The Mediterranean meal plan is a heart-healthy diet that incorporates foods and cooking styles used by people living in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, etc.). According to the Mayo Clinic, studies indicate that the traditional Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and other health conditions.
The Mediterranean meal plan emphasizes eating primarily plant-based foods. This meal plan is largely made up of a wide variety of vegetables and legumes, fruits, healthier fats like olive oil and nuts, whole grains like whole wheat bread and pasta, and some dairy products like feta and mozzarella cheese, and yogurt. In terms of proteins, the plan promotes eating fish, shellfish, and poultry, while consuming few eggs and very little red meat. Thus, the Mediterranean meal plan tends to be:
- Low in saturated fats
- High in monounsaturated fats (“good” fats that lower Coronary Heart Disease risk)
- High in fiber
- High in nutrients that promote good health
The Mediterranean meal plan promotes flavoring food with herbs and spices instead of salt, and using olive oil instead of butter. Plus, because this meal plan includes very few processed foods, those who follow a Mediterranean diet also tend to consume less salt, refined sugar, and trans fats.
In general, Mediterranean meal plans have acquired a good reputation because of their potential health benefits as well as the delicious flavors that its core foods are known for. Olive and canola oils, as well as the omega-3s found in fish, can provide cardiovascular benefits. In addition, olive oil is rich in Vitamin E, which promotes healthy skin and hair, and other antioxidants that benefit the heart. The Mediterranean meal plan also includes plenty of vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruits that can provide important nutrients, vitamins, and fiber, while also improving digestion.
Curious about trying a Mediterranean meal plan? Here are some healthy and delicious recipes you can try:
- Roasted Eggplant & Feta Dip: This flavorful appetizer gets a spicy kick from a fresh chili pepper and cayenne pepper.
- Shrimp Saganaki: Shrimp tops a delicious saute of fennel, scallions and feta in this version of saganaki. A saganaki is a shallow, two-handled skillet that is one of the most traditional cooking vessels in Greece.
- Butternut Squash Pilaf: Grated butternut squash adds color and nutrients to this brown rice pilaf.
- Greek Yogurt Cheesecake with Ouzo-Poached Figs: This recipe is proof that dessert can be both healthier and decadent.
- Chicken Souvlaki: This Greek favorite requires exactly two minutes and 20 seconds of cooking, thanks to rotisserie chicken. This recipe replaces the traditional tzatziki sauce with a zesty mix of yogurt, feta, and dill, which boosts the flavor content without adding fat.
- Artichoke and Arugula Pizza with Prosciutto: A balance of flavors is the key to this recipe. The bitter arugula, sweet artichoke, salty prosciutto, and creamy mozzarella are in perfect harmony atop a crisp-but-chewy crust and pesto sauce.
- Mediterranean Quinoa Salad: This easy-to-make light salad can be served with or without chicken for vegetarians.
- Seared Mediterranean Tuna Steaks: The tuna and tomato are the stars in this dish!
For Health Advocate Members
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