The California Mediterranean Diet: What to Eat

As I have stated in previous posts a “California Mediterranean Diet” as a symbiosis of the healthy foods and eating patterns associated with the old food ways of the Mediterranean, with the new and modern creativity and environmental consciousness of California cuisine. The vibrant immigrant culture of California has led to an explosion of unique spices, flavors and cooking styles that are being applied to the locally grown Mediterranean ingredients to form a uniquely tasty and healthy cuisine. Many studies have shown benefits to a Mediterranean style eating plan. The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine most recently published a Spanish study which supported the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean Diet in reducing heart disease in a high risk population.  As in previous studies discussed elsewhere on this site, this study showed that a diet based on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fish, as well as liberal amounts of fat from olive oil and nuts, is associated with good health. California has a Mediterranean climate, and produces over 50 percent of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. By eating these locally grown foods, residents of California can enjoy the health benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet  while also supporting local agriculture and limiting the environmental impact of their food choices. Below is a rough guideline of the California Mediterranean Diet when planning menus for adults. The ranges show the minimum and maximum amount of food in each category. Younger more active men need higher amounts. Less active, older women need lower amounts. In addition the amounts vary from day to day to allow flexibility with menus but this provides a rough outline of the average intake I recommend. This is not a diet prescription for any specific medical conditions or for weight loss. If you have a specific medical condition requiring diet modification I urge you to make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian for further guidance. Note:  The California Mediterranean Pantry list on this site contains specific recommendations for brands and types of foods marked with * . These are the foods to eat every day and the approximate amounts per day:

Slide13    Vegetables*: 5-12 servings per day:

A serving is 1 cup raw or ½ cup of cooked vegetables. Onions, garlic and tomatoes should be used frequently. California grown fresh or frozen vegetables (or canned in BPA free cans) should be chosen over imported products.

Slide12Fruits*: 3-6 servings per day.

A serving is ½ cup raw fruit such as berries, 1 medium piece of fruit or ¼ cup of dried fruit. It may include up to ½ cup of natural fruit juice (such as pomegranate or citrus) as one serving of fruit per day. California grown fruit, either fresh, frozen, dried or canned in BPA free cans should be chosen over imported fruit.


 Nuts or nut butter*: ½ to 2 ounces daily (almonds, walnuts, pistachios and peanuts are all grown in California and are very healthy nuts to consume)


 Whole grains*: 3-8 ounces per day

 An example of 1 ounce is 1 slice of whole grain bread or ½ cup of cooked grain such as brown rice, oats, whole grain pasta etc.

yogurtMilk products: 2-3 servings per day:

A serving is 1 cup milk or 1 cup yogurt or 1 cup Greek yogurt. Locally produced Organic or grass fed sources of dairy products are recommended.

Slide16   California Extra Virgin Olive oil*: 1 to 4 Tablespoons per day

These are the foods to eat on a weekly or almost weekly basis and the amounts per week:

Slide14   Legumes (cooked dry beans and peas)*: 3 -6 cups per week

Slide18  Fish: 6-15 ounces per week (wild or sustainably raised, fresh or frozen)

chicken    Chicken:  6-15 ounces per week ( Preferably Organically grown or cage free vegetarian fed and grown without antibiotics or growth additives)

The following foods are not necessary but can be eaten weekly in the following amounts if desired:

cheese 2Cheese: 0-3 ounces per week (organic or grass fed dairy preferred)

oil and margarine  Non-hydrogenated soft tub margarine, mayonnaise, canola and/or grapeseed oil: 0-3 Tablespoons per week * (non GMO canola oil preferred)

butter  Butter: 0-2 Tablespoons per week (organic or grass fed dairy preferred)

red meat 3Red Meat: lean cuts of grass-fed beef, lamb, pork: 0-8 ounces per week

eggs Whole Eggs: 0-3 per week (free range or organic, vegetarian fed preferred )

chocolate  Dark chocolate:0-3 ounces per week

sugars and sweeteners   Sweeteners (honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, organic sugar):

  0-7 Tablespoons per week

The foods listed below are foods to eat less frequently than once a week. They are foods eaten mostly for entertainment, not nutritional value. They are not a necessary part of the diet but would be fine to have on occasion if desired: Fatty cuts of meat such as pork shoulder, ribs, bacon, sausage, salami, marbled beef steaks, etc. Ice cream Homemade baked goods (cookies, pies, cakes, etc.) and other baked foods/breads made with white flour and sugar Candy Cream Gravy, cream sauces There are a lot of foods I do not recommend eating so I did not bother to list those but they are mostly processed foods such as: fast foods, foods with artificial flavors and colors, baked goods made with shortening, sodas…you know…junk food.

Slide36Packaged processed snack foods are not part of a California Mediterranean Diet!

Slide35Processed, nitrate-preserved meats, and packaged meals are not part of a California Mediterranean Diet either!

Vitamin Mineral Supplements: Women over 50 may benefit from Calcium Citrate (The most easily absorbed form of calcium): 1000 mg (or less depending upon current dietary intake of calcium sources) per day with Vitamin D. Men and women over 50 may benefit from B complex (mostly for B12) If fish intake is on the low end of the range consider omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil). 1200 mg total EPA plus DHA per day. (If you have any medical conditions or are taking any prescription medications check with your doctor or dietitian before starting any supplement regimen)

Another important part of a Mediterranean Diet is how and where the food is eaten. Food should be savored in a pleasant setting and with the company of family or friends.

© 2014. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any of this content without written permission of the author is strictly prohibited.