Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan and Heart Healthy Recipes
While it has recently become popular in North America, the Mediterranean diet meal plan has actually been around for decades.
It got its name because it emphasizes foods that are commonly eaten by those living in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea such as Greece, Spain, Southern Italy, and France.
Some people might think it is “old school” because it recommends limiting saturated fat in the form of red meats, eggs, and whole dairy. However, the emphasis is on limiting – not avoiding.
Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan
Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet can be very effective in lowering the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and obesity-related illnesses.
I know....you are probably thinking that every diet promoted today makes the same claims about weight loss and health, right? Well, there are a few things that set the Mediterranean Diet meal plan apart from some of the others:
It doesn't eliminate entire food groups, unlike a Paleo, Vegan, or Vegetarian eating plan
It has more variety – probably because it doesn't eliminate entire food groups.
Most Mediterranean diet nutritionists suggest choosing low-fat versions of dairy products, eating no more than 4 eggs a week, and keeping red meat for a once a month treat. But, that doesn't mean that this eating plan eliminates fat. No way! Go ahead and eat lots of healthy oils (especially olive), avocado, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
According to the Mediterranean diet pyramid, you should focus on building meals around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, tubers, seafood, extra virgin olive oil, herbs, and spices. Poultry, eggs, dairy, and red wine should be eaten in moderation; while red meats should be limited. Of course, refined sugars, refined grains, processed foods, and trans fats or unhealthy oils are to be avoided.
If you want a diet that delivers health benefits without having to completely banish grains, meat, or dairy, then the Mediterranean diet meal plan may be the perfect option.
Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan Ideas
fruit with low-fat Greek yogurt and granola* (optional). 1 teaspoon raw honey may be added.
fruit and/or veggie smoothie.
oats (not quick cooking) with fruit, nuts, cinnamon, ground flax or chia, low-fat milk, dairy substitute, vanilla, spices, honey, maple syrup, or whatever other healthy toppings you prefer.
low-fat pancakes made with whole grain flour (whole wheat, brown rice, oat) and low fat dairy or dairy substitute, topped with fruit, nuts, and/or a small amount of maple syrup.
fruit salad with low fat cottage cheese.
veggie omelet (limit 4 eggs per week).
muesli (it's easy to make your own)*
whole grain bagel with almond butter and a piece/bowl of fresh fruit
broccoli, apple, and spinach salad, topped with walnuts and tossed in a vinaigrette dressing
whole grain tortilla wrap with hummus, tomato, and spinach (or other greens). Piece of fruit (optional).
tuna or salmon sandwich on whole grain bread with light mayo or avocado. Side salad or cut raw veggies.
carrot, potato, and apple soup*
grilled eggplant – grill thickly sliced eggplant, top with canned crushed tomatoes, spinach, fresh basil (dried will work, too), olive oil, and parmesan cheese then bake for about 15 minutes at 350°.
Sloppy Joe's made with lean ground chicken or turkey, served on a whole grain bun or over basmati rice, with a side salad or steamed veggies drizzled with olive oil.
turkey burger on a whole grain bun, field greens salad with fresh veggies and balsamic vinaigrette.
grilled chicken kabobs (chunks of chicken breast, red/green/yellow pepper, grape tomatoes, zucchini, marinated or brushed in a vinaigrette), served with brown, basmati, or wild rice and a fresh greens salad.
Baked salmon – mix chopped tomatoes, zucchini, capers, olives and onions (optional) with olive oil. Spice salmon (salt, pepper, etc.). Put veggie mix on top of salmon and bake. Serve with couscous or quinoa and a side of steamed veggies or spinach salad.
Shrimp scampi or any other type of seafood pasta.
chicken breast roasted with root veggies (potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, turnip, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes) and served with green beans or asparagus drizzled with olive oil.
popcorn (air popped) with choice of toppings – olive oil, garlic powder, parmesan cheese, cocoa powder
veggies with hummus
nuts and/or seeds
fruit (apple, orange, pear, blueberries, 1/2 banana)
Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan Recipes
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup raw walnuts
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon flax seed meal (the whole seeds work, too)
1 tablespoon hemp hearts/seeds
1-2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup dried fruit (optional). Raisins, currents, cranberries, or blueberries are delicious.
1/4 cup roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
In a large bowl, mix coconut, oats, nuts, chia seeds, flax meal, cinnamon, sugar, and salt
In a small pan, over low heat, warm the olive oil and maple syrup (or honey).
Pour over dry ingredients and mix well.
Spread on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 325°.
Remove from oven, add dried fruit and seeds, and place back in oven for another 5-10 minutes.
If mixture needs additional browning, turn the oven up to 350° for the last 4-5 minutes, but watch carefully to make sure it doesn't over-brown.
Cool completely and store in an airtight container (I use mason jars).
1 cup canned chick peas
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion (green is nice, too!)
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup cucumber, chopped
3-4 black olives, sliced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1 1/2 Tablespoons white, red wine, balsamic, or apple cider vinegar (whichever you prefer)
I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.