The Mediterranean Diet continues to rank supreme on the ‘Best Diets’ lists due to its host of health benefits including weight management, brain and heart health, diabetes prevention and control, and reducing the risk of cancer. This scientifically backed diet plan is easy to follow, helpful in the management of different diseases, and has been proven to help with weight management time and time again.
The Mediterranean Diet is based on the eating patterns and traditional cuisines of the regions along the Mediterranean Sea and centers around plant-based foods with bright, colorful, and flavorful dishes. It also encourages physical activity, mindfulness, and enjoying togetherness as an overall holistic approach to health and wellness.
The main foods enjoyed include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, fish, and healthy sources of fat. This diet limits processed and fried foods, red meat, refined grains, and added sugars. The traditional Mediterranean Diet is high in heart-healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and other vitamins and minerals.
Interestingly, the amount of fat in the Mediterranean Diet is similar to the total amount in the traditional American diet, however, the emphasis is on healthy sources of fat such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, and seafood.
Moderate quantities of poultry, eggs, dairy products, and red wine are allowed with this eating pattern and sweets are reserved for special occasions but not off-limits.
Snacking sometimes gets a bad reputation, and most Americans reach for highly processed snacks or items high in unhealthy fats and sugar when feeling the urge to eat between meals. The great news is that if you are looking to switch to eating more in line with the Mediterranean Diet, this diet encourages healthy snacking.
The Mediterranean region has a long tradition of small plates, from tapas in Spain to antipasti in Italy, and more. With their focus on whole foods, many items can easily be used as snacks with little prep. However, if you are looking for a more complex snack, you will not find an ideal snack in a box on the shelf, preferably you would make a healthy snack from scratch.
Snacking can have a beneficial impact on your health including helping control hunger, filling nutrient gaps, controlling cravings, improving energy, balancing blood sugar, and more. Snacking can also be beneficial for your digestive system by breaking up large meals into smaller mini meals.
A Mediterranean snack would incorporate whole foods providing protein and fiber and usually would include some fruits or vegetables. Don’t worry, we have you covered with some easy and delicious Mediterranean snack ideas.
Baba Ghanoush or Hummus with Fresh-Cut Veggies
These delicious dips are very popular snacks in the Mediterranean region and are super tasty. Baba ghanoush is made with pureed eggplant, olive oil, and tahini, and hummus features chickpeas (a great plant-based protein) instead of eggplant. Both dips pair well with any crisp vegetable such as pepper strips, carrots, sliced zucchini, cucumbers, or cherry tomatoes. These low-carbohydrate veggies add a rainbow of color to your diet, which means you are getting an array of antioxidants.
This heart-healthy snack is packed with protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s easy to make and full of nutrition, perfect for a meal or snack. Take a piece of whole-grain toast and spread on one-third of an avocado. You are welcome to season with some fresh ground pepper, lime juice, or crushed red pepper flakes. The Mediterranean Diet recommends the use of a variety of herbs and spices.
Homemade Trail Mix
Fruit, nuts, seeds, and a little dark chocolate is the perfect snack mix with nutritional value that’s right in line with the Mediterranean Diet. A perfect snack for a hike, road trip, or long workday. Just watch your portions, the items included in trail mixes are a condensed source of calories which can make it easy to eat more calories than you realize. It may be a good idea to portion out servings into individual bags to avoid overdoing it.
Chickpeas are very good for the heart because they are a great source of fiber and folate. Chickpeas contain a combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber has been shown to act like a “sponge” to help clean up bile, naturally reducing bad cholesterol. Folate has a direct impact on reducing the risk of heart disease. The backbone of the Mediterranean Diet includes a variety of beans, lentils, and peas (also known as pulses). Pulses appear in many traditional Mediterranean dishes.
Choosing pistachios, walnuts, or almonds as an easy snack will help you incorporate more plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fats. If you are looking for something portable, this should be your go-to. Look for unsalted or lightly salted individually portioned bags. Bonus, if you buy shelled pistachios, it’ll slow down the time it takes to eat them allowing you to be more aware of when you are starting to fill full.
You can find olives at the grocery store that are packed without juice and have minimal ingredients. One brand that I love has only 5 ingredients: olives, olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and thyme. For 5 olives, there is 30 calories, 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, and no carbohydrates. One of the mainstays of the Mediterranean Diet is embracing dietary fat and olives and olive oil are key ingredients to lean towards. One note, if you are on a low-sodium diet, be aware that most olives are going to contain about 10% of the daily value of sodium per serving.
Tuna Deviled Eggs
This is a popular dish in Spain. They are the perfect snack offering protein and healthy fats while having both creamy and crunchy textures. This snack can be whipped up in a breeze and contains ingredients you most likely already have at home. The Mediterranean Diet often includes fish regularly at mealtimes, but I love this idea of incorporating fish as a quick snack. I recommend replacing about ¼ of the traditional mayonnaise with Greek yogurt in your traditional deviled egg recipe, to lighten up the saturated fat and add in the health benefits of Greek yogurt. When you mash the egg yolk and mix in the yogurt/mayo, add in ½ can tuna, ½ stalk of celery, about 1 tsp of Dijon mustard, some minced pickle, and seasonings (I like garlic, paprika, and parsley).
Caprese Salad Kabobs
Caprese salad is thought to have origins in Italy, a country along the Mediterranean coastline. The salad is named after the island of Capri. This simple recipe can be enjoyed as a snack or makes a great appetizer. Thread two cherry tomatoes, one mozzarella cheese ball, and basil leaves on a skewer. Place the skewer on a platter. Whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and drizzle over the skewers. This snack is low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol with about 40 calories per skewer.
Figs With Yogurt
Figs contain vitamin B6, copper, fiber, and antioxidants and are a popular fruit on the Mediterranean Diet. Figs can be enjoyed alone or are a great topping to a serving of plain Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey. The figs and honey provide natural sweetness and paired with the creamy yogurt it rounds out this snack with some protein, probiotics, calcium, and vitamin D.
Fruit and Nut Butter
A piece of fresh fruit with the nut butter of your choice is a good source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber which helps to balance blood sugar levels and keep your energy up throughout the day. The natural sweetness of the fruit can help to tame a sweet craving between meals. This is a great snack that meets the Mediterranean diet principles and can’t get any easier. Fruit is convenient and nut butter is easy to find and store. My favorite is apple slices with a tablespoon of almond butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon. If you are looking to cut calories further, a piece of fruit by itself also makes a great, nutritious snack.
We encourage the same principles of the Mediterranean Diet with our healthy meal plans and any of these snacks would be great compliments to our meals if you are looking to incorporate more Mediterranean flavors into your diet.
In addition to the three meals per day we provide on our meal plans, we recommend the addition of 2-3 dairy servings on our program to round out the protein, calcium, and vitamin D in the plans. This also helps us align with the nutrition recommendations from the American Heart Association and Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We do offer the option of ‘flex calories’ for our customers to incorporate more variety and flexibility with the plan if they would like to replace their dairy servings with another item. Healthy swaps, including any of the suggested snack ideas above, are acceptable in place of their dairy servings. Just be sure to watch your portions and calories if you are using the plan for calorie control.
Snacking the Mediterranean way doesn’t have to be complicated and can provide additional benefits for your health. Are you looking to reap the benefits of the best diet but don’t know where to start or are overwhelmed with little time? Let us help you with our convenient, healthy meal plans that take the guesswork out of eating right.
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