These meal ideas for Mediterranean diet will help you get started on the most popular diet around today! (Webmaster's note: I've purposely excluded the word "the" in "meal ideas for Mediterranean diet" and I know it sounds awkward. In this case, I need to do it for the search engines, so please bear with me...)
This diet, which is really more of a "lifestyle" than a weight loss system, combines different cuisines from areas such as southern Italy, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Greece, and southern France.
Using these meal ideas for Mediterranean diet can help improve your health. The benefits are numerous, and include a reduced risk for Alzheimer's, cancer, and heart disease.
The diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil. Lean protein, especially in the form of fish is encouraged, and low-fat dairy is allowed, as is the occasional glass of wine.
October 2009: News Flash!
A study in the Archives of General Psychiatry finds that the Mediterranean diet can minimize your risk of depression! Depression, like many other diseases, is linked to higher levels of inflammation throughout the body. Researchers found that depression may “yield in the face of a ‘synergistic combination’ of polyunsaturated fats from olive oil and nuts, antioxidants from fruits and flavonoids, B vitamins and natural folate from vegetables and wine.”
To get started, with your meal ideas for Mediterranean diet, check out your pantry and fridge. You want to move away from eating processed foods as much as possible. What are processed foods? Processed foods are those items not in their natural state. Pre-packaged items are processed for the most part. Items with ingredients that you can't pronounce or don't recognize are processed. If your grandmother or great-grandmother would not recognize the item, then don't eat it!
Stock up on vegetables of all kinds. Fresh is best, but that's not always possible. Frozen is better than canned, but canned vegetables work in a pinch. You may want to consider rinsing them before cooking to remove the extra sodium.
Fruits are similar to vegetables in that fresh is best, but frozen works too.
As for your lean protein, eat plenty of beans (rinse the canned ones first), fish, soy products, eggs, seafood, and lean cuts of meat.
Only eat whole grains, in the form of pasta, bread, rice, quinoa, air popcorn, and cereal.
Dairy products should be low fat or fat-free, and limited. Fats should be in the form of nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts, but only a handful a day.
Your main source of fat will be extra virgin olive oil. Canola oil is acceptable.
Ten Mediterranean Power Foods:
Almonds, Bell Peppers, Blueberries, Broccoli, Grapes, Olive Oil, Spinach, Strawberries, Tomatoes, and Whole Grains.
Build your meal ideas for Mediterranean diet around these nutrient-rich foods!
For those of you that love to cook, this meal idea for Mediterranean diet will be an absolute dream! Free Mediterranean diet recipes that are delicious and easy to make are abundant! In addition, there are literally dozens of Mediterranean diet books to help you!
For those of you like me, who rarely cook, and don't enjoy spending time in the kitchen, it will be a little more challenging. It will be worth it though--I lost 8 pounds in the first three weeks of following this plan and never once felt like I was dieting! Removing processed foods from my diet (or at least severely limiting them) is probably the best thing I've ever done for my health.
I've kept a daily food log, and will use that to give you meal ideas for Mediterranean diet. Know that I put salt, pepper, and garlic powder on everything I make, so if I don't mention that, it's there. All oil is extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO as Rachel Ray calls it. Many of these ideas were also printed in my August newsletter:
Stuffed Red Peppers
Cut a large red bell pepper in half and clean out the seeds. Place sliced garlic and sliced Greek olives in the bottom of each half. Place cut tomato wedges in each until full (I used cherry tomatoes cut in half). Drizzle one teaspoon of EVOO over each. Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 50 minutes. For those of you good with herbs, you could really have fun here. I'm afraid that I don't have that skill...
These peppers were so delicious even my husband liked them, and he doesn't care for anything labeled "healthy." I made them again and instead of the tomatoes I stuffed them with chunks of onions, yellow squash, and zucchini. (I still used the garlic and olives for flavoring.) I sprinkled a little feta cheese over them when served. Yummy! I think next, I'm going to stuff them with mushrooms! Make these roasted peppers one of your best meal ideas for Mediterranean diet!
I've never purchased ground turkey breast before, but I bought some and made patties. I covered both sides with whole wheat bread crumbs and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I then browned them in one tablespoon of EVOO on medium heat, for about 5 min. each side. When the pan dried out, I splashed in a little chicken broth, but wine would be good too. The turkey patties were really good! It made me think that putting some things in them would be good too, such as diced veggies or jalapenos. Maybe I'll try that next time.
My new favorite "side salad" is made in a small bowl with a few cherry tomatoes cut in half, a few thin slices of onion, a few thin slices of avocado, a few Greek olives sliced, and a teaspoon of EVOO and red wine vinegar.
I've been keeping a bowl of sliced cucumbers in my fridge for those times when I feel like I need a bite or two of something good. I've been using English cucumbers but you can use regular ones if you scrape the seeds out first. I first peel the cucumber and use the side of an old metal grater to slice them nice and thin. I also slice up about a half of an onion in them too. I then add salt, pepper, and garlic powder, along with one tablespoon of EVOO and about 2-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. The longer it sits, the better it is. Meal ideas for Mediterranean diet don't come any easier than this!
I purchased and made quinoa for the first time yesterday. I used chicken broth instead of water. After it was finished, I added sauteed onions and mushrooms. It was wonderful! If you've never tried it, give it a chance! It's one of the best meal ideas for Mediterranean diet and so versatile! You can add so many things to it and eat it hot or cold!
I cooked some asparagus in a pan with a tablespoon of EVOO and a little water for about 6-7 minutes and then splashed it with the juice of a whole lemon before serving. It was wonderful!
I love to make up a large cookie sheet of roasted vegetables. Just cut your favorites into bite-sized chunks and roast for 20 min. at 450 degrees. I've done them dry and with olive oil. They're delicious both ways. Balsamic vinegar is good to splash on prior to roasting too. This works especially well for onions, mushrooms, squash of any kind, zucchini, and bell peppers.
Soups are great meal ideas for Mediterranean diet! Homemade vegetable and bean soups are delicious, filling, and satisfying in every way!
Because whole grains are encouraged and I don't eat cereals, I purchased a substantial whole grain bread that has 6 grams of fiber in each slice naturally--not with additives. I sometimes toast a slice and cover it with a thin layer of peanut butter and then a sprinkle of crushed almonds. This will stick to your ribs and is a very satisfying breakfast or snack. I'm so used to diet bread that I was shocked at how filling one slice could be!
I've been eating delicious salads with EVOO and vinegar or lemon juice as the dressing. Sometimes I'll add beans, chicken, shrimp, almonds or walnuts for protein. I have both bleu cheese and feta cheese crumbles in the fridge and I've been adding them to salads too. Use them sparingly due to calories, but also a little flavor goes a long way.
I'll eat fruit but I'm not a "fruit lover." I prefer my fruit cold, so I keep a bowl in the fridge with grapes, oranges, and apples. Smoothies are a great way to enjoy plenty of fruits, especially blueberries and strawberries, two of the Mediterranean power foods! Enjoy these delicious smoothie recipes!
These satisfying and tasty meal ideas for Mediterranean diet should get you started and give you some ideas of how to easily enjoy this way of eating. You won't be sorry!