You can find dozens of books full of delicious gourmet Mediterranean Diet menu recipes. But who has the time to slave over a rich French roux or a spicy Italian cioppino when they get home from work? Fortunately, with the right ingredients on hand, you can easily whip up any number of light Mediterranean Diet meals in about five minutes. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Mediterranean Diet meals for breakfast are typically light, but contain just enough fat to keep you satisfied until lunch. While the French can get by on a coffee and croissant, that might be a stretch for most of us. A better option is to stir fresh or frozen berries into plain whole fat yogurt drizzled with a bit of honey. You can top it all off with a handful of unsweetened granola for extra crunch and protein. If you’re more of a cereal person, shop around for an authentic muesli, a heartier version of granola.
The conventional wisdom on eggs has been reversed in recent years, and it’s now considered perfectly healthy to eat 1-2 eggs a day. You can create a great Greek-inspired egg scramble with red and green peppers, onion, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and a little feta or goat cheese. Or have a boiled egg with a wedge of hard cheese and a slice of sourdough toast spread with olive oil or butter.
In the Mediterranean, lunch is often the largest meal of the day and can take two hours to eat followed by a nice nap! Unfortunately, most of us would find it hard to take a two-hour work lunch or find a boss willing to let us curl up under our desks for a siesta. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot you can do to create a quick and simple Mediterranean lunch that will carry you through the afternoon.
You can make a great lunch from a salad as long as it’s not one of those wimpy low-fat salads-in-a-cup you find at most fast-food joints. Start with any fresh greens besides iceberg lettuce. You can find great bagged salads including radicchio, spinach, Romaine or spring mixes in most grocery stores. Load it up with nuts, crumbled cheese, vegetables, chopped egg, anchovies – whatever you’re brave enough to try. Then drizzle the whole thing with a nice whole fat dressing. Vegetables are fat soluble, so the fat in a nice cream or oil dressing will help you digest your salad. If you’ve created a richly-flavored salad, you may not want to overdo it with a strong dressing. A splash of extra-virgin olive oil works nicely.
Another way to extend your afternoon meal is with a few choice enders. Bring a few bites of fancy cheese to nibble on after you finish your lunch. The extra fat will help carry you through the afternoon. Then treat yourself to a nice small square of fine dark or bittersweet chocolate, nibbled slowly of course. This can be savored with a small cup of coffee for an extra afternoon pick-me-up if you want.
Since dinner is the meal most of us have the least energy to prepare, it’s important to keep it simple, and it doesn’t get any simpler then pasta. Penne and fusilli are fun alternatives to plain old spaghetti and hold toppings and goodies a lot better. Pasta with olive oil oil and shredded (not powdered) Parmesan or Romano cheese takes practically no time to prepare and is delicious in its simplicity. Once you try it, you’ll never go back to jarred spaghetti sauce. From there you can add anything you want: sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, roasted vegetables, tomatoes with fresh basil and mozzarella, grilled salmon or tuna, etc. Make a bunch so you can have leftovers the next day for lunch.
Chicken, fish or pork seasoned with olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper and some savory herbs such as rosemary or basil can be broiled or grilled in less than ten minutes. You can also toss in just about any oiled and seasoned vegetable for a healthy side that beats steamed broccoli any day. Some of the denser varieties like corn and zucchini take a little longer to cook but are well worth the wait. Set some wild rice or couscous cooking while your prepping and seasoning and you’ll have a great meal that will also give you leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.
How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Even though these Mediterranean Diet menu recipes are quick to make, you’re missing the point if you wolf them down in less time than it takes to say antipasto. The true secret to Mediterranean Diet meals is that they are meant to be enjoyed slowly. Only then will the true health and fitness benefits of the Mediterranean Diet open up to you.
-By: Michael Fenwick
Get more shopping tips including 5 Kitchen Essentials at Easy Mediterranean Diet Menu Recipes, a popular blog for Mediterranean Diet tips, menu plans, recipes and more.
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