Publication date February 9, 2024

Busy Person's Guide to Mediterranean Diet Staples: Quick & Easy Meals in Minutes!

mediterranean side dishes

Looking for a sustainable approach to healthy eating that doesn't involve deprivation or bland meals? Look no further than the Mediterranean Diet! 

Acclaimed as the best overall diet for 7 years running by U.S. News & World Report, this centuries-old style of eating, embraced by many countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain, prioritizes long-term health and wellness over fleeting weight-loss fads.

Unlike restrictive plans that leave you feeling deprived, the Mediterranean Diet offers a balanced, inclusive approach. This isn't just another diet trend; it's a lifestyle shift that's easy to stick with and truly enjoyable. And the best part? The delicious world of Mediterranean Diet staples awaits!

I personally haven't felt like I'm missing out on anything since starting this eating style. In fact, the flavors are incredible! Whether you're a seasoned cook or a busy beginner, from handy food lists to quick and easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this guide has everything you need to dive into the Mediterranean Diet. 

What is Mediterranean Food?

Mediterranean food refers to the dishes cooked and prepared by the people living near the Mediterranean Basin. It includes a blend of different flavors brought by different cultures in this region. There are similarities between the food prepared by different cultures, but the cuisine is divided into three regions. 

First is North Africa which happens to be Morocco, where spices play a major role in the preparation of food. Second is Southern Europe which includes Spain, France, and Italy. Their food mostly adds lots of herbs and wine. Finally, the last there is the Eastern Mediterranean which covers Greece, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey.

The Mediterranean diet aims to promote healthy and sustainable living. Generally, the diet includes lots of vegetables, fruits, olive oil, grains, and bread is their staple food. There are plenty of delicacies prepared from bread and different foods. Keep reading to learn more about these appetizing and delicious delicacies of Mediterranean cuisine.

Why Choose a Mediterranean Diet Staples?

Mediterranean diet staples are the core ingredients of diet that form the basis of most meals. These foods are mostly plant-based, minimally processed, and rich in nutrients. They are also affordable and easily available in the Mediterranean region.

With its higher emphasis on fiber, healthy fats, and fish, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to studies showing improvements in heart health, healthy aging, brain health, lowered cancer risk, and more. The best part? It makes a smooth transition in the overall diet.

It’s more like a lifestyle change, instead of frying your fish, try grilling or baking and try oil instead of butter, the Mediterranean diet adds healthier food daily and makes half your plate veggies. Intrigued about trying this diet? Let’s learn more about Mediterranean diet staples and how to stock your kitchen.

Mediterranean Diet Pantry Staples 

Here are some Mediterranean diet staples to include in your staples pantry:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fresh or frozen fish and seafood
  • Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables  (no salt added) 
  • Fresh herbs and spices
  • Part-skim milk cheese
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olives 
  • Avocados
  • Beans and lentils
  • Skim milk
  • Poultry
  • Whole-grains
  • Whole grain bread and pasta

Mediterranean Diet Spices

Here are a few main herbs and spices to add to your pantry for Mediterranean flavors:

  • Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Nutmeg
  • Fennel seeds
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Saffron
  • Mint
  • Marjoram
  • Sage

Protein Sources on A Mediterranean Diet

As Mediterranean diet based on countries near major sources of water, it includes proteins such as salmon, shrimp, tuna, halibut and other fish. But, if you’re not a fish eater, you can still benefit from eating a Mediterranean-style diet. Below are some additional protein sources to consider: 

  • Lentils and beans 
  • Edamame 
  • Eggs
  • Feta Cheese
  • Goat cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Boneless chicken
  • Ground turkey
  • Skim milk
  • Yogurt, plain nonfat Greek
  • Spinach 
  • Nuts 
  • Peanut butter 
  • Quinoa 

Remember to avoid fatty cuts of meat and fried foods, and limit your red meat servings to no more than once a week.

Mediterranean Breakfast Recipes

So now that you know what it is, the staples you need to add to your party for a Mediterranean-style diet, it’s time to explore some quick and easy breakfast recipes. 

