11 Easy Mediterranean Diet Recipes for Beginners
- August 13, 2020
If you want to get on board with a diet that tastes good and has bona fide health benefits, then you’ve found your match in the Mediterranean diet.
Not only did U.S. News and World Report rank it as the best diet overall in 2019 for being sensible and putting a smart emphasis on good-for-you foods without restriction, but it’s a traditional diet that’s been around for centuries — and it’s delicious, too. “The Mediterranean diet is all-inclusive, sustainable, and something that you really can follow. It’s not so prescriptive that it’s prohibitive,” says Rachel Berman, RD, CDN, New York City-based author of the Mediterranean Diet for Dummies.
Furthermore, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating with loved ones together, around a table. In that sense, you can think of the Mediterranean diet as a lifestyle as much as a diet. It’s one that people in many countries around the Mediterranean Sea, like Greece, Turkey, and Italy, have followed for centuries, Berman says. “Many of these areas are home to ‘Blue Zones,’ or places in the world where people live longer and healthier than others,” says Berman. Of the original Blue Zones — home to the greatest percentage of people who live to 100 — two are located in the Mediterranean — Sardinia, Italy, and Ikaria, Greece.
The Mediterranean diet is a mostly plant-based eating style that emphasizes pulses like beans and lentils, vegetables (particularly dark leafy greens), fruits, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, along with fish, and a little meat and dairy, explains Elena Paravantes-Hargitt, RD, a nutritionist based in Greece who specializes in the Mediterranean Diet, and founder of OliveTomato. “Research shows that it’s not only a heart-healthy diet and associated with longevity, but it’s protective from certain cancers, as well as cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease,” she says. The foods incorporated into the eating plan are rich in anti-inflammatory substances, which plays a role in decreasing your risk for disease, she adds.
But it can be tough to start a Mediterranean diet — especially if you don’t consider yourself a wiz in the kitchen. Luckily, one of the hardest things you’ll have to do is soak beans in water overnight.
Here are 10 Mediterranean diet recipes for beginners to add to your repertoire:
Mediterranean Grain Bowls With Lentils and Chickpeas
When you’re new to the Mediterranean diet, one way to make a big impact on your eating habits (and health) is to consume more beans and lentils. This recipe, which makes for a hearty lunch or dinner, features a base of delightfully chewy farro, lentils, and chickpeas, topped with veggies, avocado, Kalamata olives, and feta — plus a bright lemony garlic dressing. Even better: You can easily save leftovers for a quick throw-together meal the next day.
Greek Style Roasted White Beans With Summer Vegetables
Beans make for a wonderfully complete meal — especially when you serve crusty whole-grain bread on the side. The additional step of using dried beans may not be something you’re used to, but their impossibly silky texture makes every bit of extra foresight worth it.
The Ultimate Mediterranean Breakfast
If you’re stuck in a breakfast rut, let us introduce you to the Mediterranean breakfast board. Rather than whipping up pancakes and eggs on a Sunday morning, assemble a beautiful board of Mediterranean favorites, like sliced cucumber and tomatoes, pita, falafel, cubes of feta, hummus, and marinated olives, artichokes, and mushrooms. Let everyone go to town creating their perfect plate.
Creamy Greek Salad Pasta Recipe
If you want to take pasta salad up a notch, this recipe has you covered. Cooled pasta and a variety of veggies (onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, and corn) are wrapped up in a creamy, herby Greek yogurt dressing. Make this next time you have to bring a dish to a potluck or serve at your next party.
Vibrant Orange and Arugula Salad
If ever a recipe deserved an award for most beautiful, this would be it. And the sheer fact that it’s eye candy will get you excited about making this dish. In this one, peppery baby arugula is matched with sweet oranges, creamy goat cheese, and crunchy almonds and radishes. Pair alongside a piece of roasted white fish, and you’ve got a light but filling meal.
Mediterranean White Beans With Artichoke and Tomato
This recipe is quick thanks to the use of canned beans and canned or frozen artichoke hearts. And if you don’t use artichokes regularly in your cooking, this is a great intro to the amazing fiber-packed hearty veggie. You won’t even miss meat.
Mediterranean Sheet Pan–Baked Shrimp and Veggies
Weeknight dinners are tough. That’s why a dish that takes just 25 minutes (including prep) is a lifesaver. Plus, there’s just one sheet pan involved, so cleanup is a breeze. The Mediterranean Dish is known for creating high-flavor meals out of simple ingredients, and this one is no exception: Asparagus, cherry tomatoes, onion, and shrimp marinate in olive oil, cumin, garlic, and sumac, and are then roasted until caramelized in the oven.
Roasted Cauliflower and Farro Salad With Feta and Avocado
Grain-based salads are perfect for toting to work. Cook a big pot of farro (you’ll love it even more than brown rice), then toss with roasted cauliflower and salty Kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, and feta. When set atop a bed of greens, this will be your new favorite way to eat a salad.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio With Broccoli
You probably knew going into this that pasta was definitely included in a Mediterranean diet. This recipe uses whole-grain pasta and encourages the chef to cook the noodles al dente — this slight “undercooking” lowers the glycemic index of the noodles, meaning they are digested slower and you won’t get a big blood sugar spike and then crash. Choosing whole-grain noodles helps you avoid this crash, too!
Greek Chickpea Stew
There are just five basic ingredients that go into this stew — chickpeas, onion, garlic, bay leaf, and olive oil — but when it’s drizzled with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon at the end, you’ll want to eat this for lunch every day. It’s a hearty stew that’s packed with protein and fiber from the chickpeas.
Baked Salmon Recipe With Garlic Cilantro Sauce
If you’re lost looking where to begin when it comes to cooking fish, ditch the pan and throw a fillet into the oven. For this recipe, all you have to do is put the fish on a sheet pan and cover with the garlic-cilantro sauce and bake. It’ll come out perfect every time. And that’s exactly what you need as an intro to fish.