Guide to Cretan Diet

Guide to Cretan Diet

The term "Cretan diet" refers to the food consumption pattern recorded in Crete during the 1960s that has scientifically proven to largely promote good health and longevity. Those dietary traditions served as the cornerstone of what was later on presented to the world as the renowned Mediterranean diet. The  nutrition guide available here includes the types of foods as well as the frequency at which those should be consumed for a long, healthy and prosperous living. To better communicate the information of the guide we choose to illustrate it as a pyramid. This is a practice that has been successfully followed in the past for the so-called Mediterranean diet. 

Clearly, every single food group is important in the Cretan diet as it offers part of the nutrients human body requires for its survival. What’s more important however to the traditional Cretan diet is the balanced combination of those, as one food group cannot substitute for another. All the food groups are necessary for a healthy, long and prosperous living. Below you can find in a descending order of advised quantity and frequency of consumption the principle food groups included in the Cretan diet.



Bread (wholemeal or otherwise), rusks, cereals, pasta couscous, rice and others. This food group is characterized by a high content in natural fibres, proteins and B vitamins. The advised daily intake is 8 portions, where 1 portion is approximately a slice of bread(25gr) or a cup of rice or pasta (30gr)..


Fruits and vegetables

Special emphasis is given on this particular food group. Vegetables (wild greens, cabbage, lettuce, carrot, beetroot, cucumber, spinach, tomato, mushroom, broccoli etc.) and fruits (oranges, apples, cherries, melons, tangerines, pears, kiwi and many others) provide most of the B-vitamins as well as a great deal of natural fibres, while they come at a zero cholesterol content. On a daily basis, 6 portions of vegetables (1 portion= 1 cup of raw vegetable or ½ a cup of cooked vegetable) and 3 portions of fruits (1 portion=1 medium size fruit or ½ a glass of fresh natural juice) should be consumed according to the traditional Cretan food consumption pattern.


Olive oil

Being the dominant oil in the Cretan diet, olive oil may be used for cooking (most healthy choice for frying- check here) or consumed raw, in which case its attributes are better appreciated. Especially for extra virgin olive oil, its very high content in monounsaturated fats as well as in natural antioxidants, makes it particularly beneficial for our health, while also distinguishes it from all the rest vegetable oils. Olive oil should be consumed on a daily basis in moderate amounts. (3 tablespoons or about 50ml )


Dairy products

Milk, yogurt and low-fat cheese are suggested to be consumed on a daily basis, as those are fine sources of calcium, proteins, carbohydrates and B12 vitamin. Processed, high-fat diary products (fats>10%) should be consumed moderately as they contain high levels of cholesterol and saturated fats. The suggested daily intake for adults is 2 portions of diary products (1 portion= 1 cup of yogurt or 100gr of low-fat cheese or a cup), however children, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to consume a bit more than that.     


Legumes and nuts

Chickpeas, lentils, beans and other legumes are advised to be included in our menu once or twice a week(180gr). Nuts, preferably hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts and chestnuts, can substitute for legumes. 


Fish, poultry and eggs

Consumption of 5-6 portions of fish per week is suggested due to its protein content, phosphorus and ω-3 fatty acids, which act beneficially for our cardiovascular system. Poultry and eggs are excellent sources of protein, phosphorus, B6 and B12 vitamins as well as of most of the minerals and trace elements. Because of their content in cholesterol and in saturated fats, poultry and egg consumption is advised to be moderate and not greater than twice a week.



Sweats offer no significant nutrients, therefore their consumption is suggested to be as limited as possible and certainly not bigger than 3 microportions per week.


Red meat

Right on top of our Cretan diet pyramid lies the red meat. Its position indicates that red meat consumption is least advised for a long and prosperous living, primarily because of its high content in saturated fats. Shockingly, merely four portions of red meat (4 portions=approximately 1 steak) should be included in our menu on a monthly basis if we are indeed interested in a healthy lifestyle.

Daily exercise, fixed meals that allow human body to better regulate the caloric intake, lots of water, minimization of salt consumption and 1-2 glasses of red wine on a daily basis are key attributes of the above diet pattern and thus should always be included within it.  



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*This guide was compiled under the supervision of

Melina Pateraki

Dietitian - Nutritionist Harokopio University

MSc Public Health

Medical School of University of Crete



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