Here are 5  fiber-rich and nutritious recipe ideas, focusing on ingredients like whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, which are easily incorporated into breakfast recipes. 

1. Spinach & Egg Scramble 

Spinach & Egg Scramble

Source: The Spruce Eats

Starting with a super easy Mediterranean breakfast recipe, a quick egg scramble with nutrient-rich spinach. The dish is not only one of the best breakfasts for weight loss but also will help fill you up and keep you going through the morning. 

2. Fig & Ricotta Overnight Oats

Fig & Ricotta Overnight Oats

With just a bit of effort before bed, you can have a fast but rich, fruity, and healthy breakfast in the morning. These overnight oats will "cook" while you sleep. You can also toast almonds and chop figs the night before so that when you rise, you can just stir in the fruit, nuts, honey, and ricotta cheese for a hearty, sweet, and creamy breakfast.

3. Vegetable Omelets

Vegetable Omelets

Enjoy this Mediterranean-style veggie omelet made with fresh vegetables including cucumber, avocado, and tomatoes for breakfast or dinner. You can also pair it with potatoes or a slice of toast to complete your meal.

4. Honey-Roasted Cherry & Ricotta Tartine

Vegetable Omelets

With fresh cherries and a creamy thyme-spiked ricotta spread, this easy recipe is perfect for a healthy breakfast. You can also serve with a green salad for an easy lunch or light dinner.

5. Berry-Almond Smoothie Bowl

Berry-Almond Smoothie Bowl

The last breakfast recipe is my personal favorite, a little frozen banana, raspberries, almond milk, and vanilla truly make this a satisfying smoothie bowl. To make this smoothie, all you have to do is blend all ingredients including raspberries, banana, almond milk, 3 tablespoons almonds, cinnamon, cardamom, and vanilla in a blender until very smooth. Now pour the smoothie into a bowl and top with blueberries, the remaining 2 tablespoons almonds and coconut.

Mediterranean Lunch Recipes 

Aside from above given breakfast ideas, there are also many lunch recipes that you can enjoy in the Mediterranean diet. Below I’ve compiled a list of 5 lunch recipes that are not only delicious, but they also follow one of the healthiest eating patterns out there. 

1. Tomato-&-Avocado Cheese Sandwich

Berry-Almond Smoothie Bowl

Starting with a simple yet delicious cheese sandwich. I’m there is almost no need to walk you through the making of this tomato and avocado cheese sandwich, as everyone knows how to make one right? 

All you have to do is grab your favorite bread, slather with butter, top with your cheese, tomatoes, avocado slices, and a whooping crack of fresh pepper and sea salt, and grill those on a hot skillet until cheese is melty and runny and you are good to go with your ultimate grilled cheese sandwich!

2. Salmon-Stuffed Avocados

Salmon-Stuffed Avocados

Canned salmon is one of the most valuable Mediterranean diet staples and a practical way to include heart-healthy, omega-3-rich fish in your diet. Here, we combine it with fresh avocados to make an easy no-cook meal.

3. Piled-High Vegetable Pitas

Piled-High Vegetable Pitas

Give yourself enough time to prepare the roasted vegetables called for in the recipe, or you can make them a day or two in advance for a healthy meal that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. These pitas will also work well with whatever leftover cooked veggies you have on hand. You don’t need to warm the roasted veggies up.

4. Cucumber-Chicken Green Goddess Wrap

 Cucumber-Chicken Green Goddess Wrap

Who doesn’t love a quick and easy wrap rolled up with protein from chicken to keep you going? Cucumber-chicken green goddess wraps with cheese and avocado and bright from lemon and herbs are just a perfect means for lunch. Moreover, cucumber and carrots offer color and crunch to this healthy, robust whole-wheat wrap.

5. Mediterranean Pasta Salad

You might not think to use hummus as a pasta sauce, but the creamy dip makes the perfect backdrop to the strong flavors of this healthy Mediterranean-inspired pasta salad. This recipe is easy to make and tossed with a yummy lemon-herb vinaigrette.

