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Time and time again, the Mediterranean diet has been named the healthiest way of eating, according to U.S. News & World Report. Many would argue, however, that it’s not much of a diet at all. That’s because at its core, it’s an eating pattern that has been practiced by those who live in the Mediterranean region for centuries. Unlike fad diets, which can feel restrictive and short-lived, the Mediterranean diet places an emphasis on being wholesome, sensible, and sustainable. In other words, it can be followed for a lifetime.
“The Mediterranean diet doesn’t only reflect what you eat, but it’s also a way of life, bringing the family to the table, and consuming wholesome foods rather than packaged or highly processed foods,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, a nutrition consultant and author of Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table. “It’s really a diet that doesn’t restrict you… There’s no allow and avoid list, rather some foods are simply emphasized more than others.”
If you’re wondering, “Well, how do I begin?” the first steps couldn’t be easier. As a primarily plant-based eating plan, you’ll find a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and seeds as staples of the Mediterranean diet, along with olive oil, red wine, and lean proteins like fish. The concept is simple: to limit the consumption of excess sodium, sugar, and artificial additives, and ultimately practice a more mindful approach to eating. Beyond what you’re putting on your plate, there’s plenty of cookbooks, kitchen gadgets, and more to help you on your journey. In fact, we’d recommend having the following 10 items on hand, so you can craft delicious, healthy recipes every day, and start turning the Mediterranean diet into a lifestyle.
1. A new recipe book for inspiration
In order to begin eating the Mediterranean way, you’re going to need tons of easy, no-fuss ideas for your meals. Enter The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen, which is filled with 500 bold, flavorful recipes, helpful tips (e.g. how to devein shrimp), overviews on basic ingredients (different types of legumes, for instance), nutritional information, and so much more. More than 6,000 Amazon shoppers have sung its praises, with one commenting, “This is without a shadow of a doubt the best cook book I have ever owned.” It doesn’t get more glowing than that, folks.
2. Olive oil—and lots of it
Traditional Mediterranean diets rely on olive oil as the primary cooking fat for lots of reasons. Aside from its antioxidant properties, olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, and studies have even shown it lowers your risk of heart disease. As Taub-Dix puts it, “Healthy fats are very important nutrients to have in our diet… They help keep us feeling satiated and satisfied throughout the day.” From marinating seafood to mixing into salad dressings to topping dips like baba ganoush, a healthy drizzle of EVOO is never a bad idea on this diet. Our Cooking Editor, Madison Trapkin, recommends oil offerings from brands like Pineapple Collaborative and Brightland.
3. A trusty blender to whip up dips, pestos, and more
Whether you’re making a fruit-filled smoothie for breakfast or some creamy hummus as a snack, a quality blender is a must-have for many Mediterranean-inspired components. Not to mention, as Taub-Dix notes, it’s also great for prepping “chopped vegetables to put in sauces,” such as an herb relish or nutty gremolata to top your fish with. The best blender we’ve tested, the Breville Super Q blender is one option that will tackle these tasks like an absolute pro, as we found it to truly be a do-it-all machine that can replace both your food processor and personal blender with its bevy of attachments and useful presets. For a more budget-friendly option, our best value pick, the KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender also performs exceptionally well at a fraction of the Breville’s cost.
4. Red wine (but don’t overdo it!)
One of the most appealing aspects of the Mediterranean diet for many is that moderate wine drinking is a big part of the lifestyle. In fact, in places like Greece and Italy, having a glass of red wine with your meal is as common as having water on the table. The key here is not to over-imbibe: about one to two glasses a day is recommended for men, and one glass a day is recommended for women. For the vino fans who hate running low, a wine membership club such as Winc can help you get your daily serving. In our testing, we found its wine recommendations to be on point and enjoyed all the insight Winc provides into the flavor profiles of its bottles. Each month, you’ll receive a four-bottle box that’s customized to your tastes, plus, you can skip a monthly box at any given time, free of charge, or cancel at any time. À votre santé!
