We don’t often play favorites, but the Mediterranean diet is definitely a way of eating we can get behind. It incorporates tons of real foods, including colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and plenty of fish. It’s also super tasty and less restrictive than other “diets” out there. In fact, we’d argue that it’s not really a diet at all: It’s a feel-good approach to food. If you’re thinking of giving it a try, you’ll want to load up on veggies — and stock your pantry with these Mediterranean diet essentials.
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
You can’t talk about the Mediterranean diet without talking about extra virgin olive oil. A rich source of healthy fats, extra virgin olive oil can help lower cholesterol levels and improve overall heart health. Use it in place of canola oil and other types of vegetable oil as well as butter to sauté, roast, and even bake with.
2. Whole Grains
Whole grains are another major component of the Mediterranean These grains haven’t been refined and stripped of their nutrients so they still retain all their vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fiber. Good choices include brown rice, farro, bulgur, quinoa, rolled and steel-cut oats, and barley, as well as whole wheat pasta.
3. Canned Fish
The Mediterranean diet recommends eating fish at least once or twice a week, particularly fish that’s a rich source of healthy fats. And, while salmon is a crowd-pleaser, bringing it to the table a couple of times a week can put a dent in your wallet. Enter: canned fish. Canned sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and trout are affordable choices that are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain and heart health.
4. Beans and Lentils
In addition to fish, beans and lentils are another important source of protein in the Mediterranean diet. Whether you stock your pantry with dried beans and lentils and or keep canned beans on hand, you’ll reap the benefits. They’re an inexpensive source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
5. Whole-Milk Greek Yogurt
The Mediterranean diet recommends full-fat dairy rather than low-fat or fat-free. That’s because full-fat dairy is less processed and easier to digest. Whole-milk Greek yogurt is a great thing to keep on hand because it’s also protein-rich. Not only is it a feel-good breakfast choice, it can be used as a substitute for mayonnaise in dressings and dips and for heavy cream in sauces and desserts.
Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnuts show up all over the Mediterranean diet. They contribute good fat, protein, and fiber to anything and everything. Toast them to boost their natural flavor and enjoy as a snack or sprinkled on yogurt, oatmeal, salads, and soups.
You don’t need lemons in your kitchen to follow a Mediterranean diet, but they definitely make it easier. Keep a couple on your counter or in your crisper draw and you have instant flavor within an arm’s reach. A squeeze of lemon juice over baked fish or chicken brightens and seasons. Or the juice can be combined with olive oil to make a simple vinaigrette for salad greens. And the zest can be stirred into cooked whole grains, sauces, and soups to add zip.