National Honey Board

As you know, the Mediterranean-Style Dietary Pattern (MSDP) is a dietary pattern recommended by the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, abundant in whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and relatively high in fat from olive oil, while low in refined or added sugars. The MSDP has been consistently associated with lower risk for several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Although interest in the Mediterranean diet is high, study results showed that adherence to MSDP remains low among Americans.

Evidence from a new food modeling substitution study, published in Current Developments In Nutrition and funded by the National Honey Board, has determined the most impactful food swaps to promote a Mediterranean-style diet.  The study demonstrated that the overall effect of honey paired with three Mediterranean food combinations could help 98% of adult Americans eat a more Mediterranean-style diet. Honey increased the palatability of these diet swaps and is a typical sweetener of the Mediterranean region.

Americans’ diets were assessed using data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2007-2018) to determine a Mediterranean diet scoring index appropriate for non-Mediterranean populations. The study included 19,987 adult participants, between 25 and 66 years of age with complete dietary data. Participants with relatively higher adherence (HA) were compared to the rest of adult Americans, the non-high adherence group (nHA), in order to identify food substitutions most likely to help eat a more Mediterranean-style diet pattern. These food substitutions were ranked to select the top ones with the highest potential to increase the Mediterranean diet score.

The three recipes are:

  • Fish in a honey/olive oil marinade (swapped for red meat)
  • Whole grain with honey/olive oil dressing (swapped for a refined grain)
  • A leafy green salad in a honey/ herb/olive oil dressing (swapped for a starchy vegetable)

In summary, the study confirms that although most people are not meeting the recommendations for a health-promoting Mediterranean-style dietary pattern, a few simple substitutions can improve adherence for those seeking to do so. Three simple Mediterranean-inspired recipes containing honey can help make food substitutions palatable.

Linked above is a copy of the study for your review, along with this HANDOUT with recipes. If you have any questions, I’m happy to help have those answered!


Kim Haider, RDN, for the National Honey Board