You want to try something different and need ideas for a breakfast Mediterranean-style? Whether you’re an adventurer at heart or not, the Mediterranean diet may be the way to go.** The traditional foods you need to prepare meals for a Mediterranean diet will have you wrapped around their finger in no time.
First Things First: What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean – a sea surrounded by the “Old World” with so much history to offer, in both culinary and culture. So many civilizations have come and gone, left their mark, and influenced the life of the locals, including the local cuisine.
Three continents surround the Mediterranean Sea and they bring their traditions and customary foods into the rotation - Europe, Asia and Africa.
The Mediterranean diet encompasses the foods and cuisine originating from:
- Southern Europe, including Spain, Greece, and Italy
- The Middle East, comprising countries like Lebanon and Syria
- North African nations, such as Tunisia and Libya
The sheer diversity of this region brings so many foods, grains, spices and teas into the mix. It’s an astonishing wealth of culinary history and centuries of traditions. So, are you ready to learn how to make meals for a Mediterranean Diet?
What Does a Mediterranean Diet Look Like in Short?
As with any diet, there are a few ground rules when it comes to cooking meals for a Mediterranean diet. It’s a simple concept though and easy to follow – here we go1:
- Eat lots of leafy greens and vegetables
- Eat whole grains and legumes
- Eat lean meats, such as chicken, and seafood
- Limit your intake of red meats and stick to lean cuts if having any
- Limit your intake of highly processed foods and sugars
- Integrate nuts like walnuts and hazelnuts into your diet
- Your fat of choice on the Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil
The foods for a Mediterranean diet rely heavily on fresh ingredients and diversity. Ensure you’re incorporating a lot of different types of foods into your diet.
The Basics: Foods for a Mediterranean Diet
Any good cook needs a foundation prior to whipping up whole menus in the kitchen. So, before we can indulge ourselves in meals you could cook for a Mediterranean diet, let’s understand what types of foods are good options to include.
Here’s a list of 3 foods that are common for a Mediterranean diet:
(1) Fresh Vegetables & Fruits
You hear it all the time – fresh produce is one of the best choices you can make for your diet. Freshly picked vegetables and fruits are typically served in the Mediterranean region. In fact, they’re some of the most common foods you can expect on a Mediterranean diet.
And let’s be honest: there’s just something about produce that’s freshly picked off the field. That crunch that comes with the first bite and the natural flavors of pure freshness that are absolutely irreplaceable.
Farmer’s markets or souqs, as they’re called in the Arabic portion of the Mediterranean, are extremely popular and provide you with seasonal treasures for your kitchen.
Better even, they allow you to support local farmers instead of giving your hard-earned money to big chain stores. And let’s not forget that local foods have a lower carbon footprint, as they require much shorter travel times from the source to the customer.
Legumes are another such food that’s great for a Mediterranean diet – they’re fantastic at providing you with plant-based protein, fiber, and countless vitamins and minerals. If you’re looking to make some versatile Mediterranean meals, be sure to include some legumes.
But what are legumes exactly? Legumes are incredibly diverse, that’s for sure. They include anything from chickpeas to kidney, black, and Lima beans, to lentils and soybeans.
Mediterranean countries all have their own favorite legume they prefer to cook with or serve with their meals. In Spain, it’s kidney beans and lentils – where the latter are used in a popular lentil stew.
White beans are particularly common in other parts of Southern Europe and chickpeas are a hit in most of the Middle Eastern Mediterranean region.
(3) Whole Grains
Whole grains play an essential role when preparing meals for a Mediterranean diet. They can take many different shapes and vary from pasta, to breads, to side dishes like brown rice, bulgur, and couscous.
Whole grains provide you with fiber and typically have an impressive protein content. Whether it's farro, which is popular in Italy, barley, or oats – the different countries of the Mediterranean contribute a variety of whole grain options for your diet.
And who doesn’t love some extra diversity in the kitchen? Eating the same old foods gets boring. Luckily, the foods you can choose from on a Mediterranean diet give you countless opportunities to combine ingredients and keep your meals interesting.
Breakfast for a Mediterranean Diet: Must-Have Ingredients
Need ideas for a quick breakfast? If you’re hoping to get a Mediterranean diet-style kind of breakfast, there are a few ingredients you shouldn’t go without at your breakfast table.
You can’t have a Mediterranean diet breakfast without Za’atar, which can be considered a staple in much of the Mediterranean region. Za’atar is usually a combination of dried oregano, thyme, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. The seasoning mixture can be combined with extra virgin olive oil or sprinkled over other dishes like hummus and served with flatbread on the side.
If you’ve ever been to the Middle East before, you’ve surely encountered Za’atar – it’s the perfect addition for your Mediterranean breakfast.
(2) Chickpeas & Fava Beans
Breaking into the world of legumes, chickpeas are commercially grown in many countries. Cultivated in the Middle East and areas of Africa for hundreds of years2, chickpeas, or garbanzo beans as they’re called too, are worked into hummus and other types of chickpea dips and salads.
Chickpeas are an extremely popular food for the Mediterranean diet – fava beans being the runner-up and are similarly worked into a fresh yummy dip. Ful mudammas which is basically stewed fava beans is a particularly common breakfast food in countries like Egypt and is finished with extra virgin olive oil and can be eaten with fresh veggies.
(3) Olives, Olives, Olives
If you need more ideas for a quick breakfast and you’re looking for more ingredients for your Mediterranean diet, maybe grab some of the Mediterranean’s most traditional fruits. No, it’s not the juicy, sweet kind of fruit. Quite the opposite actually, it’s fairly bitter.
Originating from the region around Syria and spreading to Greece, the wild olive tree is believed to have been around the Mediterranean for thousands of years. In fact, it’s one of the oldest trees in the world to be cultivated by humans.3
So, if you want to try a meal for a Mediterranean diet, specifically breakfast, you’d typically include this ancient fruit as a sampler on the side. For any other meal, extra virgin olive oil is used whilst cooking – being the preferred fat of the region.
What do the people of the Mediterranean have in common that makes the Mediterranean diet and its foods so remarkable? It’s not just the fresh vegetables, the versatile herbs, and countless whole grains. Labneh is another type of food that is extremely popular in Mediterranean cuisine.
Labneh is a high-in-demand strained yogurt that’s used as a spread and served with seasoning. The most popular way to serve Labneh, is to sprinkle it with salt and eat it with extra virgin olive oil and pita bread.
Depending on the region exactly, Labneh is a must-have for a good Mediterranean breakfast. From the mountains of Syria, small fishing towns in Lebanon, to the green hills of Jerusalem – Labneh is a common breakfast denominator in all these regions.
Ready for Breakfast Mediterranean-Style?
If you’re intrigued, you should definitely give the Mediterranean diet a try** and whip up some delicious meals for a Mediterranean diet in your own kitchen.
Curious to learn more about the ingredients you can use for a Mediterranean diet? Read more about popular salad ingredients here. And if you’d like to receive more recipes and inspiration right to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.
**Always check with your healthcare provider or nutritionist before starting or implementing a new diet to ensure it’s right for you.
- Mediterranean Diet - Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved September 21, 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16037-mediterranean-diet#:~:text=You%20will%20eat%20mostly%20plant%2Dbased%20foods%20like%20fruits%20and,%2C%20seafood%2C%20dairy%20and%20eggs.
- Garbanzo Bean Information – Learn How to Grow Chickpeas at Home. Retrieved August 19, 2022. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/beans/how-to-grow-chickpeas.htm
- The Olive Tree - International Olive Council. Retrieved September 21, 2022. https://www.internationaloliveoil.org/olive-world/olive-tree/