“MIND Diet Meal Plan and Shopping List [Free PDF]” was written by Joanna Gorczyca, RD & reviewed/edited by Aly Bouzek, MS, RDN.
Cognitive Decline in Older Adults
As we age, our brain (cognitive) health can decline. Cognitive decline often progresses slowly over many years. It might even go unnoticed until the degenerative disease is in moderate or severe stages.
It is estimated that 6.5 million Americans (aged 65 years and older) live with a diagnosed cognitive disease like Alzheimer’s. By 2060, that number is said to be closer to 13.8 million Americans. (1)
Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases take more life than some cancers (like breast cancer and prostate cancer) combined. (1)
MIND Diet Meal Plan Slows Cognitive Decline
In 2015, two research papers, focused on the MIND diet and its cognitive benefits, were published. Researchers followed more than 1,000 older adults (aged 58 to 98 years) for 9 years.
During this time, participants completed food frequency questionnaires and at least 2 neuropsychological assessments to determine if following the MIND diet, Mediterranean diet, or DASH diet had any effect on cognitive decline with aging and Alzheimer’s disease risk. (2,3)
Those who strictly followed the MIND diet had a 53% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who did not follow the diet. (3)
Those who followed the MIND diet to a modest degree still had a 35% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to those with low adherence to the diet. (3)
Therefore, following the MIND diet meal plan daily can dramatically decrease the chance of developing cognitive degenerative diseases.
Starting early and being consistent before any signs and symptoms of cognitive decline is the key to potentially avoiding the devastating disease in the elderly population.
Read more 7 Day MIND Diet Meal Plan (Menu & PDF)
Even following the MIND diet plan after receiving a dementia diagnosis can still provide long-term benefits. Additionally, the MIND diet has also shown to protect brain health following a stroke.
We’ve talked about the cognitive benefits of following the MIND diet, but what actually is the diet? Keep reading to learn all about the MIND diet meal plan and to get your free PDF!
What is the MIND Diet Meal Plan?
“MIND” is an acronym:
- Intervention for
This diet actually combines two well-researched food patterns, the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, as an intervention for neurodegenerative diseases.
Researchers combined these two “healthiest” diets as a way to create a diet that is optimal for brain health and preventative toward cognitive decline.
While there are no set guidelines to follow for the MIND diet, there are 10 foods that you are encouraged to eat and 5 foods you should try to avoid. Find out more below!
Core Components of the MIND Diet Meal Plan
Mediterranean and DASH diets increase plant-based meals composed of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Both diets also recommend decreasing processed foods and saturated fats.
10 Foods to Increase on the MIND Diet Meal Plan
- Leafy green vegetables: include kale, spinach, arugula, and other lettuce.
The more, the better with leafy green vegetables; they are nutrient-rich with brain-protective properties and minimal calories.
- Vegetables: all other vegetables are a great addition to the daily diet as they provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber which all have brain-boosting powers.
- Berries: consuming fruit, in general, has many health benefits; yet, the MIND diet protocol singles out the antioxidant-rich berries due to the many studies showcasing their brain-protective power. (4)
- Whole grains: include brown rice, barley, oats, quinoa, and whole wheat products like pasta, rice, crackers, and bread. Whole grains are known to help lower your risk of heart disease and help protect your brain.
- Beans: include pinto beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soybeans. Beans are high in fiber and are a great source of energy for our brain.
- Nuts: crunchy goodness loaded with protein and essential fatty acids needed for brain health. Try almonds, walnuts, and other varieties of nuts!
- Poultry: choose skinless chicken breast chicken or lean turkey for a great source of protein without the additional saturated fat.
- Fish: is not only a great source of protein but also of omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for brain development and maintaining brain health. Try salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish.
- Olive oil: “the golden child” of the Mediterranean diet – is packed with anti-inflammatory polyphenols and healthy fats that nourish the brain and the body, especially as we age.
- Wine: limit to one glass (5 ounces) of wine per day.
5 Foods to Decrease on the MIND Diet Meal Plan
- Red meat: pork, beef, lamb, and foods made of these meat products. Due to the high saturated fat content, the MIND diet suggests a limited number of servings each week.
