Mediterranean Diet: Recipes & Meal Plan
- January 10, 2021
The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating habits and cooking styles of the people who live along the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Mayo Clinic, the diet may reduce the risk of heart disease and help you lose weight. While you’re following the diet, you’ll eat meals rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with regular helpings of fish and seafood. At the same time, you will eat meat and sugar sparingly. Unlike highly restrictive diets, the Mediterranean diet meal plan makes it easy to cook meals for the whole family, eat out at restaurants, and maintain a normal life.
Overview of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is based on principles that have been used for hundreds of years. When following the diet, you will eliminate butter and margarine from your diet and replace it with heart-healthy olive oil. Instead of buying processed, packaged food, you will cook your own meals and flavor them with spices and herbs instead of salt. The diet also recommends that you create the foundation for each meal from plant-based foods and add fish or poultry two or more times per week. Limit your intake of red meat should to just a few times each month. If you enjoy wine, this diet enables you to drink it in moderation.
Losing Weight on the Mediterranean Diet
Whether or not you lose weight on the Mediterranean diet meal plan depends on the number of calories you take in and burn each day. To lose weight, you might follow a Mediterranean diet 1,200-calorie meal plan. Within that calorie limit, you could follow meal plans that include dishes such as:
- Breakfast: oatmeal and Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
- Lunch: a whole-wheat pita stuffed with hummus and vegetables, a salad drizzled with olive oil, and a piece of fresh fruit
- Dinner: grilled salmon, cooked quinoa, and sautéed vegetables
One of the benefits of using the Mediterranean diet meal plan to lose weight is that it includes filling foods; because you’ll come away from each meal feeling full and satisfied, it is easier to avoid bingeing or overindulging. Because most of the foods on the plan are whole and unprocessed, the diet helps you purge dangerous chemicals and other substances that impede weight loss.
Additional Health Benefits
- Improves health of the eyes
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Helps reduce blood pressure
- Boosts brain function
- Reduces likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease
- Reduces risk of Parkinson’s disease
- Cuts down on the risk of cancer
Sample Meal Plan
Given the flexibility and freedom of the Mediterranean diet, your meal options are endless, which is helpful when you are trying to lose weight. In the morning, you might have a breakfast sandwich made with whole-grain toast, avocado, tomato, and egg. At lunch, try a large citrus salad, whole-grain pita with hummus, and two squares of dark chocolate. For dinner, you can eat pasta with butternut squash and sage, topped off with a glass of red wine. To keep calories in check, eat smaller portions and avoid eating large quantities of fat. If you need more meal ideas, Oldways offers a Mediterranean diet meal plan PDF for each season.
- Whole-grain pasta and bread
- Oatmeal, preferably steel-cut
- Couscous and bulgar
- Salmon and other seafood
- Assorted nuts
- All types of fresh fruit
- Fresh or frozen vegetables
- Olive oil
- Spices and herbs
- Dried beans
To help boost your chances of weight loss success, add a variety of Mediterranean diet meal plan recipes to your cooking repertoire. When you have a supply of tasty, easy recipes on hand, you will never be at a loss for meal ideas. If you like pizza, try this recipe for Mediterranean-style flatbread pizza. It’s low in calories and easy to toss together for a fast dinner or lunch on the go.
- Whole-wheat flatbread
- 1/4 cup fresh basil pesto
- 4 tomatoes, sliced
- 1/4 cup feta cheese
- Torn basil leaves to taste
Brush the flatbread with olive oil and place it on a grill or under the broiler until it is lightly toasted. Top with basil pesto, feta cheese, tomatoes, and basil leaves. Return to the grill or oven and cook until all ingredients are heated through or cheese begins to melt.
Creating a Gluten-Free Meal Plan
If you need to live a gluten-free lifestyle, you can still follow the Mediterranean diet and lose weight. Most of the foods on the diet are naturally gluten-free, particularly when you choose fresh vegetables and other unprocessed foods. If you are avoiding gluten, all of the following foods are safe and allowed on the Mediterranean diet:
- Gluten-free whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and amaranth
- Rice or quinoa pastas
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
- Gluten-free breads
- Fish and seafood
When it comes to following Mediterranean diet recipes, you will need to replace pitas, pastas, and breads with gluten-free equivalents. In that case, you can avoid preservatives by looking to gluten-free bakeries for fresh breads. Whenever possible, choose gluten-free products that use recognizable ingredients and few preservatives.
Difficulties of the Mediterranean Diet
For many people, the most difficult aspect of the Mediterranean diet is the need to prepare meals. If you’re accustomed to purchasing fast food or packaged meals, it can take time to adjust your schedule to fit in time to cook. To make it easier, buy individual serving sizes of Greek yogurt, cut vegetables, and hummus. Another challenge is the cost; foods like nuts, olive oil, and fresh fish don’t come cheap. If you’re struggling, buy frozen vegetables instead of fresh and choose cheaper fish options like cod or tilapia. You can also save money by buying in bulk; find a Mediterranean diet meal plan free online to make it easy to plan your shopping.
Dangers and Side Effects
In general, there are no dangers or side effects of the Mediterranean diet, as long as you eat each food in moderation. To stay healthy and increase your chances of losing weight and enjoying other health benefits, aim for a balance of nutrients at each meal.