The Mediterranean Paleo Diet Guide: a Fusion of Popular Diets

Our nutrition coach analyzes the Mediterranean Paleo cooking trend.

The Mediterranean Paleo diet is a fusion of the Mediterranean and Paleo diets into a combined meal plan that takes the primary concepts of each diet plan and overlaps them into a hybrid.

It removes several of the normal food groups on the Mediterranean diet so that the resultant Mediterranean Paleo diet aligns with the Paleo food restrictions.

Therefore, the Mediterranean-Paleo diet is rich in seasonal fruits and vegetables, fish, seafood, poultry, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

In this nutrition guide, we will discuss the Mediterranean Paleo diet, the principles behind it, foods to eat and foods to avoid, and potential Mediterranean Paleo diet benefits and drawbacks.

We will cover: 

Let’s jump in!

An array of healthy foods including fruits, vegetables and lean meats.

What Is the Mediterranean Paleo Diet?

As the name describes, the Mediterranean Paleo diet also called the Mediterranean-Paleo Diet or sometimes the Paleo-Mediterranean Diet, combines the Mediterranean and Paleo diets.

Due to the foods found on the Mediterranean diet meal plan and the restrictions of the Paleo diet plan, the Mediterranean Paleo diet meal plan is basically a whittled-down Mediterranean diet food plan.

Therefore, the Mediterranean Paleo diet list removes several of the normal food groups on the Mediterranean diet eating plan so that the resultant plan aligns with the paleo food restrictions.

As a result, the Mediterranean-paleo diet is rich in seasonal fruits and vegetables, fish, seafood, poultry, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

Although the Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of whole grains and legumes, these foods are not compatible with the Paleo diet, so the Mediterranean Paleo diet food list excludes these choices.

Similarly, while red meat is a cornerstone of the Paleo diet meal plan, red meat is eaten sparingly on the Mediterranean diet.

Therefore, while red meat isn’t completely off-limits in the Mediterranean Paleo diet plan, it is eaten much more sparingly than on the regular Paleo diet.

On the Mediterranean diet, certain dairy products such as Greek yogurt, feta cheese, and cottage are eaten in moderation. However, the Paleo diet excludes dairy products, so the Mediterranean Paleo diet meals should not include dairy.

An array of healthy foods including fruits, vegetables and lean meats.

What are the Differences Between the Mediterranean Diet vs. Paleo Diet?

The Mediterranean Diet is a popular, plant-based way of eating that is based on replicating the traditional eating habits of individuals living in the Mediterranean region.1Davis, C., Bryan, J., Hodgson, J., & Murphy, K. (2015). Definition of the Mediterranean Diet; A Literature Review. Nutrients7(11), 9139–9153. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7115459

The Mediterranean food choices list prioritizes consuming whole, unprocessed, natural plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, herbs, nuts, avocados, olive oil, and spices.

Even though the Mediterranean Diet focuses on many nutritious plant-based foods, you can still eat certain animal-based proteins such as fish, eggs, and certain cheeses, and can even occasionally have lean meats or poultry in moderation.

The Paleo Diet, also called the Paleolithic or caveman diet, is so named because it is a dietary pattern designed to replicate people’s eating habits during the Paleolithic, or Stone Age. 

This means that there is a strong emphasis on meat, fish and seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables, with the overall goal of consuming whole, natural, unprocessed foods. 

Additionally, because the Paleo diet aims to replicate the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the goal is to eat only grass-fed meat, wild-caught seafood, and free-range eggs. Organic fruits and vegetables are also prioritized over conventionally grown produce.

An array of healthy foods including fruits, vegetables and lean meats.

How Do You Follow the Mediterranean Paleo Diet Plan?

Much like the Mediterranean and Paleo diets as standalone eating plans, the composite Mediterranean Paleo diet plan does not require counting calories, following certain portions, or even worrying about macronutrient ratios.

However, because the Mediterranean Paleo diet plan removes whole grains since grains are incompatible with the Paleo diet, the carb intake is lower on the Mediterranean Paleo diet than the Mediterranean diet plan.

There are also no rules or restrictions regarding how many meals or snacks you can have daily on the Mediterranean Paleo meal plan.

