How to Meal Prep: The Mediterranean Diet
We've touched on it before, but we'll say it again: preparing your meals can save you time and money, and help keep your healthily lifestyle on track. We've broken down the essential gear you need to meal prep, but today we take it a step further by teaching you how to meal prep while following a Mediterranean diet. This heart healthy eating plan combines clean eating best practices with typical food and recipes from all over the Mediterranean, including countries such as Greece, Lebanon, and Morocco. Like any meal prep plan though, the key to success is all in the preparation. Below we discuss how you can introduce the Mediterranean diet into your meal management plan and provide a few delicious recipes to get you started.
The Mediterranean Diet
Unlike other diets, the focus of the Mediterranean diet isn't on limiting your total fat intake, but rather on choosing healthier types of fat. With the Mediterranean diet you won't be counting calories or be forced to cut out major food groups. Instead you'll be swapping out bad fats (i.e. saturated and trans fats) for heart healthy ones. Below are some specific steps you can take to get started with the Mediterranean diet for better health:
Switch up your proteins.
Limit your intake of red meat to no more than a few times a month. Swap out most of your red meat for fish (e.g. salmon, tuna, etc.), poultry (e.g. skinless chicken and turkey), beans, nuts, and other proteins. When choosing red meat, make sure it's a lean cut (e.g. top loin, sirloin, flank steak, etc.) and keep the portions small. Avoid sausage, bacon, and other high-fat, processed meats. Looking to remove meat from your diet altogether? Then check out our previous blog post from fitness competitor and 6 Pack ambassador Darlene Adamusik about how to vegan meal prep.
Pile on the fruits & veggies.
Fresh and non-starchy are the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet. For example, residents of Greece consume an average of six or more servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables a day. You should aim to eat 5 to 10 servings a day.
1 serving = Â½ cup of cooked or 1 cup of raw vegetables 1 serving = 2 cups of leafy greens Eat local. Eat what's in season. Eat organic.
Help yourself to whole grains.
Refined carbs like those found in items made with white flour lack nutrients and can elevate your blood sugar. Whole grains are best; switch to whole grain bread and cereal, and begin to eat more whole grain rice and pasta. Or look for creative ways to swap out grains, such as using spaghetti squash in place of noodles. If you're finding it difficult to make the switch to whole grain, phase in a whole grain by using a whole grain blend of pasta and rice or mix whole grains with refined ones in a 50:50 blend.
Snack on nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Instead of reaching for chips, cookies, or other processed snack foods try snacking on a handful of almonds, walnuts, or sunflower seeds. Nuts and seeds are good sources of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Eat a serving a legumes, which can be found in staples like hummus and lentil soup, at least twice a week. Make the switch to natural peanut butter and avoid the kind with hydrogenated fat added. You can also try blended sesame seeds (tahini) as a dip or spread for bread.
Replace butter with healthy oils.
Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. You should use olive oil, or other plant-based oils like canola or walnut oil, as your primary fat for cooking and baking. "Extra virgin" and "virgin" olive oils are the least processed form and contain the highest levels of the protective plant compounds that provide the antioxidant effect. For more tips, read our guide on how to choose the best cooking oils.
Mediterranean Meal Prep Recipes
Some of our favorite Meal Prep Sunday recipes are perfect for the Mediterranean diet, including: Roasted Eggplant Dip aka Baba Ghanoush Lemon & Mint Chicken Skewers with Homemade Hummus Chicken Burgers with Feta, Roasted Red Peppers & Arugula In addition to some of our recipes, check out a few more we've gathered to supplement your Mediterranean diet even further:
Mediterranean Chicken with Eggplant
Ingredients Servings: 5 3 eggplants, peeled and cut lengthwise into Â½ inch thick slices 3 tablespoon olive oil 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves diced 1 onion, diced 2 tablespoons tomato paste Â½ cup water 2 teaspoons dried oregano Salt and pepper to taste Preparation Prep: 50 Min | Cook: 30 Min | Total: 1 Hr 20 Min Place eggplant strips in a large pot of lightly salted water and soak for 30 minutes (this will improve the taste; the eggplant will leave a brown color in the pot). Remove the eggplant from the pot and brush lightly with olive oil. SautÃ© or grill the eggplant until it's lightly browned, and then place in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Set aside. SautÃ© the diced chicken and onion in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in tomato paste and water, cover skillet, and reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Pour the chicken and tomato mixture over eggplant. Season the dish with oregano, salt, and pepper and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Recipe retrieved from allrecipes.
Sea Bass with Cherry Tomatoes
Ingredients Servings: 4 1 shallot, thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves, chopped 2 cups cherry tomatoes (about 12 ounces) Â½ cup chopped green olives 1 tablespoon olive oil Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper 4 6 ounce fillets sea bass or other white fish Â¼ cup (packed) chopped fresh basil Preparation Prep: 10 Min | Cook: 15 Min | Total: 25 Min Place an oven rack in upper third of your oven and preheat your broiler. In a medium bowl combine the shallot, garlic, tomatoes, olives, and oil. Season with the salt and pepper, and toss well. Set aside. Place the fish in a 13x9 inch glass baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Spread the tomato mixture over the fish and broil until the fish is cooked throughout and the tomatoes have started to burst, approximately 10-13 minutes. Top with the chopped basil and serve. Recipe by Bon AppÃ©tit Test Kitchen.
Good for You Greek Salad
Ingredients Servings: 6 3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped 2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped 1 small red onion, chopped Â¼ cup olive oil 4 teaspoons lemon juice 1 Â½ teaspoons dried oregano Salt and pepper to taste 1 cup crumbled feta cheese 6 black Greek olives, pitted and sliced Preparation Prep: 15 Min | Ready In: 15 Min In a shallow salad bowl, a serving platter also works well, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Sprinkle with oil, lemon juice, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle feta cheese and olives over salad. Serve. Recipe retrieved from allrecipes. Whether you use the original meal management systems, gym totes, gym backpacks, sports duffle bags, or any other kind of organizational tool, you know the true value of how to meal prep. The Mediterranean diet is a great way to transition into healthier food that is nevertheless delicious, with many foods that are easily stored and perfect for meal prep. Get inspired with our ideas above, browse all our guides on How to Meal Prep, and let us know in the comments if we missed any of your favorite Mediterranean diet staples!