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.
4 Hearty Mediterranean Vegetable Main Dishes to Try
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.
This recipe comes from the island of Crete. You will be surprised by its simplicity. Easy to make, and so enjoyable.
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.
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