9 Ways to Make the Mediterranean Diet More Convenient
The Mediterranean diet reigns supreme as the healthiest eating plan around, sitting atop U.S. News and World Report’s 2023 rankings of the best diets overall. This eating plan’s top-dog status is largely due to its focus on minimally processed foods. Research shows that a Med diet’s whole food focus reduces inflammation—a sinister culprit behind numerous health issues like heart disease, autoimmune conditions, and various cancers.
But even though the Mediterranean style of eating revolves around fresh, whole foods eaten in community with family and friends, you don’t actually have to run a scratch kitchen to stick with Med diet principles. Yep, you heard right: you can follow a Mediterranean diet by taking a few quick and easy shortcuts. Save time and eat well with these nine ways to make the Mediterranean diet more convenient.
1. Lean on dried fruits.
Getting your daily dose of fruit is tough, no matter what diet pattern you follow. But on a Mediterranean diet, you especially don’t want to skimp on fruit. To up your intake, stock up on dried fruits. They last almost indefinitely when properly stored in the pantry, and are typically small enough to not require chopping—making them just right for tossing onto salads, stirring into oatmeal, or simply for solo snacking.
Even though dried fruits may not contain the hydrating properties of fresh ones, they make up for low water content with high nutrient content. Since they take up less space than fresh fruits, they actually have more fiber and antioxidants per ounce.
2. Start with bagged salads.
Salads are the ultimate vehicle for a Mediterranean diet lunch or dinner. Starting with a bed of spinach, kale, or even microgreens, you can mix and match a meal bursting with Mediterranean-friendly ingredients. Fruits, veggies, beans, grains, and cheese all amplify a salad into a satisfying meal.
To get the leafy green party started with minimal effort, use bagged salad. No tearing leaves, washing, or drying will slow down your progress toward a healthy meal. For responsibly grown bagged greens, try a lettuce mix from Little Leaf Farms or nutrient-rich microgreens from AeroFarms.
3. Make friends with frozen veggies.
There’s nothing quite so convenient at dinnertime as tossing a bag of frozen peas or broccoli directly into a pot with pasta, quinoa, or rice. Despite a not-so-sexy reputation, frozen vegetables have excellent nutrition, since they’re harvested at the peak of freshness. Keep bags of your favorites in the freezer to pull out any time.
4. Opt for quick-cooking grains.
There’s no shame in the microwaveable grain game. These quick-cooking products are typically parboiled, cutting down on the time it takes you to cook them in the microwave. Snag whole grain options like microwaveable brown rice or quinoa to make Mediterranean cooking a bit snappier. Or opt for grains that naturally don’t take long to cook, like couscous at dinner or oats at breakfast.
5. Select squeezable olive oil.
On the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is a primary fat of choice. Monounsaturated fats and antioxidants complete its anti-inflammatory profile. (And it just so happens to pair well with just about everything!)
A pro tip for even easier Mediterranean cooking: try olive oil in a squeezable bottle. Keeping your oil in this type of containee, rather than a glass screw-top bottle, makes recipes like salad dressings, roasted veggies, and skewers just a wee bit easier. Quickly squirting a squiggle of oil onto a meal lets you eyeball just how much you want—no more, no less. Pour your own olive oil into a purchased squeeze bottle for easy dispensing, or select a brand that comes that way, such as Graza. Then get drizzling!
6. Stock a spice cabinet.
The Mediterranean diet is all about infusing foods with flavor via low-calorie herbs and spices. But if you don’t have a handy supply of spices, you won’t have much to work with. Set your kitchen up for Mediterranean diet-friendly cooking by gradually assembling a cabinet of flavor options like dried oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, thyme, rosemary, and garlic powder. When it comes time to season, you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips.
7. Catch your fish in cans and packets.
Seafood is a major source of protein and healthy fats on the Mediterranean diet. Fortunately, reaping the benefits of fish (boosted brain and heart health, to name a couple) doesn’t have to mean cooking fresh salmon every day. Instead, crack open a tin, can, or packet of fish. For far less effort, you’ll get high-quality protein and plenty of omega-3s. We’re not just talking tuna! Scout, for example, makes canned lobster, rainbow trout, mussels, and wild pink salmon.
8. Skip the dry beans and lentils.
Many cultures around the Mediterranean Sea make dishes that start with dried beans and lentils. Soaked, dried legumes may add homey flavor to soups and stews, but they can take upwards of eight hours to prepare. In the hectic pace of modern life, you probably don’t have multiple hours to spare.
Canned beans and lentils are an excellent time-slashing alternative. Some brands like A Dozen Cousins even offer beans and lentils in convenient resealable pouches. Toss your legumes into wraps, soups, casseroles, and more for fiber and plant-based protein.
9. Rally the right resources.
Making a Mediterranean diet work for you boils down to gathering the right resources. If you don’t have access to easy recipes and quick cooking techniques, this healthy eating pattern could be tough to stick to. As you pursue a Mediterranean eating plan, fortify your journey by subscribing to Med diet-themed blogs, investing in cookbooks, or even getting into Mediterranean diet groups on social media. We’re fans of The Mediterranean Dish, Olive Tomato, and Tasty Mediterraneo. And if you’re looking for the ultimate Mediterranean diet cookbook companion, America’s Test Kitchen’s Complete Mediterranean Diet Cookbook is a classic.
Good food brings people together. So do good emails.