21 Day Mediterranean Diet Challenge Day#3

Hello everybody!

Welcome to day#3! For today’s challenge I want you to consider eating your vegetables as a main dish and leave starches as a side. This may sound pretty common advice but let me clarify: When I say vegetable based, I mean it should contain mostly vegetables. This is different from what can be called vegetarian. One of the most common “mistakes” I see in many people when they try to eat healthier and cut down on meat, is that they include too many grains in their meals.

Most of the vegetable recipes I have on my site are meant to be consumed alone, not over a plate of grains (doesn’t matter if they are whole grain or gluten free) just with a bit of bread. Contrary to what one may have heard, the traditional Mediterranean diet is not high in carbohydrates. No, you don’t eat pasta every day either. In fact, about 40-45% of calories come from carbohydrates. Even dishes that do include a starch like the popular spinach-rice recipe or leek-rice contain small amounts of rice.

The Mediterranean diet has the ideal amount of carbohydrates, when it is done right.

We know that too many carbohydrates, especially processed carbohydrates can cause weight gain, fluctuating blood sugars, mood swings and increase risk of a number of chronic diseases. But too little of the good carbs also is not beneficial. A recent study  from Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard University and the University of Minnesota Higher found that mortality rates were higher in people who consumed less that 40% of their calories from carbohydrates or more than 70%. 

Your main meal should be mostly vegetables (not grains).

What does this look like?

Well in the Mediterranean kitchen there are numerous dishes that are made only with vegetables. They are cooked along with tomatoes (or tomato puree or crushed tomatoes) and a good amount of extra virgin olive oil. They are seasoned with herbs and a bit salt.

This type of vegetable meal will provide 4 servings of vegetables in one sitting- about ½ pound! And yes, it is filling, not only because there is volume but also because it is cooked in olive oil. Obviously, you do not consume all the olive oil used, but olive oil provides the good fat (and multiple antioxidants) and makes the vegetables velvety, delicious and filling. Olive oil is key in these dishes, don’t skimp! Otherwise you will end up with a watery, tasteless pile of vegetables.

Today’s New Challenge: Have a meal with vegetables as your main dish with a small side of starch. If you consume dairy you may accompany with a small piece (1 ounce) of feta or other fresh cheese.

4 Hearty Mediterranean Vegetable Main Dishes to Try

Greek Green Beans (Fasolakia)

Green beans (you can use frozen) are cooked until velvety in tomato, olive oil and herbs. You can add (or skip) a few potatoes and carrots. Enjoy on a large plate along with a piece of feta and half slice of your favorite whole grain bread.

Zucchini Stuffed with Tomato

This recipe comes from the island of Crete. You will be surprised by its simplicity. Easy to make, and so enjoyable.

Braised Cauliflower

A classic winter dish in the Mediterranean. Soft, tender cauliflower stewed in olive oil and tomato sauce and flavored with spices.You can add (or skip) a few potatoes.

Sheet-Pan Roasted Vegetables

I love this recipe! It is delicious and versatile. You can mix all sorts of non-starchy vegetables and roast to perfection. My favorite choices include zucchini, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and onions.

*These recipes are typically consumed warm, not hot. They taste better the next day making them excellent dishes to have the next day as well.

Want More Recipes and a 14-Day Menu Plan? The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners Offers That and More!

Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved


  • Reply Gail Dunning January 30, 2021 at 9:07 pm

    I think I have finally gotten on the right track with the vegetable casseroles! I made one that looks like one of your pictures – diced tomatoes (no salt added) and some kind of fat looking green beans – mine were sugar snap peas. It was good. The next day I added leftover bean salad to the mix. Even better. On the third day, I added a handful of frozen peas and topped that all off with a bit of feta, some Aleppo pepper and two Kalamata olives. Magnificent! I think for safety’s sake, I wouldn’t add and reheat any more times, but I achieved three meatless meals for the week with minimal effort.

    I wish I could say I was melting away, but I at least managed the “two not ten” olives recommendation.

  • Reply Jolly Green Vegan January 7, 2021 at 1:07 pm

    You all should just take the concept drop all meat and add carbs I’ve been doing the full vegan gluten-free diet and have been melting away I have done no cardio or weight lifting or any sort of guidance when it comes to my weight loss I eat how ever much I want I eat pretty much whatever I want I even eat the substitutes just asking as it doesn’t contain animal products or gluten you’re going to be fine also watch your refined sugars these you will naturally begin to look away from but yes I personally can only advocate this diet for anyone and everyone the more calorie you intake the more available muscle you’re allowed to build aswell. Enjoy

  • Reply Kera Levasseur January 7, 2021 at 4:05 am

    Is avocado oil okay?

  • Reply Wendy Funk January 7, 2021 at 12:43 am

    Absolutely love the braised cauliflower! Delicious and beautiful presentation!

    What would you recommend as a substitution for feta? (My husband dislikes it.)
    I though goat cheese would do, but it certainly is not very ‘sharp’ in it’s flavour.

  • Reply Deb January 6, 2021 at 4:15 pm

    I love doing sheet pan roasted veggies. You can use whatever you have on hand and it always tastes great, a few chick peas and sprinkle of feta…yum. Easy homemade meal!

  • Reply Natasha January 6, 2021 at 3:38 pm

    For the past year I have been trying to cook and eat the Mediterranean diet as Elena has layed out on her website. The concept of meat so sparingly was so foreign to me coming from a Western diet, but it is so smart! An added bonus is that it makes meal planning and prep more simple as well.

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