An organic stamp.

There are a few general recommendations and guidelines as to how you should structure your Mediterranean Paleo diet meals:

  • Build your Mediterranean Paleo diet meals around a nutritious protein such as seafood or free-range poultry.
  • Eat as much wild-caught fish and seafood as possible.
  • Avoid all meat, poultry, and fish that might have been exposed to antibiotics or hormones.
  • Add healthy fats like olive oil and avocado oil to your meals as a condiment and in your cooking preparations.
  • Try to eat seasonal vegetables and locally grown vegetables as much as possible.
  • Avoid processed food and refined grains.
  • Avoid foods with added sugar, sweeteners, or artificial sweeteners.
  • Avoid fried food and foods made with industrial oils.
  • You also should try to eat organic, non-GMO, locally grown food as much as possible.
  • Avoid conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides or grown with fertilizers.
A person holding a box of fresh veggies.

The overall focus of the Mediterranean Paleo diet meal plan is clean eating.

This means that you should eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods and remove all processed foods, foods with added sugar, foods with artificial ingredients, and food products that include a long list of ingredients.

Of course, although it would be ideal to eat 100% clean, high-quality whole foods 100% of the time, this is impractical, expensive, and generally not something that can be sustainable.

For this reason, your goal should be to eat as much “clean food“ or “clean eating“ as possible, while understanding that you will have to make plenty of exceptions in food sourcing in your diet.

Aiming for the 80/20 rule is a good idea, such that 80% of the foods you eat should be as organic, locally sourced, and free range for wild-caught as possible, and 20% can be conventionally grown produce, factory-farmed fish, etc.

A box of fresh veggies.

What Can You Eat On the Mediterranean Paleo Meal Plan?

The following are some of the primary Mediterranean-Paleo foods and food groups that are allowed in this meal plan:

  • Vegetables (Aim for 5-9 servings per day): Fresh or frozen only. Organic and in-season if possible. No canned vegetables. Focus on spinach, beet greens, kale, collard greens, carrots, Swiss chard, broccoli, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc. 
  • Fruits (2-4 servings per day): Berries, olives, apples, pears, melons, oranges, berries, peaches, nectarines, bananas, pomegranates, kiwi, figs, plums, grapes, coconut, avocado, tomatoes, etc. (ideally organic and in-season fruits)
  • Fish and Seafood: Salmon, tilapia, trout, cod, sardines, sea bass, tuna, mackerel, lobster, crab, scallops, shrimp, octopus, mussels, clams, squid, etc. (ideally wild-caught seafood)
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, squash seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, tahini, almond butter, etc.
  • Eggs: Chicken eggs, turkey eggs, duck eggs, quail eggs, etc. (ideally cage-free eggs)
  • Poultry: Chicken, turkey, duck, squab, quail, etc. (ideally free-range, organic poultry)
  • Healthy Fats and Oils: Olives and olive oil, avocado oil and avocados, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, macadamia nut oil, etc.
  • Herbs and Spices: Basil, parsley, thyme, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, ginger, salt, rosemary, tarragon, cumin, chili powder, etc.
  • Healthy Beverages: Water, almond milk, herbal tea, green tea, black tea, red wine, coffee
  • Dark Chocolate: As long as it’s 70% cocoa or higher
  • Meat (Eat only occasionally): Beef, venison, pork, veal, lamb, bison, etc. (ideally grass-fed organic meat)
  • Dairy Products (Sparingly): Organic, full-fat fermented dairy like kefir or homemade Greek yogurt or coconut milk yogurt.
An array of veggies.

What Foods Must You Avoid On The Mediterranean Paleo Diet?

