Considered one of the healthiest diets in the world, the Mediterranean diet is lauded for keeping your heart in shape by focusing on plant-based foods and fatty fish — oh, and allowing for a glass of red wine every night.
Think this is a free pass to guzzle vino and eat as much pasta as you want? Not so fast. According to the American Heart Association, your diet should focus specifically on fruits, vegetables, grains, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds. The diet emphasizes cooking with olive oil, which is an important source of monounsaturated fat, and limits red meat.
Ready to give it a try? From snacks to lunches and dinners, here are 10 Mediterranean diet recipes that fit within the healthy eating plan's guidelines to get you on your way — no plane ticket required.
1. Roasted Beet Hummus
While chickpeas boast a slew of benefits like being high in protein, a great source of fiber, low in fat and full of antioxidants, this Mediterranean snack recipe gets a superfood upgrade, thanks to a half-cup of raw beets. Nutrient-dense beets have also become popular with runners and bodybuilders thanks to their high-nitrate count — which may contribute to better athletic performance.
To make this dip (and your health) even better, add it to your favorite sandwiches as a spread, like on this avocado toast. Your taste buds and your body will thank you.
Get the Roasted Beet Hummus recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Shaved Carrot and Cucumber Salad
Rather than dig into the bread basket, try this light cucumber and carrot salad as a lovely (and healthy) way to begin your Mediterranean-style meal. Carrots are full of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Health.
And, this nutrient has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals, lowers the risk of diseases and has anti-aging benefits, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
To take this salad from meh to Mediterranean, add the key ingredient: two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), a healthy dietary fat that's tied to helping to lower your risk of heart disease by improving related risk factors, per the Mayo Clinic.
Get the Carrot and Cucumber Shaved Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Rosemary and Olive Oil Almonds
The beauty of this crunchy, salty snack recipe is that you can make a bunch of it ahead of time, and feel good knowing that there's a healthy, Mediterranean diet-approved snack waiting for you in your pantry.
Almonds provide the same type of beneficial fat as olive oil, but they are also a good source of plant-based protein to help curb midday hunger pangs. Plus, they're a solid source of vitamin E, which not only has antioxidant qualities but is also essential for vision, reproduction and the health of your blood, brain and skin, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Get the Rosemary and Olive Oil Almonds recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Walnut Ricotta Avocado Toast on Almond Bread
This Mediterranean diet recipe can be a snack (just watch your portions) — or your daily lunch go-to. And if you are watching your carbohydrate count or need to go gluten-free, swap out your regular toast for this almond bread version that will up your protein intake and help keep you satiated.
And don't shy away from avocados. Avocados are "known for their anti-inflammatory properties and as sources of beneficial fats," LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD, tells LIVESTRONG.com. And, unlike most fruits, avocados are a good source of vitamin E, a micronutrient with anti-inflammatory effects, per the Arthritis Foundation. Diets high in these compounds are linked to a decreased risk of the joint damage seen in early osteoarthritis.
Top this open-faced sandwich with walnuts — a great source of healthy omega-3 fats, protein and fiber — and a small portion of ricotta cheese. While cheese isn't off-limits on the Mediterranean diet, it is OK in moderation. Plan to keep the serving size under 1.5 ounces, which is the size of three dice, according to Ohio State University.
Get the Walnut Ricotta Avocado Toast on Almond Bread recipe and nutrition info here.
Read more: 8 Cool Things You Can Do With Avocados
5. Spinach and Feta Avocado Toast on Keto Bread
Eating avocados daily increases 'good' HDL cholesterol and lowers 'bad' LDL counterpart — and even though the fruit is calorie-dense, studies show that it's associated with weight loss and smaller waistlines, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
This open-faced sandwich also includes nutrient-rich spinach. The dark leafy green is a great source of fiber, plus essential nutrients like vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, folate, vitamin C, iron, manganese, potassium, tryptophan and more.
Get the Spinach and Feta Avocado Toast on Keto Bread recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Vegan Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Red peppers are loaded with essential vitamins that support health and immunity, like vitamin C, and are higher in vitamin A (essential for healthy eyesight) than their green, orange and yellow pepper counterparts.
Lycopene, a specific type of antioxidant that gives fruit and vegetables their deep red color, has been shown to help fight damage caused by free radicals, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation.
And lucky for soup lovers, this soup recipe calls for both red peppers and lycopene-packed tomatoes. It's also low in fat and calories — so you can eat this for lunch, dinner or as a midday snack.
Get the Vegan Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup recipe and nutrition info here.
7. Mediterranean Zoodles With Creamy Feta Dressing
Unlike other eating plans, "the Mediterranean diet doesn't demonize food like so many diets do," says Weintraub. "It celebrates a way of life that uses fresh, local ingredients. Exercise and stress relief is an important part of this lifestyle."
Zucchini, a staple in the Mediterranean diet and at summer farmers' markets, has received a modern makeover thanks to clever reincarnations like "zoodles." Whichever way you like to enjoy this vegetable, know that you're getting body-loving nutrients such as vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin, which helps with eyesight, and manganese, which helps protect your body from free radicals.
Get the Mediterranean Zoodles With Creamy Feta Dressing recipe and nutrition info here.
8. Arugula Salad With Salmon and Avocado
Weintraub likes the Mediterranean diet's emphasis on fish over meat. "I like the focus on seafood because it's an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. There's really nothing I dislike specifically about the diet," she says. Weintraub also notes that salmon is good for helping to fight inflammation.
This Mediterranean-style salad recipe, by chef and author Seamus Mullen, recommends using wild-caught salmon for its eco-friendly benefits. Peppery arugula, crisp radishes and creamy avocado make up the base, and the salad is topped with sunflower seeds for a satisfying crunch.
Get the Arugula Salad With Salmon and Avocado recipe and nutrition info here.
9. Grilled Italian Eggplant Caprese Salad
This salad, aptly called the Caprese, originated in Capri, Italy. Regardless of its origin, this recipe is firmly planted in the Mediterranean diet thanks to the mix of in-season tomatoes, grilled eggplant, mozzarella and olive oil.
Often overlooked, eggplant is a versatile veggie you can add to your diet as a part of this healthy lifestyle. The purple-colored vegetable can provide significant nutritive benefits thanks to its abundance of vitamins, phenolics and antioxidants, according to a December 2018 study in the journal Food Chemistry.
The key takeaways of the Mediterranean diet, according to Weintraub: "Eat more vegetables, focus on lean proteins and don't be afraid of using some healthy fats." And as they say in Italy, "Buon appetito!"
Get the Grilled Italian Eggplant Caprese Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
- The American Heart Association: “Mediterranean Diet”
- National Institutes of Health: “Mediterranean Diet May Slow Development of Alzheimer’s Disease”
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Vitamin A”
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Beta-Carotene”
- Mayo Clinic: “Why Should I Choose Olive Oil Over Other Types of Fat?”
- Mayo Clinic: “Vitamin E”
- American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Serving Size vs Portion Size: Is There a Difference”
- Arthritis Foundation: “Best Fruits for Arthritis”
- Food Chemistry: “Health Benefits and Bioactive Compounds of Eggplant”
- Ohio State University: "Estimate Portion Sizes With ‘Handy’ Tool"
- International Food Information Council Foundation: "What Is Lycopene?"