Mediterranean food is known for its heart-healthy benefits. The Mediterranean diet incorporates vegetables, fish, fruits, and plenty of healthy fats into many dishes. We’re not suggesting all Mediterranean food is healthy of course, but much of the food we consider Mediterranean is good for you.
We spent the time and did the research for you to help you find some of the best Mediterranean diet recipes. We had some rules though, and we applied them to all the recipes we reviewed in this article. The main rule was the disy must contribute to a healthy lifestyle. You can also assume we only picked ones that taste great. Mediterranean food is known for its savory flavors, so we’re safe there.
The only other rule was the recipe had to be an authentic Mediterranean dish meaning it originated or is currently enjoyed in North Africa, southern Europe, and the Mediterranean side of the Middle East. Many of the recipes come from Turkey, Greece, and Italy, so you know they taste good. Since not all food from these areas is healthy foods, you may not see your favorite dish on our list.
Understanding the Mediterranean Diet
It’s not just about diet recipes or eating specific foods. A Mediterranean lifestyle, where food is concerned, is an all-around good choice for a nutritional plan. It’s simple to change over and enjoy this type of food lifestyle without sticking to specific Mediterranean recipes. You can enjoy other recipes that use the same food choices. It is intended as a general guideline and not a meal plan.
For instance, focus on eating healthy vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and fish. If you use oils in cooking, opt for oils with good fats in them like extra virgin olive oil. If you must have bread, stick with whole grain bread or wheat bread that has nuts and seeds in them. Potatoes and legumes are ok if they aren’t the main ingredient.
Limit dairy products and chicken consumption to only a few meals each week. Chicken is good for you, but it's not a staple in the Mediterranean food realm. The same goes for eggs and most cheeses, but they aren’t off limits. Greek yogurt is on the eat in moderation list but use your own judgment here since Greek yogurt offers a lot of benefits to your digestive system.
Limit red meat to just the occasional meal, think once every two weeks. Again, lean cuts of red meat are not bad for you, and it tastes good, but it doesn't fall into the right category for our Mediterranean nutrition lifestyle. That and red meat may hang out in your intestines after you eat it which causes constipation and a few other complications.
Do not eat or drink anything with sugar in it. Avoid processed foods such as refined grains, enriched foods, or refined cooking oils since these are just bad news period. You can have dessert but not after each meal, and the desserts should be simple things like fruit or maybe Greek yogurt with fruit in it. The key is getting rid of anything processed or with added sugar in it.
A Simple Guide to Buying Food Mediterranean Diet Recipes
Before we get into the recipes, there are specific foods you can buy that fall into the Mediterranean food’s category, for lack of a better term. So, we put together a shopping list or pseudo buyer’s guide to help you reduce grocery shopping time. This is not a shopping list for preparing any of the recipes below. It’s intended to help you adjust to buying food with Mediterranean recipes in mind.
The list starts with a food type, food group, or just a general food category to keep it simple. We can't list every food that falls into each section, or this article would turn into a book. So, for the same of our time and yours, use this guide a loose shopping list and head to the grocery store for items like:
Stock up on other items as well based on what you think your needs may be such as potatoes, cheese, Greek yogurt, chicken, olives, extra virgin olive oil, and eggs. If you try the recipes we reviewed, and you should try them all, you’ll need to make additions to your shopping list to include any ingredients they need that didn’t make our short list above.
Our Favorite Mediterranean Diet Recipes
Mediterranean foods often contain some food items that may cause allergies to act up such as cashews and walnuts. Some of the ingredients may include things like cashew paste that’s not immediately noticeable in the name of the item. So, before you run off to the grocery store check the list carefully to make sure nothing in the recipe will aggravate your allergies.
This is a parsley salad with cucumbers, bulgur, and tomatoes that you can overindulge in a little if you want to have a few extra bites. It’s topped off with a lemon vinaigrette, and sometimes people add tomatoes that have been briefly pickled in lemon juice overnight. This is one of the most refreshing salads you'll ever eat, and it's good for you. The ingredients are cheap too.
Technically, this is a side dish, but you can eat it as a meal. It’s a combination of peas, quinoa, and your choice of wild or fresh greens like mustard greens. You can serve this dish cold if you want to, but it’s much better served hot. If the flavor is too strong, try cutting it by adding a little extra virgin olive oil or lemon juice over the top of the food. The fat on the oil and the acid from the lemons help the greens.