Because of the restrictions on both the Paleo diet and the Mediterranean Diet, here are the main foods to avoid on the Mediterranean-Paleo Diet plan:

  • Processed Foods: Canned soups, breakfast cereals, sandwich bread, cookies, jarred sauces, chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, rice cakes, bagels, chips, pretzels, popcorn, frozen dinners, ramen noodles, anything packaged and “low-fat,” or anything with additives.
  • Sugar (except for honey and agave): High-fructose corn syrup, juice, white sugar, brown sugar, sweetened foods, pastries, date syrup, etc.
  • Snack Foods like chips (even corn chips, bean chips, or plantain chips), French fries, pork rinds, pretzels, popcorn, etc.
  • Artificial Sweeteners: Splenda, aspartame, saccharine, stevia, sugar alcohols, sucralose, etc.
  • Vegetable Oils, Margarine, Trans Fat: Soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil, etc.
  • Grains: Whole wheat, oats, quinoa, rice, spelt, couscous, barley, teff, rye, bread, pasta, crackers, oatmeal, tortillas, etc.
  • Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, soy, hummus, etc.
An array of healthy foods including fruits, vegetables and lean meats.

What are the Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Paleo Diet?

There are several potential benefits of the Mediterranean Paleo diet plan including the following:2Frassetto, L. A., Schloetter, M., Mietus-Synder, M., Morris, R. C., & Sebastian, A. (2009). Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition63(8), 947–955. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2009.4

  • Helping people lose weight as long as a caloric deficit is maintained.3Osterdahl, M., Kocturk, T., Koochek, A., & Wändell, P. E. (2008). Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition62(5), 682–685. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602790
  • Improving blood sugar regulation and lowering insulin levels.4Frączek, B., Pięta, A., Burda, A., Mazur-Kurach, P., & Tyrała, F. (2021). Paleolithic Diet—Effect on the Health Status and Performance of Athletes? Nutrients13(3), 1019. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13031019
  • Decreasing the risk of lifestyle diseases like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other adverse health conditions5Jönsson, T., Granfeldt, Y., Ahrén, B., Branell, U.-C., Pålsson, G., Hansson, A., Söderström, M., & Lindeberg, S. (2009). Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovascular Diabetology8(1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2840-8-35 by eliminating processed foods6Certain Foods Linked to Long-Term Weight Gain. (2015, May 22). National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/certain-foods-linked-long-term-weight-gain.
  • Reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome,7Salas-Salvadó, J., Fernández-Ballart, J., Ros, E., Martínez-González, M.-A., Fitó, M., Estruch, R., Corella, D., Fiol, M., Gómez-Gracia, E., Arós, F., Flores, G., Lapetra, J., Lamuela-Raventós, R., Ruiz-Gutiérrez, V., Bulló, M., Basora, J., & Covas, M.-I. (2008). Effect of a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented With Nuts on Metabolic Syndrome Status. Archives of Internal Medicine168(22), 2449. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.168.22.2449 all-cause mortality,8Guasch-Ferré, M., Bulló, M., Martínez-González, M. Á., Ros, E., Corella, D., Estruch, R., Fitó, M., Arós, F., Wärnberg, J., Fiol, M., Lapetra, J., Vinyoles, E., Lamuela-Raventós, R. M., Serra-Majem, L., Pintó, X., Ruiz-Gutiérrez, V., Basora, J., & Salas-Salvadó, J. (2013). Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial. BMC Medicine11(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-11-164 high cholesterol,9Fitó, M., Guxens, M., Corella, D., Sáez, G., Estruch, R., de la Torre, R., Francés, F., Cabezas, C., López-Sabater, M. del C., Marrugat, J., García-Arellano, A., Arós, F., Ruiz-Gutierrez, V., Ros, E., Salas-Salvadó, J., Fiol, M., Solá, R., & Covas, M.-I. (2007). Effect of a Traditional Mediterranean Diet on Lipoprotein Oxidation. Archives of Internal Medicine167(11), 1195. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.167.11.1195 and type 2 diabetes.10Salas-Salvado, J., Bullo, M., Babio, N., Martinez-Gonzalez, M. A., Ibarrola-Jurado, N., Basora, J., Estruch, R., Covas, M. I., Corella, D., Aros, F., Ruiz-Gutierrez, V., & Ros, E. (2010). Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes With the Mediterranean Diet: Results of the PREDIMED-Reus nutrition intervention randomized trial. Diabetes Care34(1), 14–19. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc10-1288
A plate of salmon and veggies.

What are the Drawbacks of the Mediterranean Paleo Diet?

There are also potential downsides to the Paleo Mediterranean diet. 

