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I’ve followed the Mediterranean diet for years. Here are 11 things I always have in my pantry and fridge.

I’ve followed the Mediterranean diet for years. Here are 11 things I always have in my pantry and fridge.

  • February 02, 2021
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George Arkley for InsiderThe Mediterranean diet helped me learn how to cook.

Learning to cook can be a daunting experience, but discovering the Mediterranean diet during my first year at university was a game-changer.

This eating pattern, which emphasises fresh vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fish, beans, and eggs, taught me how to nourish myself without hating the food on my plate. I also learned balance, like how to pair less-healthy options, like cheese and smoked meats, with fresh produce and whole grains.

Following this diet even helped me learn how to cook. After a couple of months, I could spiralize zucchini, make hummus from scratch, and even debone a fish.

Four years later and I am still sustainably reaping the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which has been named the best diet for the fourth year in a row. I have more energy, clearer skin, and a better digestive system than I ever had before.

Read on for the ingredients I always have in my pantry and fridge to keep up with following this eating pattern.

My go-to dressing is a mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Bread selfieGeorge Arkley for InsiderBread pairs well with olive oil.

Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and I think it’s important to buy a high-quality version of it. This often means spending a few extra dollars to get that signature Mediterranean taste.

I typically dispense my olive oil into a glass container and season it with a few sprigs of sage.

It pairs well with salad and for a simple appetizer, you can slice sourdough bread and top it with a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pepper.

Feta is my secret weapon

Baked fetaGeorge Arkley for InsiderBaked feta is easy to make.

If a dish is burnt, soggy, or tasteless just pop some feta on it and you’re good to go. It crumbles, bakes, melts, and looks appetizing, too.

One of my favourite ways to serve feta is by baking it. Lace a block of feta in the middle of a baking tray and surround it with sliced onions and peppers. If you enjoy a bit of spice, add a handful of chorizo for a smoky underlayer.

Drizzle with olive oil and add a few mixed herbs before baking it in the oven. It should take around 20 minutes to turn a golden brown. Pair it with some toasted slices of pita bread to dip in the creamy cheese.


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Get used to cooking with tinned fish

Tinned sardines and anchovies George Arkley for InsiderCanned fish is an affordable way to enjoy seafood.

Tinned sardines and anchovies may not look very tasty, but they are cheap and easy to prepare. Tinned fish is also a great way to get your nutrients in without breaking the bank at the fish counter.

Tinned fish pairs well with sourdough bread for a simple snack and it can also elevate homemade pizza.

Chickpeas are incredibly versatile

Bean saladGeorge Arkley for InsiderBean salad is easy to throw together.

After living with a vegan friend for a few years, I have pretty much mastered the art of chickpeas. They are a fantastic source of protein, especially if you don’t eat meat.

It’s a key ingredient in hummus but, in my experience, this can be time-consuming to make and you may want to save yourself some effort and buy it from the store.

On the other hand, it’s easy to make things like a light mixed-bean salad yourself.

In a bowl, combine a few cans of chickpeas and mixed beans, diced cucumber and tomatoes, olives, peppers, and a handful of walnuts. For the dressing, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, white wine vinegar, and fresh mint.

Zucchini is a great substitute for starchy potatoes

Zucchini boats Mediterranean dietGeorge Arkley for InsiderZucchini is easy to stuff.

Stuffed zucchini is probably my favourite substitute for potatoes.

To make it, slice a few zucchinis down the middle to create a boat-like shape. Place them under the grill for a few minutes until they start to char. You can also do this in a frying pan if you don’t have a grill.

To make the filling, combine mozzarella and tomatoes with a sprinkling of oregano in a bowl. When the zucchini is done, hollow out the middle and start stuffing. Place back under the grill until the cheese is crisp.


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Potatoes are also easy to enjoy on the Mediterranean diet

Selfie with potatoes 2George Arkley for InsiderThese potatoes are very flavorful.

Good news: The Mediterranean diet does not eliminate carbs like potatoes.

One of my favourite ways to make them as a side dish is by soaking them in lemon juice and herbs.

To prepare, soak diced potatoes in chicken stock, lemon juice, and rosemary before placing them in the oven for 40 minutes to an hour.

Although these potatoes are not crispy, they’re incredibly fluffy, moist, and flavorful.

Halloumi is nice and dense

Fried halloumiGeorge Arkley for InsiderHalloumi can be used as a substitute for meat.

Fried halloumi, a type of semi-hard cheese, is a common feature in my diet. I often add it to salads and wraps, topped with beetroot, spinach, and peppers.

Halloumi is also an excellent way to enjoy a fried treat without straying too far from the Mediterranean eating pattern.

It’s also a great meat alternative because of its dense texture. To amp up the halloumi’s flavour, marinate your cheese overnight in a sweet chilli sauce before adding it to your desired dish.

Cured meats are packed with flavour

Cured meatsGeorge Arkley for InsiderCured meats can amp up a charcuterie board.

Cured meats pair nicely with salads and sandwiches, and they’re also the flavorful star of any charcuterie board. Just pair them with sundried tomatoes, olives, and a bit of sourdough bread.

My favourites include chorizo, a type of pork sausage, and Parma ham, Italian dry-cured ham. They add a nice spice to any appetizer and can help add variety to your diet.

Swordfish is my seafood of choice

Stuffed SwordfishGeorge Arkley for InsiderSwordfish is one of my favourites.

Fresh fish is another staple in my diet, and my favourite is swordfish.

I like to pair it with feta, spinach, and a lot of lemon juice. The lemon sharpens the taste while the feta and spinach give it a creamy finish. I typically partially slice the swordfish, stuff it, and fry until done.

I like to serve this with a portion of Mediterranean-style roasted veggies for a well-rounded meal.

Swordfish can be expensive, so those on a tighter budget can also try this preparation method with cod or chicken.

Marinated olives upgrade any salad

Greek saladGeorge Arkley for InsiderI like making a Greek salad with feta, cucumber, and other produce.

A Mediterranean-diet meal is not complete without a fresh, Greek-style salad.

My go-to recipe consists of diced tomatoes and cucumbers, chopped red onion, and olives. I like to use olives that have been marinated in oil and mixed herbs for added flavour. For extra protein, I add falafel and chickpeas to the mix.

Of course, I finish my salads with my signature 2-ingredient dressing mentioned above.


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Fresh herbs are the perfect finishing touch

Fresh herbsGeorge Arkley for InsiderYou can buy fresh herb plants at the grocery store.

Mediterranean food is all about the finishing touches, and those typically include basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, and mint.

Although dried herbs add flavour, fresh ones can truly elevate a recipe. For example, adding fresh mint to watermelon and feta salad greatly upgrades the taste.

I don’t have a full garden, but I’ve had luck buying fresh herbs online and growing them in my kitchen.

Read More:

10 of the best things to eat for lunch on the Mediterranean diet

I followed the Mediterranean diet for a week, and I get why it’s so popular

7 of the best things to eat for breakfast on the Mediterranean diet

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