The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts, whole grains and healthy fats such as olive oil, and research suggests that it’s one of the healthiest eating patterns in the world. The Mediterranean diet has been studied extensively for its potential to prevent a host of chronic diseases (including cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s) and for its connection to overall longevity. In addition to its potent health benefits, the Mediterranean diet is full of some of our favorite ingredients and flavor combinations. Here are seven easy Mediterranean-inspired recipes for a delicious meal with all of the associated health benefits.
1. Mediterranean Stir-Fry
The ultimate Mediterranean Stir-Fry, this beef dish features traditional Mediterranean ingredients such as aromatic thyme and rosemary, savory Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, and heart-healthy olive oil. Colorful and rich in flavor, this recipe is a well-balanced complete meal high in protein, fiber, and vitamins C and A. If you aren’t a meat eater, you can replace the top sirloin with tofu, tempeh, or any plant-based protein alternative.
- Healthy Highlights: 21 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, 79 percent of your daily vitamin C, and 33 percent of your daily vitamin A.
2. Mediterranean Couscous Cabbage Rolls (Vegetarian)
Stuffed cabbage rolls are a traditional dish in Greece and all along the Mediterranean. This creative vegetarian recipe only has one gram of saturated fat. It features just about every ingredient in the Mediterranean cookbook — feta cheese, Kalamata olives, mint, plum tomatoes, couscous, red wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. It’s also rich in vegetarian protein with an impressive 11 grams per serving, and it’s an excellent source of dietary fiber and essential micronutrients including vitamins A and C.
- Healthy Highlights: 11 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, 52 percent of your daily vitamin C, and 37 percent of your daily vitamin A.
3. Basic Hummus (Vegan)
Hummus is a staple in both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Though abundant in supermarkets, homemade hummus is super easy and can be much more delicious than store-bought. Hummus is a plant-powered masterpiece, great as a snack or side, made from whole chickpeas and packed with good fats from tahini and olive oil. One serving has three grams of plant protein, two grams of dietary fiber, and a serving of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
- Healthy Highlights: 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.
4. Mediterranean Barley Salad (Vegan)
Barley, dates, garbanzo beans — oh, my! This savory-sweet grain salad features whole-grain barley, a traditional Mediterranean ingredient rich in fiber and micronutrients including magnesium and manganese. This complete-plant-protein dish has an impressive 14 grams of protein and 16 grams of heart-healthy fiber to keep you satisfied and balanced. One serving also contains 10 percent of your daily requirement of bone- and heart-healthy calcium, making it an excellent, balanced choice for vegans.
- Healthy Highlights: 14 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, 23 percent of your daily vitamin C, 20 percent of your daily vitamin A and 10 percent of your daily calcium.
5. Turkish Lamb Pita Burgers
This lamb burger is the ultimate Mediterranean comfort food. It’s a protein-packed lamb-turkey blend featuring whole-grain bulgur spiced with coriander and cumin, with a whopping 32 grams of lean protein per serving. Served in warmed, fiber-rich whole-wheat pita bread and topped with an herbed, lemony Greek yogurt sauce, this recipe is on par with anything on the menu at your favorite Greek restaurant.
- Healthy Highlights: 32 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, 33 percent of your daily vitamin C, and 22 percent of your daily vitamin A.
6. Greek Salad with Sardines
Greek salad is a Mediterranean classic, and it makes for a balanced meal or side dish at any time of day. This recipe goes beyond the traditional salad of tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese, olives, and red onions by adding an additional pop of plant-powered protein from garbanzo beans, along with heart-healthy sardines. One serving of this salad alone has seven grams of fiber, 18 grams of protein, and over a quarter of your daily calcium requirement!
- Healthy Highlights: 18 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, 26 percent of your daily calcium, 35 percent of your daily vitamin C, and 20 percent of your daily vitamin A.
7. Mediterranean Cauliflower Pizza (Vegetarian)
This gluten-free Mediterranean-fusion pizza features a plant-based cauliflower crust for a lower-carbohydrate, nutrient-dense alternative to a traditional crust. Perfect as an appetizer or snack, this recipe calls for a handful of bright, flavorful, whole-food ingredients such as micronutrient-rich basil, heart-healthy olives, and sweet sun-dried tomatoes.
- Healthy Highlights: 11 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 94 percent of your daily vitamin C, and 26 percent of your daily calcium.