  • It is highly restrictive and eliminates many food groups that are often deemed healthy, such as whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. Low-fat dairy products are a great source of calcium while legumes and whole grains provide a host of phytonutrients, fiber, B vitamins, and other vitamins and minerals to promote overall health, optimal digestion, and control appetite.
  • Due to the restrictive nature of combining the Paleo and Mediterranean diet plans, this diet can be difficult to adhere to in the long term.11Gibson, A., & Sainsbury, A. (2017). Strategies to Improve Adherence to Dietary Weight Loss Interventions in Research and Real-World Settings. Behavioral Sciences7(4), 44. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs7030044

If you are looking for a diet for your healthiest eating patterns, consider speaking with a nutritionist, registered dietitian, or healthcare professional to help find which dietary plan will work best for you and your needs.

A dietitian holding an apple.

References

  • 1
    Davis, C., Bryan, J., Hodgson, J., & Murphy, K. (2015). Definition of the Mediterranean Diet; A Literature Review. Nutrients7(11), 9139–9153. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7115459
  • 2
    Frassetto, L. A., Schloetter, M., Mietus-Synder, M., Morris, R. C., & Sebastian, A. (2009). Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition63(8), 947–955. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2009.4
  • 3
    Osterdahl, M., Kocturk, T., Koochek, A., & Wändell, P. E. (2008). Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition62(5), 682–685. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602790
  • 4
    Frączek, B., Pięta, A., Burda, A., Mazur-Kurach, P., & Tyrała, F. (2021). Paleolithic Diet—Effect on the Health Status and Performance of Athletes? Nutrients13(3), 1019. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13031019
  • 5
    Jönsson, T., Granfeldt, Y., Ahrén, B., Branell, U.-C., Pålsson, G., Hansson, A., Söderström, M., & Lindeberg, S. (2009). Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovascular Diabetology8(1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2840-8-35
  • 6
    Certain Foods Linked to Long-Term Weight Gain. (2015, May 22). National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/certain-foods-linked-long-term-weight-gain
  • 7
    Salas-Salvadó, J., Fernández-Ballart, J., Ros, E., Martínez-González, M.-A., Fitó, M., Estruch, R., Corella, D., Fiol, M., Gómez-Gracia, E., Arós, F., Flores, G., Lapetra, J., Lamuela-Raventós, R., Ruiz-Gutiérrez, V., Bulló, M., Basora, J., & Covas, M.-I. (2008). Effect of a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented With Nuts on Metabolic Syndrome Status. Archives of Internal Medicine168(22), 2449. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.168.22.2449
  • 8
    Guasch-Ferré, M., Bulló, M., Martínez-González, M. Á., Ros, E., Corella, D., Estruch, R., Fitó, M., Arós, F., Wärnberg, J., Fiol, M., Lapetra, J., Vinyoles, E., Lamuela-Raventós, R. M., Serra-Majem, L., Pintó, X., Ruiz-Gutiérrez, V., Basora, J., & Salas-Salvadó, J. (2013). Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial. BMC Medicine11(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-11-164
  • 9
    Fitó, M., Guxens, M., Corella, D., Sáez, G., Estruch, R., de la Torre, R., Francés, F., Cabezas, C., López-Sabater, M. del C., Marrugat, J., García-Arellano, A., Arós, F., Ruiz-Gutierrez, V., Ros, E., Salas-Salvadó, J., Fiol, M., Solá, R., & Covas, M.-I. (2007). Effect of a Traditional Mediterranean Diet on Lipoprotein Oxidation. Archives of Internal Medicine167(11), 1195. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.167.11.1195
  • 10
    Salas-Salvado, J., Bullo, M., Babio, N., Martinez-Gonzalez, M. A., Ibarrola-Jurado, N., Basora, J., Estruch, R., Covas, M. I., Corella, D., Aros, F., Ruiz-Gutierrez, V., & Ros, E. (2010). Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes With the Mediterranean Diet: Results of the PREDIMED-Reus nutrition intervention randomized trial. Diabetes Care34(1), 14–19. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc10-1288
  • 11
    Gibson, A., & Sainsbury, A. (2017). Strategies to Improve Adherence to Dietary Weight Loss Interventions in Research and Real-World Settings. Behavioral Sciences7(4), 44. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs7030044
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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