Living the Best of the Spanish Mediterranean Diet

If you want to experience the flavors and benefits of the Mediterranean diet firsthand, then what better way than to take a trip to Spain.

May 18, 2023
A plate of Spanish tapas and a glass of wineA plate of Spanish tapas and a glass of wine

Spain is known for its fresh and flavorful foods, ranging from paella, to gazpacho, to tortilla de patatas, to fresh seafood, and more. In Spain, food is more of a lifestyle than a necessity, with meals stretching over an hour. If you’re thinking about moving to Spain, then it doesn’t hurt to learn a bit about the typical Spanish diet and culture surrounding meals. Afterall, the Spanish Mediterranean diet is what helps make Spain one of the happiest and healthiest countries in the world.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet has a reputation as being one of the healthiest menus, and Spanish food, with Spain being situated on the Mediterranean, encompasses all the elements of this eating style naturally. Generations upon generations of people have survived solely off the traditional foods of Spain, and now, we are lucky enough to be able to share in the typical diet found in this region of the world.

Display of raw seafood to buy at a market

In Spain, the typical diet involves consuming high levels of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Fish and seafood are also common and preferred over eating red meat. Poultry, dairy products, and red wine are consumed in moderation. Every region of Spain will have its own various food specialties, but as you travel around the country and adjust to the Spanish Mediterranean diet, you’ll notice some similarities in the fresh ingredients and olive oil used, and that’s what makes Spain a part of the Mediterranean food family.

Typical meals in Spain

Perhaps the most talked about part of Spanish eating habits has to do with the time of day that people eat. Traditionally, Spanish people eat a light bite when they first get up, a more substantial second breakfast around 10:30, a lunch around 2:00, merienda/aperitif, or a little snack after work, and dinner starting at 8:30.

The first breakfast usually consists of coffee and a couple of biscuits or fruit. For the second breakfast, many people eat a bocadillo, or sandwich, a slice of tortilla, or some bread with tomato. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and some typical dishes include stews, rice dishes, fish or chicken, lentils, or pasta.

Barels of wine with bottles in the background

Merienda and aperitif are more of social events than meals. Groups of friends or coworkers typically meet at a bar or cafe to enjoy some coffee or beer and some snacks, including small sandwiches, pastries, olives, cheese plates, or a tapa. The idea of a merienda or aperitif is to be social as well as prepare your palate for dinner. Dinner is usually a smaller meal with friends or family that can last hours. Typical dinner foods include tapas, pinchos, or salads, and a glass of wine to enjoy your time with those around you.

Incorporating the Spanish Mediterranean diet into your menu

When living in Spain, it shouldn’t be hard to incorporate aspects of the Spanish Mediterranean diet into your daily meals. Just by eating at local restaurants and places servicing regional delicacies, you’ll get a real taste of the Spanish flavors.

If you want to begin incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your cooking, then you should consciously buy from the main food groups while doing your food shopping. Purchase olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, legumes and beans and begin to create your own versions of foods found in Spain and the Mediterranean; think salads, roasted veggies, rice dishes, and more.

Shopping for food in Spain

Variety of fresh fruits and veggies in a market

Food shopping in Spain still has elements of the traditional lifestyle. Of course you can shop at the large grocery stores such as Mercadona, Lidl, and Carrefour, but there are plenty of smaller specialized stores such as fruiterías for your fruits and vegetables, carnisserías for your meat, and panaderías for bread.

Taking a trip to a local mercado is a great way to find fresh ingredients to begin cooking and eating in accordance with the Spanish Mediterranean diet. Oftentimes, these markets also have food stalls from local farms as well as places for trying goods or eating a meal, so you can get direct inspiration for which ingredients you want to purchase.

Health benefits of the Spanish diet

The Mediterranean diet has innumerable health benefits including:

  • Lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Supporting a healthy body weight

  • Regulating blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol

  • Reducing your risk for certain cancers

  • Keeping brain function as you age

  • Helping you live longer

Grains in open sacks and olive oil on the shelves in a shop

These health benefits alone should be enough reason to begin eating healthy with the Spanish Mediterranean diet, but it’s also important to note that the Spanish lifestyle has to go hand in hand with the diet. That means lots of walking and embracing exercise in your daily routine to be able to achieve all the benefits that traditional Spanish eating can provide.

Exploring Spain with Ukio

If you want to experience the flavors and benefits of the Mediterranean diet firsthand, then what better way than to take a trip to Spain. We have an abundance of ready to live and artfully decorated apartments in Madrid and Barcelona waiting for you to begin your journey into Spanish culture. Taste the fresh seafood, paella, pan con tomate, tortilla de patatas, olive oil, and local wines straight from this Mediterranean country itself. Spain is waiting for you to take a bite of its famed food culture.