May is International Mediterranean Diet Month, and we’re celebrating with a simple and tasty salmon recipe anyone can make at home.
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy, delicious, and easy way to eat. It’s not a specific list of things you can and can’t consume – instead, it’s a style of eating based on the traditional diets of those living around the Mediterranean Sea.
While staying at home, you may be finding it difficult to stick to healthy eating habits, but now is the perfect time to practice your cooking skills and be mindful of what you eat.
We’ve also included one of our favorite Mediterranean diet recipes at the end of this article with simple ingredients to help you get started back on the path towards eating well.
What exactly is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet was first developed in the 1980s, inspired by the real-life diets of people living in Greece and Italy. People living around the Mediterranean Sea have some of the longest average life expectancies in the world – a trend often attributed to their diets and active lifestyles.
The traditional Mediterranean diet includes components that contribute to good health (like vegetables and healthy fats), while also limiting unhealthy components (like saturated fats and refined sugars).
Note: When we talk about “diet” in this article, it doesn’t refer to a short-term meal plan designed to help you lose weight. Instead, it refers to your overall eating habits. The Mediterranean diet is a guideline for a lifelong lifestyle.
Is the Mediterranean diet good for you?
Simply put – yes!
There have been multiple studies demonstrating that following a Mediterranean diet can be beneficial to your overall health and might even help extend your lifespan. It’s associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
The Mediterranean diet is recommended by the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a healthy eating style for adults. It’s also endorsed by the WHO, the Mayo Clinic, and the American Heart Association. When combined with regular physical activity and regular medical care, following the Mediterranean diet is part of living a healthy life.
Note: You should still talk with a doctor regularly, even when following a Mediterranean diet. Eating well is important to good health, but there is no substitute for getting regular check-ups.
What can I eat on the Mediterranean diet?
The staples of the Mediterranean diet are colorful vegetables, lean proteins, fruit, whole grains, and fat from olive oil.
There is no precise list of exactly what to eat, but in general, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes the following:
- Veggies. This diet is plant-based – and those plants can be leafy greens, crunchy cruciferous veggies, hearty squashes and roots, and much more.
- Legumes and nuts. That includes beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Legumes and nuts are great sources of different nutrients and vitamins.
- Fish and poultry. Lean meats like fish and poultry are the core source of protein in the Mediterranean diet. They have fewer calories and are lower in saturated fat than red meat, game, and pork.
- Fruits. Enjoy fruits as a snack or for dessert over sugary or salty processed alternatives.
- Whole grains. Whole grains, like barley, quinoa, and farro, are high in fiber, keeping you fuller longer than processed grains like white bread and pasta.
- Olive oil. A keystone of Mediterranean diet recipes, olive oil is packed with healthy fats. Olive oil should replace butter and margarine.
- Dairy. Opt for unsweetened Greek yogurt and minimally processed cheeses to complement your veggies and grains. Eggs are okay on occasion.
It’s vital to limit your intake of red meat, sugar, refined carbs, and other processed foods. It’s fine to occasionally treat yourself to a steak or sugary soda, but make these treats a rare occurrence.
Mediterranean Diet Recipe: Baked Salmon in Foil with Veggies
It’s time to defrost those salmon fillets you have stuck in the back of the freezer! Here is our favorite Mediterranean-inspired salmon recipe using ingredients you probably already have at home.
This recipe combines lean salmon, a rainbow of vegetables, tasty seasonings, and optional whole grains to create a simple meal that the entire family will enjoy. The foil packets make for easy clean-up, too!
Here are a few extra tips:
- Use salmon with skin. It helps retain moisture and the tender salmon will easily flake off the skin while eating.
- Play around with the vegetable mix. This recipe also works with asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, and green beans.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to two days. (This dish is great for lunch the next day!)
- Got extra veggies left? After baking, sprinkle them with some crumbled feta and olives for a filling Greek salad.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Salmon & veggies:
- 4 salmon fillets with skin (4-5 oz. each; 1 per serving)
- 2 large zucchinis, diced
- 1 large tomato, diced (or a few handfuls of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half)
- 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
Herb seasoning oil:
- 1 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 4 Tbsp Italian seasoning (or 1 Tbsp each of dried parsley, basil, oregano, and rosemary or dill)
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 2 cups whole grain rice (or other small grain, like farro, quinoa, barley, or couscous)
- Low-sodium chicken broth or water (enough to cook the grains)
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- Grated zest from 1 lemon (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. While it’s preheating, prepare your ingredients: dice veggies, measure out dried herbs, and squeeze/zest lemon. Mix olive oil with dried herbs, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl.
- Cut out four sheets of aluminum foil, each one large enough to securely wrap one salmon fillet and a portion of veggies.
- Place a salmon fillet skin-side down in the center of each foil sheet. Drizzle with the herb-oil mixture to fully coat.
- Toss veggies in with remaining herb-oil mix and divide them among each foil sheet.
- Snugly fold the foil around the fillets and veggies to form a packet. Make sure they’re sealed tightly – nothing should be exposed and there should be no room for leaks.
- Bake foil packets in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the fillets reach an internal temperature of 145 F.
- While the salmon is cooking, cook your grains in chicken broth (or water) according to package directions. Stir in fresh parsley and top with a sprinkle of lemon zest. Serve hot and enjoy!