- Cheese: limit or choose healthier options such as hard cheeses (parmesan, asiago, or Gruyere)
- Butter and margarine: contains mainly saturated fat without providing many health benefits, so it is best to skip it
- Fried Foods: are discouraged due to trans fats and saturated fats
- Sweets: such as pastries, candies, and chocolate bars- are ladened with saturated fat and trans fats, which negatively affect your brain and heart health
How to Implement the MIND Diet Meal Plan (5)
|Leafy green vegetables||1 cup raw OR ½ cup cooked||6 times per week|
|Other vegetables||½ cup||1 serving per day|
|Berries||½ cup OR ¼ cup dried||2 servings per week|
|Whole grains||1 slice bread OR ½ cup cooked: pasta, rice, oatmeal||3 servings per day|
|Beans||½ cup||4 servings per week|
|Nuts||1 oz or ⅓ cup OR 2 TBSP nut butter OR 2 TBSP seeds||5 servings per week|
|Poultry||3 oz||2 servings per week|
|Fish||3 oz||2 servings per week|
|Olive oil||1 tsp||2 servings per day|
|Wine||5 oz||1 serving (or less) per day|
The rule of thumb for the higher saturated and trans fats foods is to limit if unable to avoid them altogether.
|Pastries and other sweets||1 oz||Less than 5 servings per week|
|Red meat (and red meat products)||3 oz||4 servings (or less) per week|
|Fried foods and cheese||Fried foods: 3 oz|
Cheese: 1.5 oz
|Less than 1 serving per week|
|Butter or margarine||1 TBSP||Less than 1 serving per day|
7 Day MIND Diet Meal Plan PDF
MIND Diet Shopping List
What’s a helpful meal plan without a shopping list?
Our MIND diet shopping list is sure to be helpful along your brain health journey!
Note that each section has been color coded and divided into the categories specified for the MIND diet:
- leafy green vegetables
- other veggies
- whole grains
- beans & nuts
- poultry & fish
- olive oil and other seasonings
- and a category for misc. food items
Check out your free PDF MIND Diet Shopping List to accompany your MIND diet meal plan.
Additional Notes about the MIND Diet
Before starting or changing your diet, check with your doctor, especially if you are on any medications.
We are all unique in our physiology, needs, and medical history. Therefore your doctor will be able to assess if there are any harms with you starting the MIND diet.
Dietary Restrictions and Food Preferences
Do you have any food allergies? Do you have any severe food aversions?
If you have an allergy to fish, nuts, or gluten, then this diet may not be right for you.
Other considerations would be your oral (mouth) health and swallowing abilities which can impact the textures you can eat. Raw green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fresh berries might not be appropriate in their natural state.
Current and Future Health Goals
How ready are you to make dietary lifestyle changes? Consider why you are interested in the MIND diet meal plan – what would living healthier and longer mean to you?
If you are not ready to fully commit to the MIND diet meal plan, are there one or two foods you can swap or add in now?
Small changes add up, so start where you are and choose one or two meals from the sample MIND diet meal plan below to incorporate each week.
Customizing your MIND Diet Meal Plan
Dietitians are nutrition experts knowledgeable about food allergies, medical nutrition therapy, and food and drug interactions. They can help guide you to better food choices and transition to MIND diet meal plans based on your goals and motivation.
Creating a customized MIND diet meal plan and accountability is the best way to make a lasting change in your food patterns to keep your cognition sharp and your brain healthy. Consider speaking with a dietitian or geriatric dietitian when you’re ready.
Don’t forget to snag your free PDF downloads here:
- MIND Diet Meal Plan PDF
- MIND Diet Shopping List PDF
- 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s Association. Published 2022. Accessed September 11, 2022. https://www.alz.org/media/Documents/alzheimers-facts-and-figures.pdf.
- Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Barnes LL, Bennett DA, et al. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement. 2015;11(9):1015-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2015.04.011.
- Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Bennett DA, Aggarwal NT. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers & Dement. 2015;11(9):1007-1017. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2014.11.009.
- Kalt W, Cassidy A, Howard LR, et al. Recent research on health benefits of blueberries and their anthocyanins. Adv Nutr. 2020;11(2):224-236. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz065.
- Diet Review: MIND Diet. Harvard: The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/mind-diet/.