The Mediterranean eating plan has certainly become the darling of the diet world. With an emphasis on plant-heavy meals filled with whole grains and healthy fats, it's no surprise the Mediterranean diet was ranked the #1 Best Diet Overall in a 2020 U.S. News and World Report.
Mediterranean diet eating is nutritionally sound, allows a diversity of foods and can be easy to prep. More of an eating plan than an actual step-by-step diet, the Mediterranean diet is tied to preventing chronic disease, like heart disease and metabolic syndrome, according to a September 2017 study published in Nutrition Today.
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An array of vegetables and fruits make up the heart of the Mediterranean diet, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you're following the Med diet, vegetables should make up a majority of your meals, alongside healthy fats (like avocado and olive oil) and whole grains (like quinoa and brown rice), the other two major components of this plan.
When it comes to protein, you'll want to focus your attention on leaner sources, like fish or chicken, recommends the Mayo Clinic. Prioritize fish high in healthy fat (like salmon) and include some beans and low-fat dairy products to hit your daily protein goals.
Limiting your red meat intake is a key element of the Mediterranean diet, according to the Mayo Clinic. While there's no hard-and-fast rule to follow, pick leaner cuts and keep your portion sizes small (about three ounces).
As with any healthy-eating plan, the Mediterranean diet does require some meal prep. But with these recipes, you can just toss the ingredients in your slow cooker and enjoy a fresh Med diet-friendly meal at the end of the day.
1. Slow Cooker Salmon With Lemon and Parsnips
This recipe requires few ingredients and is simple to prepare but makes for a luxurious nonetheless. For a complete meal, pair your salmon with a serving of whole grains, like quinoa or brown rice.
Salmon is a tasty protein source but also contributes a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Omega-3s are essential fats you can only get from the food you eat and can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease, improve blood pressure and relieve joint pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Get the Slow-Cooker Salmon with Lemon and Parsnips recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Moussaka
A Greek dish traditionally layered with minced meat, this moussaka is both meat-free and Mediterranean-diet-friendly. This recipe takes between seven to eight hours in the slow cooker for a tasty dish that packs big flavor. At only 191 calories total, you may want to pair this lasagna with some lean protein for a complete meal.
Although this moussaka isn't super high in protein, it packs about 32 percent of your daily value (DV) of fiber, an essential nutrient that can keep hunger at bay, according to the FDA. Found in many fruits, vegetables and whole grains, fiber digests slowly, keeping you fuller for longer. To reap the many miraculous benefits of fiber, aim for at least 25 grams per day.
Get the Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Moussaka recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
If you're not already familiar with this Italian classic, now's your chance to give it a taste. Prep this recipe before work and eight hours later, you'll have a tender chicken dish waiting for you.
Totaling under 300 calories per serving with 20 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbs and 21 grams of fat, this recipe calls for olive oil, a Mediterranean diet staple.
Healthy, natural fats are easy to incorporate into any meal and can give your dish a heart-healthy boost. Olive oil is a form of monounsaturated fat, which can help lower your risk of heart disease and may help lower HDL (bad) cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Get the Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Slow-Cooker Asparagus Soup
At only 158 calories per cup-and-a-half serving, this asparagus soup makes the perfect appetizer and can be enjoyed either warm or chilled. You only need to devote about 13 minutes of prep time and can let this soup simmer in your slow cooker for about eight hours on a medium temperature.
Asparagus is loaded with vitamins and nutrients but is especially high in vitamin K, a nutrient that promotes healthy immune function and blood flow, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Get the Slow-Cooker Asparagus Soup recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Slow-Cooker Vegetable 'Pasta' Lasagna
This veggie lasagna cuts out refined carbs and red meat, making it a go-to Med diet lunch or dinner. With about 258 calories, 11 grams of protein, 17 grams of carbohydrates and 16 grams of fat total, this recipe takes only about 22 minutes to prepare and two to three hours to cook.
This recipe substitutes zucchini for standard lasagna pasta, adding some fiber and vitamins to this cheesy delicacy. The zucchini in a single serving of this recipe will give you about 20 percent of your DV of vitamin C, according to the USDA. This vitamin is not only great for immune health but helps your body process protein, according to the NIH.
Get the Slow-Cooker Vegetable 'Pasta' Lasagna recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Slow-Cooker Octopus, Lemon and Potatoes
To say this recipe is packed with protein is an understatement. Loaded with 51 grams of protein total, this 408-calorie meal is also high in healthy fats and low in carbs. This recipe needs only about 25 minutes of prep time and between five and six hours to cook.
The star of this dish, octopus, is an underrated source of lean protein that's totally Med diet-approved. Octopus meat is also an excellent source of iron, which helps support bone and muscle health, according to the NIH.
Get the Slow-Cooker Octopus, Lemon and Potatoes recipe and nutrition info here.
- FDA: "Dietary Fiber"
- NIH: "Iron"
- USDA: "Octopus (Alaska Native)"
- NIH: "Vitamin C"
- USDA: "Zucchini"
- NIH: "Vitamin K"
- USDA: "Asparagus"
- Mayo Clinic: "Olive Oil: Why Should I Choose Olive Oil over Other Types of Fat?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Mediterranean diet: A Heart-Healthy Eating Plan"
- Nutrition Today: "Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases"
- Mayo Clinic: "Fish Oil"