5. This handy tool for mincing garlic
Garlic is an essential ingredient in all Mediterranean cuisines, as it helps provide robust flavor along with fresh herbs, citrus, and spices. It’s also known for its health and medicinal benefits, and is thought to improve immunity as well as reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases. While no one loves the tedious task of mincing fresh garlic, you’ll likely be eating it every day on the diet, either raw or cooked and in salads, dips, and snacks. Luckily, such a thing exists as the GarlicZoom, a life-changing gadget created by Chef’n. It’s essentially a little container on wheels with a blade inside that you roll back and forth to use, and we’re totally obessed. Our tester deemed it an inexpensive, straightforward, and effective tool—one that she now can’t live without in the kitchen.
6. Seafood, chicken, and other white meats
Those living on the Mediterranean coast naturally have easier access to catch-of-the-day seafood, which is why this diet places such an emphasis on fish like salmon, blue and albacore tuna, mackerel, and even sardines and anchovies. Among the numerous health benefits, oily fishes like these are known to be a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of essential fat that the body can’t make on its own. Poultry, along with dairy and eggs, is also encouraged in moderate portions. As Taub-Dix states, “Plants are the star of the show, and meat plays more of a supportive cast.” You’ll want at least a few servings each week of these preferred animal proteins, but if your local grocery selection isn’t cutting it, you can turn to a delivery kit such as Crowd Cow. We loved this service for its choice cuts of quality seafood and chicken, all of which are locally-sourced, sustainably raised and hormone-free.
7. Our favorite citrus juicer ever
Having been plentiful in the region for centuries, citrus is a key competent in many Mediterranean dishes. That means a good citrus juicer will be your secret weapon, whether you’re whipping up salad dressing or infusing your fish with the juice and zest. For the best of the best, we recommend Chef’n’s FreshForce citrus juicer, which is our favorite model from testing. Thanks to its easy-to-use design and grippable handles, it makes quick work out of all the lemons and limes you can throw at it. In fact, we found it was able to extract tons of juice out without letting any unwanted pulp and seeds slip through. As an added bonus, it was also less messy than other options on the market.
8. The best air fryer on the market
To help you make veggies and lean proteins that are healthy, full of flavor, and easy to prepare, an air fryer can be a great companion while on the Mediterranean Diet. Aside from tender chicken breast and summer vegetable medleys like zucchini and acorn squash, you’ll also be able to make delicious snacks such as crispy chickpeas in addition to roasted almonds, which are “a great source calcium and vitamin E, something that’s not as easy to get in other foods,” according to Taub-Dix. “These are all really important staples in a Mediterranean diet,” she adds. For a machine you can’t go wrong with, we’d suggest the Philips Airfryer XXL. It was a total powerhouse in our testing kitchen, earning our top spot for the best air fryers and blowing us away with its restaurant-quality results.
9. This handy olive pitter
Like olive oil, the olive is an unsurprising ally in the traditional Mediterranean-style diet. Both share anti-inflammatory properties and are rich in healthy unsaturated fats, which studies have shown can help reduce cholesterol levels and lower risk of heart disease as well. Alongside fruits and nuts, you can enjoy olives as a simple snack throughout the day. While yummy Castelvetrano olives are among the most popular, you may want to invest in a simple tool to help you maximize enjoyment—an olive pitter! This option by OXO takes the fuss out of enjoying the briny fruit (and works on cherries too) and has over 9,000 Amazon shoppers attesting to its greatness.
10. Plenty of flavorful seasonings
Many Mediterranean herbs and spices that are popular in the region can help add complexity and warmth to more simple recipes. To help bring your dishes to life, it’s a good idea to stock your pantry with a few seasonings that source their inspiration from Greece, Sicily, and Italy. For instance, this Spice Lab Mediterranean Collection features four blends: Citrus Herb, French Onion and Garlic, Spicy Italian Sun-Dried Tomato, and Sicillian Blend, which contain similar herbs such as crushed red pepper, dill, garlic powder, rosemary, saffron, and thyme, among others. More than 350 Amazon shoppers recommend this set for being high quality and adding a wonderful depth of flavor to their recipes.
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