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What is the Mediterranean diet? To start off, it is usually consumed by people in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, many among the nutritionally savvy will offer that the Mediterranean Diet is an excellent choice for beginners to the world of healthy heating. However, it is much more than just a diet.
In large part thanks to the rich cultures of these surrounding nations, this way of eating is also about sharing meals and appreciating the time you have with your family. Speaking personally as someone of Lebanese descent, Mediterranean food is a big part of my culture. This food mirrors the Mediterranean lifestyle, which is all about living actively as well as being in harmony with nature. Therefore, it emphasizes freshly available fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while moderating the intake of red meat and sugars.
Fortunately, the Mediterranean diet can be simplified for those who are unfamiliar (or just beginners) and would like to reap its benefits! I am also going to share my favorite healthy Mediterranean recipes. Trust me – they will not disappoint! Read on for some helpful tips to develop a healthier diet or even manage weight loss.
The Mediterranean diet – basic tips for beginners:
- Avoid smoking.
- Consume a lot of water. You can also drink wine in moderation. However, avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juices.
- Most Mediterranean meals are cooked with olive oil, so keep it in your pantry!
- Always eat breakfast – it’s the most important meal of the day! Make sure you don’t skip your breakfast, or this may cause an imbalance in your food intake.
- Always relax (if just a little) after your meal.
And now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move onto why this diet has such a great reputation:
Benefits of the Mediterranean diet:
1. Preventing heart disease and stroke:
2. Increasing longevity:
By reducing the risk of heart disease, this diet can reduce the risk of death at any age by 20%.
3. Keeping you agile:
As I previously mentioned, the consumption of this diet encourages physical activity. This also helps with agility by reducing the risk of developing muscle weakness.
4. Can help with weight loss:
The Mediterranean diet is made of nutrient-rich foods while excluding all processed food and added sugars. This will definitely promote a healthier lifestyle overall and therefore has potential for weight loss.
5. Helps manage Type 2 diabetes:
This works by limiting foods that raise blood sugar levels, such as sweets and refined grains. This diet is also rich in fiber, which digests slowly and therefore prevents blood sugar spikes.
Foods You’ll Need
- Beans, lentils, bulgur wheat, quinoa, and rice as major ingredients
- A plethora of vegetables, including broccoli, onions, and cucumbers, etc.
- Fruits, including apples, dates, oranges, and figs, etc.
- Healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocado oil
- Fish and seafood
- Dairy such as cheese and yogurt
- Herbs and spices, such as garlic, basil, mint, and nutmeg, etc.
My Favorite Healthy Mediterranean Recipes
1. Chicken Kebabs
It isn’t a successful barbecue without chicken kebabs on your grill. Kebabs are a big part of the Mediterranean diet and can be either chicken or beef. Either way, both are delicious! Here’s a recipe you can try to wow your guests.
- 3 chicken fillets, cut into cubes
- 1 tbsp Paprika
- 2 tbsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Black Pepper
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon squeezed
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
- Marinate the chicken with the ingredients. It’s all about the juiciness!
- Get 10 skewers and start threading the chicken on them. You can place tomatoes and sliced onion in between every two-to-three chicken cubes as well!
- Preheat an outdoor grill on medium heat and grill the amazing kebabs. Keep turning skewers as the chicken cooks and finally remove them once they turn brown.
Pro Tip: Enjoy your chicken kebabs with a side of garlic white sauce. This amazing side sauce is my favorite, and my mother’s recipe (don’t tell her). Just add four-to-five minced garlic cloves with one egg white, a sprinkle of salt, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and some canola oil. Mix everything until the sauce turns thick. Bon appetit!
2. Tabbouleh Salad
Ah, my favorite salad in the world! Tabbouleh is considered a superfood because of all the nutrients it contains as well as fiber and healthy fats. Bonus points: it’s delicious! You will thank me later for this recipe.
- 3 bunches of parsley (stems removed), washed, well-dried, and very finely chopped
- 3 tomatoes, diced
- 2 lemons squeezed
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 small onion, diced
- ½ tsp dried or fresh mint
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Drain excess juice from tomatoes.
- Place parsley, tomatoes, dried mint, and onions in a bowl and mix.
- Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Keep mixing.
- Add olive oil and mix again. Enjoy!
Hummus has become so popular everywhere you go! Coming from a culture where hummus is a daily necessity, I was surprised to see how much people really love this dip. It gives me a chance to impress my coworkers routinely with my amazing homemade hummus recipe!
- ¼ cup of tahini
- 1 can of chickpeas
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup of water
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 lemon, squeezed
- Add all ingredients into a blender. Mix everything thoroughly.
- If the mix is too thick, add some water. If it’s too chunky, add tahini sauce to make it smooth.
- Place the dip in a bowl and add olive oil on top. Then sprinkle with paprika or cumin.
FYI: You can eat hummus in many different ways. You can enjoy it as a side with your chicken or beef kebabs, or you can eat it as a dip with vegetables or pita chips. Either way, this creamy chickpea heaven is what the world needs!
4. Lentil Soup
Whether it’s cold or hot outside, I enjoy sipping a bowl of lentil soup. This soup is one of my favorites, and it’s actually super healthy. Lentils are low in calories, rich in iron, and full of protein. Adding spinach or celery to your soup will help make it tastier and doubles its health benefits.
- 2 cups dry lentils of your choice (black, brown, or red)
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp salt
- 3 lemons squeezed
- 1 bag of spinach leaves, chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Boil lentils until tender.
- In a pan, brown the onion with olive oil.
- Add onions to the boiled lentils (do not drain them).
- Add spinach with lemon juice, garlic, and salt.
- Stir occasionally until they boil. Bon appetit!
5. Greek Artichoke Salad
This salad is so simple and delicious. You can also try out different dressings with it, but I prefer a classic vinaigrette. This salad is perfect for a quick yet tasty meal. Try it out!
- 4 oz of Feta cheese
- 1 can of artichoke hearts
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- Black or green olives
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- ½ red pepper, chopped
- A bag of spring mix
- 1 lemon, squeezed
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- Start by adding the spring mix into the salad bowl.
- Add artichokes, red pepper, and onion.
- Sprinkle feta cheese on top.
- Pour lemon juice, vinegar, and then olive oil.
- Mix everything and enjoy!
A Mediterranean diet for beginners might seem hard or unfamiliar. However, as you can see, most of the ingredients are readily available, and the preparations aren’t that complicated! But if you’re still not feeling up to it, freshly prepared Mediterranean meals can be sent right to your home!
In summary, this diet is also a lifestyle, where physical activity, family, and health are prioritized. It can also be super beneficial for weight loss and other health concerns. Adopting a Mediterranean diet can prevent heart disease and reduce your blood sugar levels by restricting added sugars, refined grains, and processed food. Fortunately, Mediterranean meals are quite popular, strong in flavor, and diverse in choices.
Speaking personally, I would definitely encourage you to follow this diet and try out of some of my recipes! Once you experience their flavor and nutrition, there’s just no going back. So let us know which one you liked the most in the comments below!