchen Gardens

Italian Gardens
Salad Bar Gardens

You should base your diet on healthy, unprocessed Mediterranean and other plant foods, grow or farm whatever veggies, fruits and poultry you can, and buy what you can't grow at Mediterranean greengrocers and fresh produce stands, whole food or natural food groceries, and farmer's markets. Meat is listed here only as part of the make-up of a total diet. You'll eat very little of it. 

Examples below are of healthy veggies for the Mediterranean Diet, and many of them can grow in your garden. Seeds and nuts, etc. added for diet reference. If you have nut trees, that's awesome. Grow what you love to eat. Preserve or freeze your fruits and home-process your veggies without additives to have for the cold months. Grow an indoor salad garden in winter for fresh greens and herbs. The diet is mostly about good-sized daily servings of veggies and fruits.

  • Vegetables: Leafy greens, Mesclun mix, escarole, cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, broccoli rabe, broccolini, kale, garlic, shallots, baby spinach, onions, cauliflower, baby carrots, baby or Japanese mini eggplants, avocado, Brussels sprouts, baby cucumbers, mini peppers, bell peppers, frying peppers, artichokes, leeks, radishes, fennel. Add any vegetables you like to eat fresh, as a side, or in a salad to your garden.
  • Fruits: Grow or buy apples, lemons, oranges, pears, blackberries, mulberries, pomegranate, blueberries, mango, papaya, raspberries, figs, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, watermelons, nectarines, cantaloupe, peaches, apricots. Almost all fruits can be grown in your garden. A dwarf, potted lemon or fig tree incorporated into your garden is a beautiful focal point.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pignoli. A plant-based protein sources high in good and unsaturated fats, peanuts and peanut butter are a natural fit
  • Legumes: Pole or Bush Beans, sweet peas, sugar snap peas, snow peas, lentils, split peas, peanuts, chickpeas, fava beans, butter beans, lima beans, etc. 
    Avoid canned baked beans. Way too much sugar - make your own in a slow cooker from dried beans, and use honey, brown or turbinado sugar as a sweetener. One of my favorite veggie sides.
  • Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, yams, parsnips, beets.
  • Whole grains: Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta.
  • Fish and seafood: Salmon, anchovies, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels.
  • Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey
  • Eggs: Chicken, quail and duck eggs.
  • Dairy: Cheese, Greek yogurt, goat's milk, goat cheeses, feta, ricotta, low fat mozzarella, provolone, etc. Avoid processed and heavily salted cheeses.
  • Herbs and spices: Garlic, oregano, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc. Use cinnamon, turbinado sugar, stevia and honey as sweeteners, if needed. Stevia can be grown in your garden as a sweetener for teas and baked goods.
  • Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil.
    Olive Oil - Research shows that people who follow a high-olive-oil diet had higher HDL cholesterol (the good one), their ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol had improved, and their triglyceride levels had also improved.


Water should be your go-to beverage on a Mediterranean diet. 

Avoid flavored waters with preservatives or added sugars. Unflavored sparkling or mineral water is allowed. 

This diet also includes moderate amounts of red wine that's been proven to be beneficial for your heart and lowers bad cholestrol - about 1-2 glasses per day. This is optional, and wine should be avoided by anyone who suffers from alcoholism or has problems controlling their consumption of alcohol. Coffee and tea are allowed, but avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juices, which are very high in sugar. Grow an Herbal Tea Garden for making your own herbal teas and flavorings.

There is not just one defined type of Mediterranean diet. This is a method of eating that is rich in healthy plant foods and low in animal foods, with more of the allowable fish and seafood. Those on the high-olive-oil diet had higher HDL cholesterol (the good stuff), their ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol had improved, and their triglyceride levels had also improved.

Research and Conclusions

The PREDIMED Study - This large study involved 7,447 individuals with a high risk of heart disease.

For almost 5 years, the participants followed one of three different diets:

  • a Mediterranean diet with added extra virgin olive oil
  • a Mediterranean diet with added nuts
  • a low fat diet control group

The studies looked at the diet’s effect on different risk factors and end points.

Results. The risk of combined heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease was lower by 31% in the Mediterranean
Diet + Olive Oil group, and 28% in the Mediterranean + Nuts group than the control group.

Conclusions - A Mediterranean diet with either olive oil or nuts may reduce the combined risk of stroke, heart attack, and death from heart disease. A Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts may help reverse metabolic syndrome.

Follow-Ups To PREDIMED Study- Effects of Mediterranian diets on disease

The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2004

Details. In this study, 180 people with metabolic syndrome followed either a Mediterranean diet or low fat diet for 2.5 years.

Results. At the end of the study, 44% of patients in the Mediterranean diet group still had metabolic syndrome, compared with 86% in the control group. The Mediterranean diet group also showed improvements in other risk factors.

Conclusion - Inflammatory markers and insulin resistance decreased significantly in the Mediterranean diet group. A Mediterranean diet appears to help reduce metabolic syndrome and other cardiovascular risk factors.

The New England Journal of Medicine, 2008. Weight Loss and diabetes.

Details. In this study, 322 people with obesity followed either a calorie-restricted low fat diet, calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet, or an unrestricted low carb diet.

Results. The low fat group lost 6.4 pounds, the low carb group lost 10.3 pounds, and the Mediterranean diet group lost 9.7 pounds. In those with diabetes, blood glucose and insulin levels improved on the Mediterranean diet, compared with the low fat diet.

Conclusion. A Mediterranean diet may be more effective than a low fat diet for weight loss and managing diabetes.

Annals of Internal Medicine, 2009.

In this study, 215 people with overweight who had recently received a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes followed either a low carb Mediterranean diet or a low fat diet for 4 years.

Results. After 4 years, 44% of the Mediterranean diet group and 70% of the low fat diet group needed treatment with medication. 
The Mediterranean diet group had more favorable changes in glycemic control and heart disease risk factors.

Conclusion - A low carb Mediterranean diet may delay or prevent the need for drug therapy in people who are newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes 
Several studies show that The Mediterranean diet appears to be an effective option for people with type 2 diabetes.
  • The PREDIMED study showed that a Mediterranean diet with nuts helped 13.7% of people with metabolic syndrome reverse their condition.
  • Another paper from the same study showed that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 52% ( 1.4Trusted Source ).

Carbs in the Mediterranean diet are good carbs from plant-based, minimally-processed carbohydrate-containing foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Whole, single-ingredient food choices and meal creations based primarily on greens and fruits are key to good health. There are lots of out-of-the-ordinary varieties of veggies and healthy seeds to choose from. Lots can be found as dwarf varieties, so that you can squeeze a lot of plants into your garden beds and raised beds. Don't forget, lots of plants, like tomatoes, can be grown in pots on patios, balconies, windowboxes and decks. 

Make it exciting by growing new or unique veggies, like those in the chart below. The veggies don't have to be Mediterranean, the diet is the healthy Mediterranean style of eating.

Better Homes and Gardens

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