Can You Eat Dairy On The Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet — a style of eating based on the ways people in Greece, Italy, and surrounding areas traditionally eat — has been popularized in the last few decades as a heart-healthy diet that, unlike more specific diets like the keto or paleo diet, is based on guidelines rather than strict rules. It focuses on eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, along with poultry and fish, plus healthy fats like olive oil (via the Mayo Clinic). But where does dairy come in?

While dairy isn't explicitly banned on the Mediterranean diet, drinking milk and eating milk-based products is much less common than in the typical American diet. But the diet still makes room for "moderate portions of dairy products."

However, it also advocates for using less-processed products, which means that processed American cheese, bottled Alfredo sauces, and flavored yogurts aren't recommended. And drinking plain milk simply isn't Mediterranean culture (via the Cleveland Clinic).

What kind of dairy should you eat?

Generally, the dairy that is traditionally associated with the Mediterranean diet is different forms of yogurt and cheese — not plain milk or ice cream. That means rather than a milkshake or a giant glass of milk with dinner, someone on the Mediterranean diet might sprinkle some feta onto a salad, or use a scoop of Greek yogurt along with some berries for a snack. If you love drinking a glass of milk with dinner, you can shift to a glass of almond milk instead, since nuts are a part of a good Mediterranean diet.

It's not that dairy is off-limits, it's just that the indulgent forms of it don't conform to the guidelines. Ice cream and other sweet dairy treats are typically not part of the diet because a pillar of a Mediterranean diet is avoiding high-sugar, ultra-processed foods (via Healthline). And typically, you would skip butter in favor of the Mediterranean staple: olive oil (via WebMD). Stick to the flavorful cheeses and protein-packed yogurts, and you'll thrive on a dairy-friendly Mediterranean lifestyle.