Swordfish has a mild flavor which lends to this dish since it doesn’t overpower the other ingredients like other fish would including mackerel. We can’t guarantee it, but it may go well with the previous dish if you wanted to add meat to dinner. However, swordfish may be hard to find but any firm, white fish will work if you choose one with a mild flavor.
If you haven’t tried grilled fish or saffron before, this recipe is a great place to get your first taste. It’s hard to mess this recipe up as well, so it’s easy and fast. Almost any fish will work for this recipe including fillets but avoid fish known for their soft meat, or it'll come apart on the grill. You can try turmeric or cumin in place of the saffron if you don’t like saffron.
Ok, we cheated a little for this recipe, but if you use whole grain tortillas, it still works. This is a meal your kids will enjoy when they've turned their noses up at some of the other Mediterranean diet recipes. Honestly, this may be the best recipe on the list next to the swordfish. It's quick to make, and it's a meal with or without side dishes.
Eggs are very versatile in the kitchen. This frittata is proof of that, and it's one of the best frittata recipes you'll find with a healthy diet in mind. We might suggest changing it up a little and replacing the zucchini with eggplant or put both in there. Eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner and save the leftovers for a snack. It’s delicious and super easy to prepare plus it's budget-friendly.
There's a lot of ingredients in this dish, but the whole meal from prep to serving takes less than an hour. You can swap out some of the components or use easier to obtain things like frozen shrimp in place of fresh shrimp. Frozen shrimp require less prep time as well. The recipe includes a handy substitution list in case you lack a few things.
This is a great lunch meal or a side dish for your favorite fish recipe. Change up the grilled fish recipe above and add this as a side or serve it over grilled fish fillets. It doesn’t need the fish by any means and works fine as a solo dish for a quick lunch or light dinner. It also fits in with a vegetarian meal plan if you want to leave off meat altogether.
This recipe is delicious, and you’ll want to eat it all the time. As a bonus, you cook it in your slow cooker which makes it easy to prepare. Don’t let it make you lazy, try some of the other recipes as well. It takes less than 20 minutes to prepare the food and get it started cooking, but it takes about four hours to cook it. It’s worth the time you spend waiting on it.
If you aren’t looking for a vegan meal, look for traditional moussaka recipes which use meat. That said, this vegan version is tasty. If you like eggplant and smoked tofu, you’ll love this dish. Veering off from the vegan title a bit, this makes an excellent side dish to accompany any of the fish recipes we included above. Mix and match any of the recipes to get the result you want to enjoy.
Tips for Sticking to a Mediterranean Diet
Learn to love vegetables because you’ll be eating a lot of them. Many Mediterranean diet recipes include more vegetables than anything else. Some of them are vegetarian meals by default and don’t have a meaty version. That said, you can add a portion of fish as a side to almost any Mediterranean vegetable dish, and it'll still taste amazing.
Legumes follow the same path as vegetables in the Mediterranean diet world, so learn to love them or at least try them all. If you spend some time searching for Mediterranean diet recipes, you’ll find a lot of bean-based soups or cold bean dishes. At first, cold beans may not sound appetizing to you, but you’ll thank us once you try them.
Fish is a standard part of many of the meals from grilled fish to baked fish patties. Fish like salmon, mullet, and mackerel may taste too strong for some people, but you can swap them out for any fish you want in most cases. That said, if you’ve never tried a sardine patty, you’re missing out on a great dish that works into the diet plan if you bake the patties.
Replace your usual dessert, assuming you like pie and cake for dessert, with fruits and nuts. Blackberries covered in Greek yogurt with chopped almonds on top is delicious. Your goal is avoiding foods with added sugar or processed ingredients. Everyone loves fruit, so add it to dinner or a weekend lunch to help curb any sugar cravings you may experience. Try fruit with cheese as well.
Mediterranean food isn't for everyone, and some people won’t be happy on a strict set of Mediterranean diet recipes. We encourage you to try it and see if it works for you. The food is delicious and usually easy to prepare. We know you’ll love these recipes and they’re all chosen with a Mediterranean diet in mind. Like any diet, the results are only as good as your willpower.