Mediterranean Dinner Recipes

Now comes our last, dinner recipe ideas, similar to breakfast and lunch,  each dinner recipe features ingredients favored in the Mediterranean diet, like whole grains, seafood, and fresh vegetables.

1. Roasted Gnocchi & Brussels Sprouts with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Roasted Gnocchi & Brussels Sprouts with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

To make this quick vegetarian dinner recipe, you can skip boiling the gnocchi part as they'll cook through while roasting on the sheet pan with the rest of the ingredients. If you can't find Meyer lemons, you can also use regular lemon and lemon juice. 

2. Caprese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Caprese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Source: Delish

To make caprese stuffed portobello mushrooms you can take key ingredients of the popular Caprese salad: tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil--and pile them into portobello mushroom caps to make a delicious and satisfying vegetarian dinner dish.

3. White Bean & Veggie Salad

This no-meat main-dish salad combines creamy, satisfying white beans and avocado. You can also try mixing it up with different seasonal vegetables.

4. Herb Roasted Salmon with Vegetables

Made with salmon, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, parsley, and freshly ground black pepper, this dish is packed with flavor and ready to perfectly fit into your Mediterranean diet.

5. Vegan Cabbage Soup

Vegan Cabbage Soup

Source: Eating Well

You may be thinking that this soup would take hours to make, but this vegan soup recipe is actually easy to make. This hearty, rustic, and satisfying soup is prepared Mediterranean-style with loads of vegetables, tasty aromatics, and a few warm spices. A splash of lemon juice and some fresh herbs, stirred at last, take this vegetable and cabbage soup to a whole new level of deliciousness.

Mediterranean Side Dishes

Breakfast is done, lunch done, dinner done, and what is left is Mediterranean-style side dishes! This diet is known as one of the healthiest eating patterns not only because it's adaptable to your food preferences, but also because it encourages you to eat lots of fulfilling foods like whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. And these side dishes make this diet easier and tastier than ever. 

1. Quick Sautéed Broccolini

Broccolini, with its long thin stems and small florets, is a mixed version of  broccoli and gai lan or Chinese broccoli. Sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes and served with lemon wedges for squeezing, it's a delicious and quick side dish. You can serve it alongside anything from roasted chicken to fish or steak.

2. Smashed Cucumber Salad with Lemon & Cumin

Smashed Cucumber Salad with Lemon & Cumin

When making this yummy smashed cucumber salad, don't skip salting the cucumbers —just 10 minutes pull out some of their excess moisture, concentrating the flavor and keeping the salad from being watered down.  Serve this smashed cucumber salad at a summer cookout alongside other quick dishes like burgers and hot dogs.

3. Butternut Squash

You can cook butternut squash in the air fryer for tender with slightly crispy edges. Whether you are looking for a simple sidedish to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, or you want to shake up your weeknight vegetable routine, this butternut squash hits the spot. Also, you can serve it with just about anything, from roast chicken to pork.

4. Spinach Salad

Spinach Salad

Source: Olive Tomato

This fresh-tasting salad is a simple mixture of fresh baby spinach and dried cranberries. To save time, you can use bottled Italian dressing, but with a few extra minutes, you can easily switch up the flavor by making your own dressing. 

5. Cauliflower Rice

When cauliflower is pulsed in a food processor, it magically turns into a vegetable that truly resembles white rice. Cauliflower rice is a yummy, low-carb substitute for regular rice in bowls, stir-fries, burritos, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mediterranean Diet 

Q. Which type of oil is a staple in most Mediterranean diets?

In the Mediterranean diet, the staple oil is undeniably extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). It plays a major role in cooking, salad dressings, dipping, and flavoring various dishes.

Q. What are the main foods in a Mediterranean diet?

The base of the Mediterranean diet is plant foods. That means the meals are primarily built around vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans, and whole grains.

Q. What is the best bread for the Mediterranean diet? 

It’s hard to tell the best bread for the Mediterranean diet as it mostly depends upon the individual preferences, however any bread that is made from whole wheat, whole grains, sprouts, and sourdough is recommended while on a Mediterranean diet

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